The Sniper (1952)

We’ve had Universal noir, MGM noir, even Nikkatsu noir, which means it must be time for Columbia noir! And as the MGM box we recently covered had a couple of films involving people hurt by the communist witch hunts of the 1940s/50s, so the Columbia noir box ironically begins with a film by one of the chief namers of names, Edward Dmytryk, and starring one of Hollywood’s top right-wingers, Adolphe Menjou… though to be fair the film is really owned by second-billed Arthur Franz as the titular sniper. Never heard of him before, though his career was lengthy, as most of it seems to have been spent in character roles in B films and TV shows; this was apparently a rare leading part for him and an equally rare villainous role. He’s terrific, too, at conveying the character in the sympathetic way the story requires… being a Stanley Kramer production there’s obviously a good liberal message at its core about rehabilitation rather than punishment, and perhaps it’s forced home in a slightly harder manner than it should’ve been (i.e. in that mayoral office scene when the doctor intervenes); Franz was doing a good enough job without that help. Apart from that, though, and one or two other bits I found implausible, The Sniper is terrific stuff, much less of a lurid melodrama than it might’ve been in other hands and helped immensely by the San Francisco location shooting. A fine way to kick off what looks like an interesting assortment of films…

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