» » The Night, the Prowler (1978)

Short summary

The Night The Prowler, is about the dark side of suburban middle-class urban culture and family relations. It film brings to the surface some of the darkest recesses of suburban family life. The film shifts from the darkly comic to the deadly serious. A young woman is attacked by a prowler in her bedroom but she turns the tables on him and she ravishes him. She then transforms into a knife wielding, leather jacketed prowler herself and begins sneaking in men's bedrooms at night. The prowlee becomes the prowler.

During the 1970s, Jim Sharman, this film's director, directed on the stage a few of Patrick White's plays and as such the two collaborated together a number of times. These plays included 'A Season at Sarsparilla', 'Big Toys' and 'A Cheery Soul'. White is this film's source short-story writer and screenwriter.

This is the only ever theatrical feature film adapted from any writings of Patrick White. However, there have been some adaptations made for television. These include The Wednesday Play: A Cheery Soul (1966), Big Toys (1980) and The Ham Funeral (1990).

Patrick White won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. White is the only ever Australian writer to win this award. White won it for his ninth novel, 'The Eye of the Storm'.

During the 1970s, author Patrick White once said to this film's director, Jim Sharman, that he thought that two of his short stories, 'The Cockatoos' and 'The Night The Prowler', would be suitable for adaptation for films, which Sharman could possibly direct. Sharman, who had directed The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), felt that it was 'The Night The Prowler' that was the more cinematic and adaptable for a feature film. White then agreed to write a film screenplay and consequently wrote the film script for this film. Surprisingly, Sharman was contacted by White just a couple of months later to advise him that he had completed the screenplay.

This picture was one of fifty Australian films selected for preservation as part of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia's Kodak / Atlab Cinema Collection Restoration Project.

This movie was predominantly shot in sequence.

In the scene in which Kerry Armstrong's character first sneaks out of the house in her leather gear, she walks past a hoarding which is covered in posters, among which are multiple posters for "Hair" - a reference to the fact Jim Sharman had directed the original 1969 Australian stage production of the rock musical.

The film includes numerous references to well-known Australians. As the camera pans around the room during the hippie party scene, it focuses on a large poster of Jimi Hendrix, painted by renowned Australian artist Martin Sharp. The scene in which Kerry Walker's character talks to a homeless woman in the park includes references to two famous Sydney characters of the post-war period. As the camera tracks towards the two women talking, the word "Eternity" is seen written on a rock face - a reference to Arthur Stace, a.k.a. "Mr Eternity", who walked the Sydney streets at night writing the word "Eternity" in copperplate script on footpaths and walls. The homeless woman (played in a cameo by famous Australian author Dorothy Hewett) is closely based on legendary Sydney eccentric Bee Miles, who (like Hewett's character) lived on the streets and regularly wore a large overcoat and a celluloid tennis visor.

This film's screenwriter, novelist Patrick White, was also the writer of its source short-story, 'The Night The Prowler'.

This film opened the 25th Sydney Film Festival in 1978 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

This film's title, as with its source short story, 'The Night The Prowler', does not feature the words "and" or "of" in its title. Nor does it feature any punctuation such as a comma or dash. The title is a straight run of the four words: The Night The Prowler. The earlier unrelated movie Night of the Prowler (1962) did feature the word "of" in the middle of its title.

This film's closing credits dedication reads: "The director [Jim Sharman)] wishes to dedicate this film to the memory of two friends, Lillian Roxon and Peter Brown".

This film is the only ever filmed screenplay written by author Patrick White.

According to 'Urban Cinefile', when first released on DVD in Australia in 2005, "This film had not been seen by audiences for almost 20 years due to a copyright embargo which has been resolved."

Second theatrical feature film for actress Kerry Walker. Her first was the 52 minute short feature, The Singer and the Dancer (1977). This 1978 film can be considered Walker's first theatrical feature film if one treats the earlier work as a short and not a feature.

This film's source short-story 'The Night The Prowler' by Patrick White was published in White's short-story collection of six novellas 'The Cockatoos' in 1974.

Australian film critic, curator and historian Paul Brynes has said of this film that "Director Jim Sharman deliberately increased the color grading of this film to emphasize the colors in a generally subdued suburban interior, and the golden hues, pinks and oranges in the day scenes balance the rich blues that predominate in the night scene".

Fourth feature film directed by Jim Sharman. His earlier films had been Summer of Secrets (1976), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Shirley Thompson Versus the Aliens (1972).

This film was made and released about four years after its source short-story 'The Night The Prowler' by Patrick White was first published in 'The Cockatoos' anthology in 1974.

Penultimate theatrically released feature film to date for director Jim Sharman. His final theatrical feature film to date is Shock Treatment (1981).

'The Night The Prowler' is the third novella in Patrick White's 1974 compendium of shorter novels and stories, 'The Cockatoos'. The six stories are (in order): A woman's hand, The full belly, The night the prowler, Five-twenty, Sicilian vespers and The cockatoos.

Appearing in this film together, lead actresses Ruth Cracknell and Kerry Walker both coincidentally had previously starred together about a year earlier in Gillian Armstrong's The Singer and the Dancer (1977). This 1978 film was their second and final collaboration together.

This film's opening title card sets the time and setting of the film as "Sydney - A summer in the late nineteen-sixties".

Ruth Cracknell received top / first billing, John Frawley received second billing, Kerry Walker received third billing, John Derum received fourth billing, Maggie Kirkpatrick received fifth billing, and Terry Camilleri received sixth billing.

