Private Property Blu-ray Review

An erotically charged noir thriller from Leslie Stevens thought lost for decades

A sultry housewife becomes the sexual focus of two dangerous drifters in this long-lost, neo-noir thriller. The Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens’ film is an uneasy exploration of marriage, infidelity and the American dream as they were understood in the 1950s. Addressed in a sophisticated and shocking manner, Private Property offered a subversive portrait of the era’s prevailing mores.

Initially released in 1960, Private Property ran askew of Hollywood’s strict production code and died in American theaters with its adult themes. The movie found a following in Europe’s more permissive theaters before becoming lost for several decades. Starring a young Warren Oates, Corey Allen and Stevens’ own wife at the time, Kate Manx, Private Property is a suggestive piece of filmmaking decades ahead of its time.

Charged with a latent eroticism underneath its surface, Private Property’s narrative is mixed with an always lurking threat of violence and danger. A savage critique of the emptiness found in the accepted view of marriage in the 1950s, Private Property would have been forbidden fruit for many moviegoers at the time. It remains an intimate depiction of marital infidelity layered with blossoming sexual confusion.

Private Property would have been forbidden fruit for many moviegoers at the time


Drifter Duke (Corey Allen) and his close associate Boots (Warren Oates) are aimless, dangerous men. When they spot Ann (Kate Manx) at a gas station, they become fixated on following her. Going by a variety of names, Duke slyly insinuates himself into Ann’s placid lifestyle as a bored housewife. The charismatic Duke promises to Boots he’ll persuade the attractive housewife into sleeping with Boots.

Kate Manx’s beautifully vulnerable performance as a sexually frustrated housewife in the hills of L.A. is the heart of Private Property. The actress was married to Leslie Stevens during its filming and the movie was shot inside their home. She would tragically commit suicide a few years later, having starred in only two films. It’s a heart-breaking performance that makes her housewife such a sympathetic character even as she violates the spirit of her marriage vows.

What makes Private Property special is its perfectly reasonable plot, sold by Duke’s easygoing charm with Ann. Duke is a violent sociopath, but also a handsome sociopath able to manipulate others. Duke bends his friend Boots to his will, as easily as he manipulates Ann into getting what the drifters want. Duke likes the thrill of the hunt and bagging Ann is an afterthought to him. He’s doing this for Boots. There is a subtle undercurrent of sexual tension between the two drifters that goes untouched.

Private Property is a special thriller, unappreciated in its day, raising difficult topics left unspoken in mainstream Hollywood films. Director Leslie Stevens crafted a captivating portrayal of friendship and betrayal that speaks louder today. Its intimate themes of voyeurism and impending sense of danger in suburbia mark it as a lost shocker worth seeking out.

Private Property Blu-ray screen shot 12

Video

Director Leslie Stevens’ Private Property receives a new 4K restoration from lost film elements preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Niche distributor Cinelicious Pics gives the long-missing thriller a beautiful black-and-white presentation in nicely rendered 1080P video. The 1960 film’s stunning cinematography by Ted McCord (The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre) includes gorgeous black levels and a consistently crisp contrast. Some softness is inevitable in this intimate neo-noir.

This is a film transfer that transparently captures Private Property’s soft grain structure and gritty texture in loving detail. The 80-minute main feature is shown in a flawless AVC encode on a BD-25. It preserves the movie’s original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The various elements used to create this new transfer included a 35mm acetate print and composite dupe. They have been cleaned up to pristine condition. The lack of visible damage is remarkable.

Encoded with top-notch parameters, every ounce of texture and fine detail found in the restored elements is completely replicated. There are no compression artifacts, even in the darker and messier scenes. This is an unprocessed, unfiltered transfer with excellent depth and definition. Utterly film-like and convincing in its raw grain, Private Property has never looked better.

Cinelicious has shown a commitment to high-quality transfers that exude perfectionism. Private Property is another feather in their cap with a faithful presentation that epitomizes classic filmmaking from another era.

Audio

The mono soundtrack is presented in 1.0 DTS-HD MA audio. The recording has serviceable fidelity and adequate sound design. The intelligible dialogue is backed with a schmaltzy score, somewhat out of step with the rest of the movie’s tone. There is a thin, reedy sound quality common to lesser movies from this era.

Optional English subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

Cinelicious Pics has put Private Property out in a limited edition of 3000 units. Taking a cue from Twilight Time, they use a transparently clear Blu-ray case. This combo set includes the movie on both Blu-ray and DVD. All together this is a classy set for an important, overlooked film.

Don Malcom writes on the film and its major players in a new essay included in the booklet. It’s a lucid summation of the various things going on behind the scenes and the context for why it became a lost film all these years.

Interview With Alexander Singer (18:02 in HD) – A modern interview conducted for this release with Private Property’s still photographer. He details working with Leslie Stevens and others on the movie, which was very early in his career. His candid comments delve extensively into the movie’s cinematography and working environment. It’s an excellent interview with real insight behind the scenes.

Theatrical Trailer (01:42 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not influenced DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full-resolution 1080P screenshots taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered during the process. Patreon supporters are able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to six exclusives.