review for Sniper on AllMovie

Sniper (1975)
by Donald Guarisco review

This retitled TV movie, originally known as The Deadly Tower, is a real white-knuckle affair. The script avoids gratuitous melodrama in favor of a just-the-facts docudrama style. It's a smart choice because it makes the horror of Charles Whitman's rampage all the more effective thanks via its matter-of-fact approach. It's also worth noting that the script weaves in an effective, subtle "gun control" theme into the story's second half. Kurt Russell is effective in a mostly-silent role as Whitman, using his physicality and facial expressions to convey a palpable sense of confused anger. However, the real dramatic weight of the film is carried by Richard Yniguez as Martinez, the resourceful cop who ultimately brings Whitman down, and he receives fine support from Ned Beatty as a helpful, talkative worker trapped in the crossfire and John Forsythe as the detective trying to figure out the motivation behind the mass murder. Director Jerry Jameson deploys these performances skillfully in the film, using real locations to atmospheric effect and weaving together a taut narrative that becomes a real nail-biter in its second half. Jameson's work also benefits greatly from a shivery, synthesizer-tinged musical score by jazz great Don Ellis and sharp lensing from cinematographer Matthew Leonetti. In short, Sniper is an effective thriller and worth rediscovering for anyone interested in tales of real-life horror.