Cinelicious Films continues to do yeoman’s work in rescuing movies that live on the fringes of legend. You’ve probably never heard of Private Property (1960), a seemy psychodrama, because it was too risqué (for the time) to get a release in the US. However, thanks to the work of Cinelicious and UCLA Film Archives, this lost gem is back in a big way.
Perhaps the current ‘hook’ of Private Property is that it was the debut of cult actor Warren Oates (Two-Lane Blacktop), who as near as I can tell emerged fully formed as a vaguely-threatening oddball. He plays one of a pair of drifters who settle in an empty Los Angeles canyon house and interrupt the idyllic life of the young couple next door.
The other lead is Corey Allen (Buzz from Rebel without a Cause) and he steals the show. He’s a manipulator and slick liar, both with his ostensible friend (Oates) and with the fragile housewife Ann (Kate Manx). Writer/director Leslie Stevens would go on to a long and successful television career (The Outer Limits), but watching Private Property, it is easy to see that he could have gone another way. The film reminded me very much of another director’s early Pinteresque psychosexual thriller: Roman Polanski and Cul-de-sac. The John Cassavetes/Faces resemblance is also quite strong.
For my money, however, the number one reason to see the film is the work of the great DP Ted McCord Treasure of the Sierra Madre, here working with a young Conrad Hall. Together with the director, who once studied under Orson Welles, they’ve come up with all kinds of interesting angles and compositions to underline the menace of the film, and they did it in ten shooting days with minimal crew and kit. This film serves as a great inspiration and model even today to what a group of independent filmmakers can accomplish.
The Blu-ray/DVD set is beautifully presented from a new 4k restoration. Bonus features are a modern trailer (meh) and an interview with the set photographer on the film, who is a bit inarticulate and with a memory that matches his age. (Read the excellent essay in the booklet instead.)
Full disclosure: This review is unpaid but a review copy was provided.