The Prowler (1981 film)

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The Prowler
The Prowler.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Joseph Zito
Produced by Joseph Zito
David Streit
Screenplay by Neal Barbera
Glenn Leopold
Starring Vicky Dawson
Farley Granger
Lawrence Tierney
Christopher Goutman
Music by Richard Einhorn
Cinematography João Fernandes
Edited by Joel Goodman
Distributed by Sandhurst
Release dates
  • November 6, 1981 (1981-11-06) (United States)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,000,000 [1]

The Prowler (also known as Rosemary's Killer) is a 1981 horror film directed by Joseph Zito, and written by Neal Barbera and Glenn Leopold.


The end of the Second World War: newsreel footage of troops returning from Europe on board the Queen Mary. In a letter sent to her lover abroad, a woman named Rosemary writes that she can no longer wait for him.

On June 28, 1945, the town of Avalon Bay holds its graduation dance. Rosemary (Joy Glaccum) is attending with her new boyfriend Roy (Timothy Wahrer). The two go off and spend some romantic time together in a gazebo. Ominously, someone approaches the couple and cuts the power. A stranger is wearing full combat gear and carrying a pitchfork. As Rosemary and Roy embrace, she looks up and sees the pitchfork over them. Rosemary screams and the stranger plunges it through the both of them, killing them. The killer leaves a long-stemmed red rose in the woman's hand.

Thirty five years later, in 1980, the town prepares for another graduation dance. There hasn't been one since that fateful night. Pam MacDonald (Vicky Dawson) stops by to see Sheriff George Fraser (Farley Granger). Their discussion turns to Major Chatham (Lawrence Tierney) and his refusal to allow the annual celebrations after the murders all those years ago. The Sheriff tells Pam that someone has robbed a nearby store and then cut up a kid and took his car. Authorities are afraid the killer is headed towards Avalon Bay. Despite that possibility, the sheriff is leaving town to go fishing. He puts Mark London (Christopher Goutman), his deputy, in charge.

Pam and Mark have an attraction for each other and go on a lunch date. She shows him an article she wrote about the return of the graduation dance and tells Mark she is concerned about his safety. Pam also tells her roommate Sherry (Lisa Dunsheath) that she is worried about the Columbus killer. Sherry tries to calm her friend's nerves while the other girls in the dormitory are excitedly preparing for the dance. Lisa (Cindy Weintraub) even flashes Major Chatham, who's sitting in his wheelchair in the house across from them. As Pam is putting the finishing touches on her outfit, someone else is shown putting on a combat uniform, and arming himself with a bayonet, hunting knife, and a sawed-off shotgun.

Sherry gets into the shower, and before Pam heads out, Pam asks her if she should wait. Sherry tells her to leave because she is waiting for her boyfriend Carl (David Sederholm). When Carl shows up, he surprises Sherry in the shower. Hoping to have a little fun before they leave, he goes into the bedroom to undress. Suddenly, an unknown assailant grabs him from behind and kills him with the bayonet. Sherry is still in the shower when she sees someone through the curtain approaching. She thinks it's Carl, but the killer pulls the curtain open and she is impaled through her stomach with the pitchfork, killing her.

At the party, Pam is happy to see Mark when he arrives. But before she can talk to him, Lisa pulls him away to dance. Pam stands by the cocktails, frustrated and annoyed. When Mark comes over to talk to her, Lisa follows him. Tipsy from the alcohol, she knocks into him and he spills some liquor on Pam's dress. Pam is furious and heads back to the dorm to change her outfit. When Pam gets to her room, she hears the shower running. Still thinking that Sherry is in the shower, she closes the door. The room is dark enough that she does not see Carl's blood on the bed. She changes and then leaves. But as she's going down the stairs, Pam looks up at the top of the stairs and sees the killer and runs.

Just as the killer comes near her, Pam makes it outside. She runs into Major Chatham, who grabs her. She breaks free and finds Mark. When she tells him that someone has been chasing her, he takes his flashlight and searches around the dorm. Mark does not find anything besides wheelchair marks. He returns to his car where Pam is waiting for him, and she tells him to check the dorm because Sherry and Carl are still in there. Mark goes inside and towards the bedroom but the door is locked. He does not see that there are two dead bodies in the tub.

