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On a summer's night in the late 1960s in an affluent Sydney suburb, a young woman, Felicity Bannister (Kerry Walker), is attacked in her bedroom by a brutish prowler. Much to the dismay of dominating mother Doris (Ruth Cracknell) and her submissive father Humphrey (John Frawley), Felicity alleges she has been interfered with, rocking her upper-middle-class family to its very core. But what is the truth of the event? After that evening, Felicity's manner begins to change and when she breaks off her engagement and begins to lash out against her mother and society by taking to prowling the suburban streets, her rebellious path leads her on a journey of personal enlightenment and self discovery.

Review by Craig Miller:
While it may have been over-looked during the renaissance of Australian cinema in the 1970s, The Night The Prowler, a film by favourite cult director Jim Sharman (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), hopefully looks set for a belated look-in with its own resurgence thanks to DVD.

Unavailable to audiences for almost two decades due to a copyright embargo, Sharman's edgy drama delves deep into the recesses of family dysfunction and suburban life, with controversial Australian writer Patrick White's screenplay (his first and last, based on one of his own short stories) exploring a rich amalgam of themes and ideas relating to rebellion, conformity, personal enlightenment and escape.

On the surface the story structure is painted in strong, broad stokes beginning as a satirical comedy of manners, passive with a smouldering sense of rebellion and personal angst - entering a second act of change as Felicity begins to experiment and question her life and concluding with a powerful and frantic search for meaning. The finer details lie in Felicity's motivations and her need to break free of her family and social constraints (a popular middle-class notion for youngish people of this social strata in the 1960s/70s), and this is where the film is at its most powerful.

Felicity feels she needs something big to happen in her life, lashing out at her repressive upbringing and raping the society that she feels has done the same to her, but it's the smaller life occurrences and a feeling of connection she receives from a homeless man in the film's epiphany that help her find her path and ultimately prove to be her personal salvation.

The performances from both Ruth Cracknell as the over-bearing mother who lives life vicariously through her daughter and Kerry Walker as the hungry-for-meaning Felicity are terrific; watching their relationship slowly deteriorating and transforming is compelling. John Frawley also turns in a noteworthy performance and arguably the film's most difficult as a dominated husband and broody father. There's an underlying hint of incest about this father/daughter relationship and the slightly confused resistance from Frawley's Humphrey to totally accept his daughter as herself only adds to character speculation and an idea that this insular family unit, obsessed with appearances, has plenty of skeletons in the closet.

The DVD might not make its way into collections as a bona fide collectible, but the inclusion of a fine commentary from director Jim Sharman and star Kerry Walker serves as a wonderfully informative companion piece to the film, even if at times the subdued nature of said participants hurts it a little.

Overdue for some mainstream recognition and a thought-provoking and valuable piece of Aussie cinema, Sharman's The Night The Prowler is a critical yet cheeky peek through the kitchen curtains at suburban Australia; satirical and serious, humorous and horrifying and never too far from the truth. A fine film.

Published September 29, 2005

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(Aus, 1978)

CAST: Ruth Cracknell, John Frawley, Kerry Walker, John Derum, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Terry Camilleri

DIRECTOR: Jim Sharman

SCRIPT: Patrick White

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

PRESENTATION: Full Frame, Dolby 2.0

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Jim Sharman and Kerry Walker, Patrick White biography, filmographies, Short film - Freestyle

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: September 22, 2005

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