The Night the Prowler (1978)

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Released 22-Sep-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Jim Sharman (Director) And Kerry Walker (Actor)
Biographies-Crew-Patrick White
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Short Film-AFTRS Film - Freestyle
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 85:43
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jim Sharman
Studio
Distributor
ScreenSound
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ruth Cracknell
John Frawley
Kerry Walker
John Derum
Maggie Kirkpatrick
Terry Camilleri
Harry Neilson
Peter Collingwood
Robbie Ward
Merv Lillie
Dorothy Hewett
Robert Baxter
Paul Chubb
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Cameron Allan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    When people look back on the film career of Jim Sharman, there is no doubt they will remember his direction of The Rocky Horror Picture Show more than any other of his films. While his 1978 film The Night The Prowler may not be entirely successful in what it sets out to achieve, it is still an admirable and visually stunning film, set in bourgeois suburbia.

    Jim Sharman began an association with Nobel Prize winning author Patrick White after directing a few of White's plays in the seventies. Season at Sarsparilla and Big Toys were two of these plays, with A Cheery Soul becoming the third in early 1979. Patrick White had made the statement to Sharman that he believed two of his stories, The Cockatoos and The Night The Prowler, would adapt well to the screen. It was Sharman's belief that the latter would be the more cinematic of the two and White subsequently agreed to write the screenplay.

    The Night The Prowler opened the 25th Sydney Film Festival in 1978. Although the general response to the film appeared to be quite good, many critics in the media viciously hammered the film. For this reason, the film's official public release was delayed for twelve months. When the film eventually did open in 1979, it only screened for a couple of weeks and barely rated a mention in the press.

    The Night The Prowler was acknowledged in a positive manner by many foreign film critics and was generally quite well received overseas. I believe the exaggerated, surreal style of the film together with the disjoined and confronting narrative probably worked against the film initially - in this country anyway. But, these aspects are what makes the film so genuinely appealing in the first place and as a consequence The Night The Prowler  is very worthy of a retrospective viewing.

    The film is set in Sydney during the late sixties. Felicity Bannister (Kerry Walker) is in her mid-twenties and is the only child of Doris and Humphrey Bannister (Ruth Cracknell and John Frawley ). They live together in a large, beautiful home in a middle class suburb of Sydney.

    Late one night, Doris and Humphrey are awoken by the frightful screams of their daughter. As they both arrive downstairs, they are confronted by a distraught Felicity who tells them she has been raped by a prowler (Terry Camilleri). Not only did this prowler rape her, but he also helped himself to some of Humphrey's expensive brandy, seemingly in an act of ridicule. The police are called and Felicity co-operates in their questioning about the break-in and subsequent violation, but refuses to undergo an examination by the family doctor. We then begin to discover that Felicity's life is possibly more complex than on first impression.

    Felicity is engaged to John (John Derum), who works for the diplomatic service in Canberra. John is a very clean-cut young man with high ambitions of climbing the bureaucratic ladder. This provides a great source of pride for Doris, as it fits her plans of her daughter living a comfortable life and moving in the right circles.

    Doris spends every spare minute on the phone, confiding in her close friend of many years, Madge Hopkirk (Maggie Kirkpatrick). The main topic of conversation seems to always revolve around Felicity and her comings and goings. In fact a great deal of Doris' life is consumed with this excessive devotion to her daughter, a devotion that is resented by Felicity who craves more freedom and independence from her middle class shackles.

    We see elements of Felicity's life in a series of flashbacks that highlight the sheltered nature of her upbringing. We see in her early years the difficulties Felicity experienced establishing a relationship with her father after he returns from the war. Then we see her teenage years, which were also overly restrictive, thus providing a multitude of reasons for her desire to discover her true destiny in life.

    In the days after her encounter with the prowler, Felicity begins a strange journey of self-discovery as she takes on some of the prowler's traits. This bizarre twist in her persona will eventually reveal some uncomfortable truths and provide Felicity with a purpose in life, outside of her stuffy middle class existence.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Considering this is a new and restored print of The Night The Prowler, the video quality is quite average.

