Private Property, 1960. 10/10

An unusual film noir, of the home-invasion type. Only a handful of characters: Ann Carylyle (Kate Manx), and two invasive hoods, Duke and Boots (Corrie Allen and Warren Oates), plus Ed (Jerome Cowan), who gives the guys a ride from the site of a robbery (of Jules Maitland), and Roger (Robert Wark), Ann’s less than stellar husband. The premise isn’t just criminal, but also semi-psycho, in that getting the hapless Boots ‘fixed up with a woman’ provides motivation for the home-invasion. As we see, it’s really more of a home ‘insinuation.’

Ed starts out telling Boots that Ann is too good for him “you can’t mix the birds with the snakes.” None of that high-and-mighty stuff prevents Boots from threatening Ed with a switchblade when he tries to get rid of them. The hoods get situated at the vacant place next door to Ann. Now they’re literally voyeurs, peeking at her through the shrubbery. “She’s got on a blue bathing cap…and that’s all, Daddy!”

Roger pulls up. He seems about a generation older than she. Meanwhile, the nuts are spending their time watching the couple, “he’s nowhere!” is their assessment of Roger. That, however, puts Duke and Boots somewhere below nowhere. At least they’re looking after basic needs by robbing a grocery store. It’s clever how the two sets of people alternate scenes. Duke has a decently devious idea of stealing Ann’s Corvette–or so it seems–they really only want to smell her afterglow in it. Pretty disgusting.

Things are just slightly more creative inside, as Ann tells Roger that she has a new negligee, but, strangely, he puts her off. Duke finally gets the nerve to get Ann’s attention, by posing as a gardener; she’s fixed that way she says. Later, he sees an opportune moment, as she’s fussing with bug spray. That gets him working for her, pulling weeds; then, into the pool. “I guess I’m, what you call it? a physical type.” He slightly overdoes the charm angle, though. He’s an excellent manipulator, as though she’s personally responsible for the inequities of civilization.

How sleazy can someone get? He even let’s on that he’s hanging out next door. If that’s not enough, he gives Boots a bad time about her too. Roger comes home, but he acts as though she’s made of kyrptonite. When Duke says that she won’t be able to sleep that night, he’s probably right. Anyway, Roger’s going to be out of town the next day; so Duke let’s himself in.

She doesn’t seem to mind getting continually surprised. Next thing we know, she’s going to cook for both of them. Boots has to pretend to be Ed; Duke has a pseudonym too. “there’s not an ounce of fat on you!” is one of their more tactful comments. She slightly recoils, at least, when Duke asks if she loves her husband. While they’re drinking her beer, she seems to dither over what to change into.

Soon enough, they got her playing records, and dancing. There’s now a growth of three or four empty Buds and a Pabst on the piano. She’s smooching with Duke. She more or less comes back to her senses when the music ends, and actually wants them to go. “One for the road?” asks Duke. He’s not just referring to another drink. “I can’t” she pleads, as she’s now backed into her bedroom, on the bed. He carries her back to the vacant house.

Just as she’s about to give in, Boots steps in, very awkwardly. Now, he’s just a nut with a switchblade, looming over her; he knows he messed up, anyway. Time for Ann to split. But guess who’s waiting for her? Now, it’s Duke’s turn to go pitifully nuts, and he starts manhandling her. Boots pries him off of her, and both guys tumble into the pool, fighting with the knife. Duke manages to drown/stab Boots. Roger gets back in time to pin down Duke, so that Ann can get their gun and shoot Duke. Blam! Blam! And blam!

This was much better than I expected. It builds, ever so steadily, towards the reckless, tragic end. Though Duke and Boots are definitely jerks, they get so wound up that they spin completely out of control. Roger is a decent guy–and quite successful, but really seems out of his depth emotionally with his wife. Ann’s the most complex character, as she has security, but no excitement. It’s hard to say how much of her behavior stems from gullibility or just desperation.

Even before the killings her world is turned upside down. Each character has something missing in their lives; the movie shows the degree to which they can cope with their feelings. The two hoods are pretty much a lost cause; they’re thinking no further ahead than the next thrill. And, when, with Ann, they seemingly get exactly what the want, they don’t know what to do with themselves. Highly recommended for its portrayal of psychological drama and creepy criminals.

Farmermouse loved all those cool convertibles: the Corvette, the Skylark, and Roger’s Chrysler 300. Ten grilled cheese sandwiches. 10/10.

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