The Sniper, 1952,. 8/10

Very engrossing crime drama. Unusually, we’re dealing with a serial killer (Arthur Franz as Eddie Miller), instead of the typical noir on-the-run victim. The Sniper starts out quickly with an aborted murder, and doesn’t let up until the dramatic rooftop to hotel room capture.

In between, we’re shown plenty of Eddie’s female-hating psychosis. All of his interactions with women, even with young girls, are negative. He takes offense, and builds resentment, because he takes more or less routine interactions as insults and put-downs.

The most interesting sequence occurs at the dancer’s home. She seems to genuinely like him, but he’s shunted out a back door as soon as her date shows up. She probably does like Eddie, but she’s maybe too embarrassed to have him there hanging out when the other guy shows up. His reaction–he needs to kill her.

He’s socially awkward, so finds himself rejected at some level, then snaps. When he gets told off at the baseball game, the girl is rude; but he broke up the game by interfering. Even when he’s just watching people, he can’t stand to see a happy couple. It’s as though he’s jealous, and wants things to not be so nice.

Since most of the scenes are from Eddie’s point of view, we also see that he’s very aware of what’s happening to him. I agree with those who say that since he wants to be caught, he should just turn himself in.
He does try to get help, first from the prison psychiatrist, then from the hospital doctor. It might’ve been more interesting if those angles had been pursued. The police psychologist does pin down his problems, but Eddie has no interaction with Dr. Kent.

I’d have liked a flashback or some device to link Eddie’s past with his behavior. Especially since he’s almost sympathetically portrayed, it seems appropriate to find out the particular experiences that Dr. Kent broadly sketches out.

The scenes from the police perspective are interesting too–especially the media pressure and the public’s lynch mentality. The banter amongst the various cops adds a sort of nervous levity that grounds the story. Their reactions to pressure make a telling juxtaposition to Eddie’s, the cause of their anxiety.

The detectives deal successfully with their stress, but Eddie can’t deal with any stress. He’s more or less reduced to an animal or even a robotic level; his only emotional scene is at the very end, where we see him cry. Since the movie ends right there, it does leave open the dim possibility that a Dr. Kent-type can help him as he spends the rest of his life behind bars.

The scene where he’s identified by the painter is visually amazing and works well dramatically. With its clever cinematography, well-written script, and even performances, The Sniper offers a sophisticated look into mental illness. 8/10.

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