Pam and Mark go to Major Chatham's house. It is dark and the old man is nowhere to be found. The killer is in the house and he watches them. During their search, Pam finds an old scrapbook and discovers that Chatham's dead daughter's middle name was Rosemary. She was the girl killed 35 years ago. The two then go back to the dance, where they tell Miss Allison (Donna Davis) about the prowler on the campus. The teacher tells the students they should stay put and not go out until the person has been apprehended. That message comes too late for Lisa. Angry that her date Paul has been puking in the bathroom, she's gone to the pool for a late night swim. The prowler finds her at the pool and kills her.

Paul wants to leave the dance and find Lisa but the teachers won't let him. He is so drunk and rowdy that he gets thrown out. Mark and Pam take him to the station house, where Mark puts him in a jail cell. Told that the local cemetery has been desecrated, the two then head out to see what's happened. When they get there, they find Rosemary Chatham's grave dug up. They open the coffin and find Lisa's body in it. Meanwhile, Miss Allison has left to see if she can find Lisa. She sees blood in the pool and panics. As she tries to run away, the killer grabs her from the bushes and kills her.

Mark tries to reach Sheriff Fraser at the lodge he's staying at but can't get in touch with him. Before heading back to Major Chatham's house, Mark tries to drop Pam off at the dance. She refuses and insists on going with him. When they get there, Mark leaves her for a moment and is knocked unconscious by the killer. Pam spies a necklace dangling from inside the fireplace and tries to pull it out when Rosemary's skeleton, in her graduation dress, falls out of the chimney. Pam tries to find Mark but is confronted by the killer. She runs through the house and hides under a bed. The killer enters the room and, eventually, Pam gets up and runs out. The killer's pitchfork eventually breaks in half and Pam uses the broken pitchfork and holds it up for protection as he comes near her.

Just then, Otto from Kingsley's convenience store, enters the room and shoots the killer with a shotgun. Seconds later, the killer takes out his own sawed-off shotgun and shoots Otto. Pam stabs the killer with the broken pitchfork and they struggle for the shotgun. The murderer is revealed to be Sheriff Fraser. Pam gets the upper hand, points the gun at his head and fires, killing him.

The next day, Pam returns to the dorm, she goes into the bathroom in her bedroom and opens the shower door. Sherry's body is on the floor of the tub and Carl is hanging from the showerhead by his tie. Suddenly, Carl's corpse reaches out to grab her. She screams and she backs away from Carl's body as the screen cuts to black.


  • Vicky Dawson as Pam MacDonald
  • Christopher Goutman as Deputy Mark London
  • Lawrence Tierney as Major Chatham
  • Farley Granger as Sheriff George Fraser
  • Cindy Weintraub as Lisa
  • Lisa Dunsheath as Sherry
  • David Sederholm as Carl
  • Bill Nunnery as Hotel Clerk
  • Thom Bray as Ben
  • Diane Rode as Sally
  • Bryan Englund as Paul
  • Donna Davis as Miss Allison
  • Carleton Carpenter as 1945 M.C
  • Joy Glaccum as Francis Rosemary Chatham
  • Timothy Wahrer as Roy
  • John Seitz as Pat Kingsley
  • Bill Hugh Collins as Otto
  • Dan Lounsbery as Jimmy Turner
  • Douglas Stevenson as Young Pat Kingsley
  • Susan Monts as Young Pat Kingsley's Date


The film was shot in Cape May, New Jersey.[2]


The Prowler was released as Rosemary's Killer in Australia and Europe, and is missing almost a minute of Tom Savini's gore effects. The German version omits all of the gore scenes (including the revelation of the killer's identity) and replaced the soundtrack with bird sounds for daytime scenes, cricket sounds for the night scenes, and Richard Enhorn's score with synthesizer music by an uncredited musician. This version goes by the title Die Forke des Todes (The Pitchfork of Death).

DVD release[edit]

Blue Underground released an uncut version of The Prowler on DVD in 2002. The extras include a trailer, a still and poster gallery, behind the scenes gore footage with Tom Savini, and an audio commentary with Joseph Zito and Tom Savini.


AllRovi called it a "run-of-the-mill entry in the early '80s slasher film cycle" that "benefits from an unexpected amount of technical gloss, but has little else to offer".[3]


  1. ^ Joseph Zito, DVD Commentary
  2. ^ The Star Ledger. October 26, 2014. pg. E7
  3. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "The Prowler (1981)". Allmovie. Retrieved 15 June 2012. 

External links[edit]