“The Sniper” is a 1952 thriller released by Stanley Kramer Productions and was directed by Edward Dmytryk. Harry Brown wrote the screenplay from a story conceived by Edna and Edward Anhalt. Arthur Franz plays the psychotic sharpshooter, Eddie Miller, who stirs up panic in San Francisco by shooting women from afar.
The film also stars Adolphe Menjou, Richard Kiley, and Marie Windsor. Menjou plays the lead detective, Frank Kafka. I am not sure that anything really stands out in the character, but I somehow liked him regardless
The film has plenty of interesting ideas, particularly for the time it was released. It seems to have one of the first to really explore the psychology of a serial killer. It tackled the issue of those who kill for sexual pleasure, although that motive for Eddie Miller is not entirely prevalent. Kiley plays a psychologist who is consulting with the police and can get a little off-putting with the delivery of his insights at times. I am not sure if that was the intent of the character, but he evoked a bit of an eyeroll from me sometimes.
Franz’s performance was pretty compelling for the most part. He was quite convincing portraying Eddie Miller’s downtrodden demeanor. Miller’s disdain for women was quite evident and but also managed to come across as over the top. It was a pretty solid portrayal for the most part.
The movie does have some problems through. Some of the investigative practices employed by the police seems to be lacking in research from the producers. There seemed to be contrived scenes providing the opportunity for the writers to share their views on how to treat suspected sex offenders in the criminal justice system. I was impressed that such ideas were conveyed in a film that was made in 1950’s. I did get distracted by the implausibility of moments such as having various known sex offenders in a line-up and some guy basically heckling them, discussing their cases in front of the other suspects as well as the large group of police officers in the room. It was an odd moment which I was not sure was all that realistic even for that time.
The film has its share of shortcomings, but it takes some chances that were interesting. The performances overall weren’t bad in spite of the problems I had in suspending my disbelief.
There was also a bit of silliness such as the killer reaching out to the police warning them that he needed to be stopped. Miller was written as someone in the grip of mental illness, yet knowing that he was wrong to be executing these women.
The ending is rather strangely abrupt as well, however I think it was just unique enough for me to appreciate it.
I would say that this film should not be overlooked because there was some effort to make it unique for its time. Not all of it was executed well, but not all of it failed either.