The Sniper (1952) – Edward Dmytryk

I do enjoy a good film noir, and The Sniper is one I had never heard of, and quite happily dug into, contained as it was in a Film Noir Collection I had been gifted one holiday season.

Despite some very sexist trappings, it was the 50s after all, there’s a really fascinating story here. It’s also set before forensics and criminal psychology was given the credit it was due, so we are made very aware of the divisions within the police department, when this story begins to play out.

Receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, the story follows Edward Miller (Arthur Franz), a young man who has an issue with woman in general, and brunettes specifically, and despite the fact that he is very conflicted, he’s morally aware that what he is doing is wrong, he takes an M1 rifle, and begins to kill.

He tries to stop himself, inflicting a curious wound that not only requires attention, but also, he hopes, the chance to get locked up in a pyscho ward, but life, and just the culture of the time, doesn’t give him the attention he needs for them to recognize the real danger and he’s back out on the streets, and he’s selected his first target.

He can’t really talk to women, he fumbles, lies, and can’t stand up for himself, and this, and whatever he went through as a child drives him to strike back the only way he knows how, violently.

After the first attack, the local PD, including the two homicide detectives working the case, Anderson (Frank Faylen) and Ferris (Gerald Mohr), bring in the usual sexual offenders in hopes of shaking the killer loose. The police psychiatrist, Kent (Richard Kiley) warns them that the man they are looking for is not amongst them, this is a different kind of case.

Of course, his warnings go unheeded, and Miller finds himself striking again, while the police try to track him down. He even pens a note to them asking them to please stop him, not to mention how many clues, and how much forensic evidence he must have left behind at the crime. But this was back before such things were given the weight they are now.

Consequently, it is almost by happenstance that the police are able to get a bead on him, and eventually track Miller down.

It’s a solidly paced film, and Franz delivers Miller as the conflicted soul he is. So aware that what he is doing is horrifically wrong, trying to find help in his own way, and unable to stop. The cops could have paid a little more attention to the science and psychology at work here, instead of dismissing it as mumbo jumbo, but hey, it was the time (and sometimes still is).

This was a solid noir film, and I really enjoyed it, and was rather stunned not to have heard of it before. If you get the chance, check it out!

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