Private Property is an independent film from 1960 about two young and dangerous drifters who spy on and eventually work their way into the home of a beautiful young married woman. At the time of its release, the film was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency for its lascivious themes and violence. Thought to have been lost for many years, Private Property is a voyeuristic journey into the minds of the morally corrupt. Corey Allen, of Rebel without a Cause fame and later a TV director, and Warren Oates star as the two vicious losers out for a good time at any expense.
Allen, as Duke, is a violent psychopath who dominates the less than bright, sexually inexperienced and sexually confused Boots (Warren Oates). Boots has never been with a woman. As we find out later, he can barely hold a conversation with one. Together, this odd couple, a sort of modern day George and Lennie (Of Mice and Men) travel California’s long lonely highways until they come across Ann Carlyle (Kathy Manx), a beautiful married woman, at a gas station where they hitch a ride with traveling salesman Ed Hogate (Jerome Cowan). The two force Hogate at knife point to follow her until they reach her home located in an exclusive suburban area. They then send Ed on his way, but not before threatening that they will kill him if he tells anyone about what happened.
Their plan is to get the sexually inexperienced Boots some practice with the opposite sex. However, Duke has a few games of his own to play. The two drifters set up a temporary residence in the empty home, up for sale, located right next door to Ann and her husband’s estate. It turns out to be a great spot for the two creeps to sneak peeks at Ann as she sunbathes by her pool. Ann and her husband, Roger (Robert Wark), were childhood sweethearts. She’s happy or at least claims to be. She’s got everything she wants or so she says. What she doesn’t say is that hubby is way too consumed with work, which sometimes involves travel, and does not spend enough time with her. She’s restless and vulnerable to unexpected seduction moves from an out of work itinerant like Duke who smoothly works his way into her home.
Screenwriter/director Leslie Stevens (The Outer Limits) gives us a nice contrasting view of class distinction, the haves and the have nots in America. Upper class Ann reflects both sympathy and guilt in her dealings with Duke’s homeless life as he request small jobs so he can make a dollar or two. At first, she does not know he has moved into the empty home next door. She’s also unaware of Boots who Duke has kept out of sight. Duke’s strategy is using both Ann’s loneliness and guilt as part of his seduction. He’s a manipulator, a seducer, a predator, a user and a violent psychopath.
Duke keeps telling the mentally challenged Boots that his time with Ann will come. When it does, Boots is sexually not up to the challenge. The rape scene, as depicted, is brutal for its time.
Leslie Stevens began his career as a playwright. His first play was an off-Broadway production called Bullfight. This was followed by his one and only Broadway play, The Marriage –Go-Round, later turned into a film starring Susan Hayward. He also did some directing for early TV shows like The DuPont Show and Kraft Theater among others. In 1958, he adapted Gore Vidal’s teleplay, The Left Handed Gun, into a screenplay for Arthur Penn’s first film starring Paul Newman. Along the way, Stevens met Kate Manx. They married in 1958. In the 1960’s Stevens became best known as the creator of The Outer Limits. Stevens was also involved in many other shows during this period including, Stoney Burke, It Takes a Thief, Name of the Game and The Virginian among others.
Part of Private Property’s attraction is its dark visual look. This is due to a cinematographer with an already legendary status, Ted McCord, whose career goes way back to 1921. McCord had a future legendary cinematographer working with him, Conrad Hall, still in the very stages of his career as his camera operator.