|"No, I'm not Shepard Smith!"|
But this being a Stanley Kramer production, we learn early on that Eddie Miller's problem is a lack of proper psychiatric treatment. Eddie, you see, wants to be locked up. He calls his old prison shrink for help, but the doc's analyzing a nine-iron at the golf course. He even deliberately burns his hand on a stove as a failed signal to the e.r. doctor that there's something wrong with him. What's a rejected guy to do but keep killing women?
|Dr. Kent tries to figure out if chopsticks|
are phallic symbols.
|A fastball thrown by the|
|"Bet you don't recognize me|
without the 'stache, eh, kid?"
|...while the cops say, "We're busy|
Edward Dmytryk and cinematographer Burnett Guffey make great use of the San Francisco locations, especially the shadowy nighttime sequences. One of their Hitchcock-worthy visual motifs is Eddie Miller taking aim while normal life continues behind him, whether at a carnival sharpshooting gallery or on an attempted murder from atop a roof. In a particularly startling moment, an elderly woman removing towels from an indoor drying line near a window reveals a police sniper on the next-door roof, but doesn't notice him herself. The madness, Dmytryk seems to be saying, is so prevalent that people don't even see it anymore.
It's always important to keep on the lookout for familiar faces in old movies, and The Sniper is no exception. The legendary Charles Lane (left) appears briefly as a barfly annoying a doomed lounge singer (noir queen Marie Windsor, co-star of Two Dollar Bettor, in a small but important role.) The e.r. intern is Sidney Miller, whom I immediately recognized as Warner Brothers' stock Jewish kid from 20 years earlier. You can see him when he was a teenager in the previously-discussed bootleg-toothpaste drama, The Big Shakedown. (His character names from those Warners' days include Sanford Nussbaum, Issadore Marks, Maurice Levy... and George Washington. That's comedy, folks.)
It's a pity that The Sniper is pretty much ignored these days, especially compared to Kramer and Dmytryk's other 1952 production, the appallingly-overrated High Noon. To my narrow-vision eyes, Kramer in particular never made a better, tighter movie. (His rare venture into comedy, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, crawls 3 hours and 40 minutes.) If I have to be fed a message, let it be quick and tasty like The Sniper.
To read about Two Dollar Bettor, go here.
To read about The Big Shakedown, go here.