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, which is not 16x9 enhanced. The film is presented as an open matte, full frame transfer. A boom mike appears in shot at 19:17 and some other form of foreign material is noticed at the bottom of the screen at 19:27. Interior scenes certainly seem to exhibit far too much visual information around the ceilings. I could not locate any information relating to the film's correct aspect ratio.

    The Night The Prowler was deliberately shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm for a variety of reasons, one of which was to give the film a rather gritty appearance. As a consequence, many issues are directly related to the source material and not so much the transfer. The appearance of the film is generally very soft and only exhibits considerable levels of sharpness in close foreground shots. An example of this softness occurs at 24:21, but is quite common throughout the film. Blacks were gloomy and not particularly deep. Shadows were also murky and displayed a limited level of quality in detail.

    Colours are used to superb effect in this film, but unfortunately the levels of softness keep these from being fully realised on this DVD. Night scenes especially display dazzling blues in a surreal ambience. This surreal colour usage extends to other scenes, which exhibit beautiful golden hues and glowing reds. Thankfully though, there were no adverse issues with oversaturation.

    There were no MPEG artefacts noticed in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were not a significant issue. Reel change markings were first evident at 19:58 and 20:05 and then reappeared on a further three occasions at approximate twenty-minute intervals. Film artefacts were intermittent and were typically minor. These consisted of small marks and scratches, with none being of a particularly irritating nature.

    There are English subtitles for the hearing impaired on this DVD. They are in white, easy to read and very accurate.

    This disc is a single sided, single layer disc, so there is no layer change to negotiate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is basic, but quite acceptable.

    There are two audio tracks available on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

     Dialogue quality is consistently clear and concise. I had no problems hearing and comprehending the dialogue throughout the film. Audio sync presented no adverse problems.

    The original music score is credited to Cameron Allan. His score suitably enhances the surreal and exaggerated nature of the film very well.

    The surround channels carried music and dialogue generally, but offered very little in the way of genuine separation.

    The subwoofer was dormant for the most part, with the exception of a few minor instances, a band playing in a park at 42:30 and the prowler falling to the floor at 55:30 being a couple of examples.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are quite basic, although the audio commentary is a very welcome inclusion.

Menu

        The menu for The Night The Prowler is static and very basic. It is 16x9 enhanced and features a looped sample of music from the film.

Audio Commentary - Jim Sharman (Director) and Kerry Walker (Actor )

    This is an enjoyable and informative commentary that covers a great range of topics relating to the film. Jim and Kerry have an excellent recollection of the production and seem quite pleased to re-visit The Night The Prowler and relay anecdotes and relevant information about the film. Strangely though, they conclude their commentary about ten minutes before the actual conclusion of the film, just as Felicity is about to realise her destiny. Still, I found their comments interesting and would recommend this commentary to anyone wanting to know more about this underrated film.

Biography - Patrick White

    Eleven pages of text-based information on author Patrick White.

Filmographies

  • Jim Sharman - One Page
  • Ruth Cracknell - Three Pages
  • Kerry Walker - Four Pages
  • John Frawley - Three Pages
  • Anthony Buckley - Two Pages

    Theatrical Trailer

        The Night The Prowler (2:26)

    AFTRS Short Film - Freestyle (11:20)

        Freestyle was written and directed by David Lowe in 1996. This excellent short film from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School is a welcome inclusion, even though it has no connection with The Night The Prowler.

        Two complete strangers, Mr Bates (Greg Blandy) and Mrs Moore (Mary-Lou Stewart), swim alone in an ocean swimming pool. Mr Bates is murdered in the pool, but Mrs Moore heard and witnessed nothing. As she is questioned at the Police Station by Grieve (Roy Billing), the story is revealed in flashback. Is Mrs Moore the killer or is she covering up for another party? Aspect ratio 1.85:1, 4x3 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

    R4 vs R1

    NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

        At the time of this review there is no R1 version of The Night The Prowler available.

    Summary

        The Night The Prowler is another underrated Australian film that is worth revisiting nearly thirty years after its initial cinema release.

        Unfortunately, the video transfer is not as good as it could and should have been.

        The audio transfer is quite adequate.

        The selection of extras is basic, apart from a very good audio commentary and an unrelated short film.

  • Ratings (out of 5)

    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    Plot
    Overall

    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Monday, March 13, 2006
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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