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Summer of Movies: Some Edward Dmytryk Films June 30, 2018

Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
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I’d been looking to expand a look at Dmytryk’s work and career for a film class this upcoming year. Calendars move in ebbs and flows, Jewish holidays move around, etc. Long story short, a few weeks got added to the first half of my class. A lot of the class deals with the transition from page to screen, and two directors who wrote substantially about their processes of doing that, Sidney Lumet and Edward Dmytryk, are focused on.

Lumet’s easier – he wrote an excellent book on his films and there are more great films to choose from. He’s also great to examine since “auteur” signatures can be discerned, yet Lumet hated to be thought of that way. So the commonalities are way more subtle than a Hitchcock, or Burton or Kubrick.

Dmytryk started out as an editor and wrote a great obscure book on editing, portions of which I’ll use since he goes into some decent detail on translating script pages to the screen. He also had an interesting career arc – originally part of the Hollywood Ten, Blacklisted, went to England to find work, and then got back into Hollywood by naming names¬† – not as prominently as Kazan or others, but it got him back into low budget material that he built upon, and then regularly working into the 1970s in more mainstream features.

After Kazan named names, he made On The Waterfront as a personal statement about loyalties, criminal association, and conscience.

When Dmytryk returned to Hollywood, he made a film I’ll add to my class – The Sniper (1952), a low budget job focusing on a lone gunman psycho shooting at brunettes in San Francisco. It explores the psyche of the killer (Arthur Franz) without giving us blatant cause-and-effect flashback scenes or Simon Oakland speeches about Freud to explain why he’s nuts. Franz is very good here, the police procedural material handled very well, along with an early Richard Kiley performance as the police profiler/psychiatrist assigned to the case. The thing that makes it stand out is the reality of the characters, and Dmytryk’s signature anticlimactic ending. His love of underwhelming endings hurts some of his films, but not here, in what could have been a standard formula ending for 1952. (more…)

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