Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Sniper (1952)

WHO: Marie Windsor, MGM's one-time "New Joan Crawford", who ended up getting called "Queen of the Bs" because she featured in so many cheaply-made pictures after the studio dropped her. She's been immortalized in films noir such as Force of Evil, The Narrow Margin and The Killing, and is one of six women lovingly profiled in Noir City mayor Eddie Muller's 2001 book Dark City Dames. In The Sniper she has a supporting role.

WHAT: The Sniper is one of the first films I ever saw at a Noir City festival, the first one held in San Francisco in 2003, which was devoted entirely to (excuse the double entendre) shot-in-San Francisco movies. Imagine my surprise when the last name of Windsor's character was first revealed, and it was my own rather rare surname Darr, which I've never heard of a fictional character possessing, before or since. It feels like an honor to imagine such a lovely and talented chanteuse in my family tree (though my parents moved to Frisco after this half-noir, half social problem picture was released, so Jean must be from another branch of Darrs).

WHERE/WHEN: At the Castro Theatre twice today: a 1:30 matinee and a 7:00 evening show.

WHY: Though there probably won't be another theatrical showcase of Frisco Bay noir like the one held ten years ago anytime soon, Noir City annually sets aside at least one night at the Castro to showcase locally-filmed pictures. Tonight's that night, with a double bill of The Sniper and Blake Edwards' Experiment In Terror, which I also possess a personal connection to, as crucial scenes were filmed at my alma mater George Washington High School and the surrounding neighborhood. Both films are well worth watching no matter where you live, but are particularly notable for locals, as they utilize some of the best, most authentic location photography ever perpetrated on this city by Hollywood studios, meticulously documented at Reel SF. I feel especially confident saying this after recently spending an intense period of watching and rewatching San Francisco noir while writing an essay on the genre for the San Francisco entry into the World Film Locations series of books, which is expected to be published sometime later this year.

HOW: The Sniper will screen from a 35mm print, while Experiment In Terror will be showcased via a newly-premiering Digital Cinema Package from Sony.


  1. That's a kick about Jean Darr. My surname only turns up so far as I've found in a 1935Chesterfield,"Sons Of Steel," which is about a whole family of Chadbournes.
    Am I right that the name San Francisco isn't actually mentioned in "The Sniper."?

  2. Indeed, Larry. The filmmakers go well out of their way to avoid mentioning it, even in newspaper clippings. Of course the game is given away by the looming presence of Coit Tower and other landmarks familiar even to out-of-towners.