A sniper kills young brunettes as the police attempt to grapple with the psychology of the unknown assailant.A sniper kills young brunettes as the police attempt to grapple with the psychology of the unknown assailant.A sniper kills young brunettes as the police attempt to grapple with the psychology of the unknown assailant.
I appreciated the fact they shot this on the streets in San Francisco, where the story takes place, instead of some Hollywood back-lot. That city, in particular, with its steep streets and bay-windowed houses, is fun to look at in any era. This happens to be very early 1950s. As with many noirs, the photography was notable, too. I liked a number of the camera angles used in this movie.
I also appreciated that cast. Arthur Franz is excellent in the lead role of the tormented killer, "Eddie Miller." Eddie knows right from the start that he's a sick man, that he can't help himself and that he needs him. (So, why didn't he turn himself in?) It was fun to see an older and sans-mustached Adolphe Menjou as the police lieutenant, and Humphrey Bogart- lookalike Gerald Mohr as a police sergeant. It was most fun, being a film noir buff, to see Marie Windsor. This "queen of noir," unfortunately, didn't have that big a role in here.
What really struck were some bizarre scenes, things I have never seen in these crime movies on the '30s through '50s. For example, there was an investigation of sniper suspects held at the police building in which three suspects at a time were grilled - in front of about a hundred cops. The grilling was more like taunting and insult-throwing by this sadistic cop in charge, who made fun of each guy. Man, if they tried that today, there would lawsuits up the wazoo (so to speak).
Then there was this James Dean-type teen who was on top of a city building with a rifle, right in the middle of this citywide sniper scare. The cops bravely bring him in without killing him and are yelled at for doing so, since the gun wasn't in serviceable order. Duh! The cops were supposed to just see a guy waving a gun on top of a rooftop and let him go, no questions asked?
A number of things in here stretched credibility, but there were some intelligent aspects, too. "Dr. Richard Kent," played by Richard Kiely, was a case in point. He was the police psychologist and gave strong speeches (the film got a little preachy at times) advocating what should be done with sex-crime offenders, some of it Liberal and some of it Conservative in nature. He made some good points. "Eddie" had sex problems, I guess, but I don't remember it being discussed in the film. Maybe I missed that. The film did miss that aspect: Eddie's background, which triggered all the violence.
The second half of this film is far better, because the killings increase and the suspense starts to mount. As it goes on, we get more of a feel of what motivates Eddie as we see his reactions to people and how he views things they say. I was surprised, frankly, that he didn't shoot his nasty female boss, since he only harmed women. She was the nastiest woman in the film, and nothing happened to her. What was Eddie thinking?
- Mar 1, 2007