Michael Bergeron
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Private Property at Alamo Drafthouse

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There’s an undeniable modern feel to the 1960 thriller Private Property, not to mention the whole affair comes off like John Steinbeck characters being directed by David Lynch. Themes of codependent friendship and voyeurism abound. Also, a hint of the provocative treatment of adult subject that would also be found in the cinema of directors John Cassevetes (Shadows, 1959) and Jack Garfein (Something Wild, 1961) runs like a raging river through Private Property.

Corey Allen and Warren Oates are two drifters that hole up in an empty house in Beverly Hills. They proceed to spy on the couple next door with an eye towards seducing the wife who likes to swim nude while her husband is at work. Allen, while not destined to achieve the subsequent fame that was awaiting Oates, had a distinguished career that included acting (Rebel Without a Cause as Buzz Gunderson) and over seventy-five credits as a director, mostly on television. Oates would also work with Sam Peckinpah for the first time in 1960 in the television series The Westerner. The relation of their characters seems like a template of George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Oates is a bit slow witted and easy to influence. You almost feel a homoerotic vibe between Allen and Oates in the manner of the stronger leading the weaker on a journey of sexual awakening.PRIVATE-PROPERTY_470X350

Kate Manx as the wife gives an equally revealing performance. Married to Private Property’s director Leslie Stevens, Manx was in far too few projects before she fatally overdosed in 1964. Stevens went on to create The Outer Limits and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The list of crew members reads like a who’s who of talent with cinematographer Ted McCord (nominated thrice for Oscars for films like The Sound of Music) and future award winning cinematographer Conrad Hall with an early credit as camera operator.

Needless to say, Steven’s direction tensely conveys the slow build-up between the thuggish vagabonds and the complacent upper class couple. The film looks sharp and revels in its nourish shadows. Private Property was restored in 4K by the UCLA Archive and is distributed by Cinelicious Pics.

“Private Property” unwinds exclusively at the Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park starting Friday, July 8 through Wednesday, July 13.