The Night the Prowler

Night the Prowler, The (Jim Sharman, 1979) prod. Anthony Buckley for Chariot Films, wr. Patrick White from his short story, dp David Sanderson, design Luciana Arrighi, ed. Sara Bennett; aka Patrick White's The Night the Prowler; Terry Camilleri, Ruth Cracknell, John Derum, John Frawley, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Kerry Walker; Eastman colour, 35mm, 90 min.

... for almost the first time in our history we have an Australian film with levels of meaning, wit, irony, plot complexity and something to say. Bob Ellis, Nation Review.

What distinguishes The Night The Prowler from the general run of Australian films ... is the intellectual content, the evidence that a mind has been working behind the speeches and action. Elizabeth Riddell, Theatre Australia.

The Night The Prowler is a strange, eerie incursion into the mind of Felicity, the pudgy, rather plain daughter of bourgeois parents who, though they live in Sydney, Australia, would feel equally at home in Claude Chabrol's France. Actually, the film is more a searing indictment of the worldwide middle-class morality and mentality than a story of a desperate, strong misfit of a girl pushed from childhood into the confines of a fluted cookie-mold of gentleness and submission that cannot contain her nature. It is a brutally direct film that flinches at nothing, and in it Patrick White, who wrote the screenplay from his own short story, displays the genius that won him the Nobel Prize. Gutsy, funny, horrifying and tragic. Norma McLain Stoop, After Dark.

Sharman evidently thinks of himself as the Down Under Alejandro Jodorowsky and, certainly, his films have that touch of the unreal that mark El Topo. A hodge-podge of flash-forwards, flashbacks and even some flash-sideways, it tells the story, as one pundit put it, of a female slob's search for self-identification. Robe, Variety, Nov 15/78.

The new film is a fascinating, often rather horrifying black comedy detailing the empty values of modern society and exploring the lack of sensibility that has resulted in the punk attitude of today's youth. It is a harrowingly bleak, but also bizarrely funny work. that is ultimately optimistic. The performances expertly underscore the exaggerated black comedy with an attitude of reality and Ruth Cracknell is particularly outstanding as the mother ... The Hollywood Reporter.

... one of the boldest and most original of the new Australian films. Derek Malcolm, The Guardian.

All of the crits above are from Anthony Buckley 2009, Behind a Velvet Light Trap: A Filmaker's Journey from Cinesound to Cannes, Hardie Grant Books, Prahran: 216.


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