Private Property (New 4K Restoration!)
Dir. Leslie Stevens, US, 1960, DCP, 79 min., b/w
Two homicidal Southern California drifters (played to creepy perfection by Warren Oates and Corey Allen) wander off the beach and into the seemingly-perfect Beverly Hills home of unhappy housewife Kate Manx, in this long-lost film noir gem written & directed by The Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens. Shot through with shimmering sexual tension and lensed in stunning B&W by master cameraman Ted McCord (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), Private Property is both an eerie, Jim Thompson-esque thriller and a savage critique of the hollowness of the Playboy-era American Dream. When Manx, in irresistible blonde beehive and tight capri pants, purrs that she’s ready for love, her husband waves her off, muttering “Wife noises” to his buddy on the phone.
Warren Oates delivers his first great screen performance here as one of the drifters, years before he emerged in The Wild Bunch and Two-Lane Blacktop as one of the finest character actors of his generation; his bizarre, voyeuristic Lennie-and-George relationship with the underrated Corey Allen (James Dean’s hot rod rival in Rebel Without a Cause) is fueled by a barely-suppressed homoerotic tension. The back-story to the film is almost as strange: director Stevens (a protégé of Orson Welles) and lead actress Manx were married at the time, and the film was shot in their own Beverly Hills home. Several years later, Manx tragically committed suicide and her fragile spirit seems to hang over the film. A major rediscovery for noir and crime fans, Private Property was completely lost until UCLA Film & TV Archive recently located the only known 35mm elements, which have been restored in 4k by Cinelicious for this re-release.