The Sniper (1952)

Written by John Chard on April 24, 2014

You must stop me before I do it again.

"High among police problems is that of the sex criminal, responsible last year alone for offences which victimised 31,175 women. Adequate and understanding laws do not exist. Law enforcement is helpless. Here in terms of one case, is the story of a man whose enemy was womankind"

Produced by Stanley Kramer, directed by Edward Dmytryk and photographed by Burnett Guffey. Those three things were enough to make me positively desperate to see this film at the earliest opportunity, what I hadn't counted on, and what a true surprise it was too, was just what a taut and tightly scripted picture it is. Written by Edward and Edna Anhalt, who were academy award nominated for their efforts, The Sniper has an edgy griminess to it that itches away at the skin. It's not that the violence is particularly harsh, because it isn't and it's simply executed, it's that our protagonist Edward 'Eddie' Miller is on the surface a normal every day Joe, someone who may be living in our respective neighbourhoods.

This is one of those films that, and I disagree with some of my fellow reviewers here, is as relevant today as it was back in 1952. Problems of not recognising psychotic tendencies do still way lay our respective societies, the police and medical staff do still have problems nipping in the bud potential street walking maniacs from being in our midst. Here we get Arthur Franz (Sands of Iwo Jima & The Caine Mutiny) as Miller brilliantly essaying a mind fragmenting by the day, his hatred of women born from some dark place long back in his childhood. Even little girls on the street bring him out in a sweat, as a mother slaps her child, Miller feels the burn on his very own face as well. Some scenes linger once the film has long since finished, a chimney stack shooting or a fair ground sequence as Miller's built up frenzy rises to the surface, all brilliantly put together by Dmytryk and Guffey, with the latter's work in and around San Francisco very impressive. Fleshing out the cast with impacting results is Adolphe Menjou, Gerald Mohr, Marie Windsor, Frank Faylen & Richard Kiley.

It's a fabulous character study that also excellently brings notice to the plight of police procedural matters on a case such as this. No this film isn't some sex maniac shocker that defined a genre, it is however an important film in many ways. Its themes that it highlights are not to be ignored, and for 1952 this film to me has to be seen as a landmark of sorts, certainly its influence can be found in many a similar film that followed further on down the line. Finally, because it's largely unseen, it's now available on DVD, so hopefully more people can get to see this highly recommended film. A film that may be beautiful to look at, but most assuredly is very very dark in thematics. 8/10