Saturday, November 03, 2018

TCM's Film Noir of the Week for Saturday Night-Sunday Morning at 12:15 a.m. ET (and 10 a.m. ET Sunday Morning) is Edward Dmytryk’s Classic Serial Killer Story, The Sniper (1952), with Adolphe Menjou, Arthur Franz, Marie Windsor and Richard Kiley, and Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou as Accomplices



By David in TN
Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 10:37:00 PM EDT

TCM's Film Noir of the Week for Saturday Night-Sunday Morning at 12:15 a.m. ET (and 10 a.m. ET Sunday Morning) is The Sniper (1952), with Adolphe Menjou, Arthur Franz, Marie Windsor and Richard Kiley, directed By Edward Dmytryk.


Eduard Franz and Marie Windsor

The Sniper is the first well-known serial killer movie. It is notable for peddling the theory that murderers are “sick,” rather than “evil.” This film started the “stop me before I kill again” trope. It means with the right treatment, killers can be cured beforehand, or afterward they can be “reformed.”

Adolphe Menjou

In other words, killers are “driven” to do it by forces they can't control.


Franz plays a psycho who hates women and is shooting them down on the streets of San Francisco. Menjou is the police detective hunting him. Gerald Mohr, a poor man's Bogart, plays Menjou’s younger, hipper colleague. This kind of pair became standard in cop stories (See Quinn Martin’s hit 1970s’ TV series, The Streets of San Francisco, starring the great Karl Malden, and a young Michael Douglas.)


Windsor is a victim. Kiley is a police psychiatrist who gives the motives.


Stanley Kramer produced, and with Kramer, you know it’s a “message picture.” Watch for our host Eddie Muller to wax and wane on the pairing of Edward Dmytryk as director and Adolphe Menjou as the star. Menjou named every Communist he knew, and Dmytryk was one of the named.


Eddie thinks any inconvenience to Hollywood Communists is the worst thing that ever happened.



N.S.: The Writers Guild of America (WGA), used to give out “The Robert Meltzer Award (Screenplay Dealing Most Ably with Problems of the American Scene).” The ‘Message Picture Award.’ The award was only given out from 1949-1952, but Stanley Kramer-produced pictures (Home of the Brave, The Men, and Death of a Salesman, used to contend for it every year.


A youngish Fritz Lang

The idea for The Sniper surely came from Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou. Lang was the greatest director in the history of German pictures; Von Harbou was his second wife, and co-authored the screenplay of each of his German-language films, though I suspect that she was the dominant figure regarding their scripts. (E.g., Metropolis, the greatest science fiction movie ever made, was based on von Harbou’s eponymous novel.)

Thea von Harbou

In 1931, when Lang and von Harbou made their first talkie, it was M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder (M – A City Seeks a Murderer.

Peter Lorre starred as a serial killer of small children. Lang and von Harbou had spent months researching the new phenomenon of serial killers, which were called “Triebmörder” (“compulsion murderers”), particularly focusing on a couple of notorious recent cases, of whom the Lorre character was a composite.

Unfortunately, the ending of M, when a judicial tribunal issues the killer its sentence, has been lost (unless the screenplay can be found), but there is little doubt that Lang and von Harbou supported the therapeutic option. When you define serial killers as compelled to do what they do, you’re bound to oppose justice for their victims.


Lang and von Harbou at home, working


Anonymous said...

Correct. Adolph and John Wayne were part and parcel of purging commies from Hollywood. That whole idea of curing a bad person was from Stateville prison Illinois and the enlightened warden.

David In TN said...

TCM's Film Noir of the Week for Saturday Night-Sunday Morning at Midnight am ET (and 10 am ET Sunday Morning) is The Threat (1949). Charles McGraw chews the scenery in an over-the-top performance as a killer who escapes prison. Michael O'Shea, Virginia Grey, Anthony Caruso, Frank Conroy, and Don McGuire are supporting players in this RKO B-picture.

Film Noir Guide: "McGraw, a brutal psychopath who has escaped from Folsom prison, intends to keep his promise about getting even with the cop (Shea) who arrested him, the D.A. (Conroy) who convicted him, and the showgirl (Grey) who he believes betrayed him. Along with his goons (Caruso and Frank Richards), McGraw kidnaps his three victims and a furniture mover (McGuire), whose van he needs for a getaway. Gravel-voiced McGraw is brilliant as the sadistic killer, a role similar to the one he played in 1948's T-Men--only this time around you'll get to see even more of him, perhaps more than you can stand if you're the queasy type. The tension never lets up."