Novelist and writer of the film's source short-story, Patrick White, on occasion visited the set of this movie during production filming.

This film was shot on 16mm and blown-up to 35mm.

It was on the basis of director Jim Sharman's earlier film Shirley Thompson Versus the Aliens (1972) that author Patrick White wanted Sharman to make a film of one of his written works.

This film had a very low budget even for a typical low budget independent production of the time.

Dorothy Hewett: The Australian authoress as an alcoholic woman who strikes up a friendship with the prowler Felicity. Hewett was awarded the A.M. (Member of the Order of Australia) in the 1986 Queen's New Years Honours List for her services to literature.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Bynelad
    This very strange and dreamlike film set in a well heeled suburb of Sydney was completely misunderstood and ignored in its first release. Almost a preview of Muriel's disenchanted and socially disenfranchised character in MURIEL'S WEDDING so successfully seen in the 90s film as played by Toni Collette, PROWLER has Kerry Walker almost as some sort of distant Muriel relative upsetting her family status quo with fantasies and playacting an adventurous role that leads her into other worldly behaviour. Written by Patrick White and Directed by Rocky Horror's Jim Sharman and Produced by Tony Buckley of BLISS, this film is a peculiar duck that will divide every audience unless they have a way of getting to like the lead character in the first reel. There has been plenty of films about alienated suburban girls seeking nocturnal and dangerous secret lives (HARD CANDY just released is the new cruel century's most recent example) but PROWLER is a quiet secret and a mood piece patient and film literate viewers will enjoy. Whoever has already seen SWEETIE (as someone else on this site recommends) is quite right leading you to PROWLER's mindset and style. One of Jim Sharman's first films was SHIRLEY THOMPSON VS THE ALIENS, a title mixing suburbia and weirdness immediately.... an so to PROWLER
  • comment
    • Author: Faulkree
    The dialog in this film is incredibly speakable -- in response to Mephisto -- and I think what you are unhappy with is it's camp melodramatic style -- which on a critical level is achieved with sophistication and panache.

    Kerry Walker is a stand out as the mannish blossom -- ripening with rebellion and uncertainty -- the perfect counter to her mother played by Ruth Cracknell. Ruth's performance is genius -- the timing for black humour I have only seen seconded by Kathleen TUrner in Serial Mom.

    This film is beautifully shot. The camera moves with deft purpose -- never feeling television or obvious -- but a secure mix of voyeurism and arch photographic signposting (appropriate to the camp postmodern genre) Australia (along with Spain, USA and Brazil, NEW ZEALAND-- thanks to ALmodovar, Waters and Jackson) is home of the CAMP aesthetic -- and culturally we've been balking at this over the last few years. But what's really going for us -- is something that uniquely expresses our nation's ironic plight of being a little America.

    WALK THE TALK, LOVE SERENADE, SWEETIE are also worthy notables.
  • comment
    • Author: Cesar
    The Night, The Prowler is one of the best Australian films to come out of Australia in the 1970s. Set in Centennial Park (where the film's writer Patrick White lived at the time) The Night, The Prowler concerns a young girl, Felicity Bannister (Kerry Walker), and her journey from sexual repression to liberation. Early in the film, a prowler breaks into Felicity's room. Felicity claims to have been raped, though it remains ambiguous as to what really happened.

    The experience opens Felicity's eyes to her rebellious side, and she too begins prowling the streets and park at night, garbed in a black leather jacket. The bizarre contents of the night include stoned party goers, homeless bums and other like-minded night prowlers. Felicity's behaviour stuns her bourgeoise parents (Ruth Cracknell and John Frawley) mostly because they fear they will be embarrassed within their affluent social set.

    Walker and Cracknell turn in career-defining performances and director Jim Sharman (who had previously made The Rocky Horror Picture Show) cleverly balances a camp sensibility with social critique. In my opinion, the bizarre atmosphere evoked in The Night, The Prowler was way ahead of its time and remained unmatched in Australian film until Jane Campion's Sweetie (1989).

    Why don't films like this ever get a DVD release?
  • comment
    • Author: YSOP
    To quote my film tutor, this would have gone on the top of his list of the ten worst Australian films ever made if only he could have think of nine others bad enough to accompany it. It's a ploddingly literal-minded of a symbolism-heavy literary piece by Patrick White, with actors of widely varying levels of talent struggling gamely to deliver unspeakable lines. The result should have been left in the trash can next to the embryo in the last scene.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Ruth Cracknell Ruth Cracknell - Doris Bannister
    John Frawley John Frawley - Humphrey Bannister
    Kerry Walker Kerry Walker - Felicity Bannister
    John Derum John Derum - John Galbraith
    Maggie Kirkpatrick Maggie Kirkpatrick - Madge Hopkirk
    Terry Camilleri Terry Camilleri - The Prowler
    Harry Neilson Harry Neilson - Old man
    Peter Collingwood Peter Collingwood - Dr. Herborn
    Robbie Ward Robbie Ward - Mrs. Burstall
    Merv Lillie Merv Lillie - Alcoholic man
    Dorothy Hewett Dorothy Hewett - Alcoholic woman
    Ray Marshall Ray Marshall - Detective 1
    Robert Baxter Robert Baxter - Detective 2
    Paul Chubb Paul Chubb - Policeman 1
    John Cobley John Cobley - Policeman 2
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