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A man hires a hitman to kill him so his wife can collect on his life insurance. He changes his mind, but he must get to the killer and tell him so before the killer gets to him first. Written by
I'd always been interested in catching some of the films from Hammer's pre-horror boom; so far, the only title I'd come across was PHANTOM SHIP (1935) which was made a couple of decades before the studio reached its peak period but which, presciently, starred one of the era's horror icons Bela Lugosi.
Anyway, Hammer apparently made a whole slew of ultra low-budget noirs featuring either faded American stars or second-tier leading men. This one, then, happened to be shown on late-night Italian TV and, knowing it's been released on DVD by VCI, I made it a point to check it out. It turned out to be a decidedly modest but not unpleasing little film: the star in this case is Dane Clark (not exactly top rank, you see) and, as I lay watching, felt that he wasn't really noir material an opinion which, incidentally, I would change the very next day when I saw this same actor in the superior French-made GUNMAN IN THE STREETS (1950)! The plot, though far-fetched, is engaging: Clark's business fails and, in order to provide for his wife, proposes to have himself killed so that she can collect on his insurance; soon after, his fortune unexpectedly turns and he desperately seeks to stop his killer from carrying out the assigned task!
Even if I watched the film dubbed in Italian, the London settings and character types offer a whole different atmosphere to the American noirs the same thing goes for the French locations of GUNMAN IN THE STREETS and this does help keep one's mind off the measly production values. The denouement provides a few surprises Clark's wife emerges a villainess (which allows him free rein with the devoted secretary who had really loved him all along), the attempts on his life turn out not to have been done by the person he paid expressly for that purpose which elevates the whole slightly than would otherwise have been the case. Besides, the film is short enough at 75 minutes not to overstay its welcome or allow the proceedings to slip into tedium. By the way, the original British title of this one is FIVE DAYS (the period of time over which events take place) but got changed to the more evocative PAID TO KILL for the U.S.
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