A professional hitman is hired by a friend to commit two murders. His friend pays him off in what turns out to be stolen money, and the police soon trace the money to him. On the run, he ... See full summary »



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Cast overview:
Sgt. Stan Lowery
Robert Ivers ...
Kyle Niles
Glory Hamilton
Murvyn Vye ...
Peter Baldwin ...
Carl Adams


A professional hitman is hired by a friend to commit two murders. His friend pays him off in what turns out to be stolen money, and the police soon trace the money to him. On the run, he kidnaps the girlfriend of the police detective in charge of his pursuit and threatens to kill her unless the hunt is called off. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


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Release Date:

September 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

À deux pas de l'enfer  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Yvette Vikers was reportedly a Cagney discovery, See more »


[Kyle just told Glory that he's a professional killer]
Glory Hamilton: Is there anything you like about yourself?
Kyle: Yeah. I never miss.
See more »


Version of This Gun for Hire (1942) See more »


I'm in the Mood for Love
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields
See more »

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User Reviews

In sole directorial effort, Cagney remakes This Gun for Hire
16 October 2004 | by (Western New York) – See all my reviews

Towards the end of Short Cut to Hell, with the two principal characters holed up in an abandoned underground storage bunker and the police cars massed outside, there's a long quotation from the doom-freighted score Miklos Rosza wrote for Double Indemnity. It's one of several arresting details the movie provides (another is a newspaper from the previous decade, with the headline 'Allies Cross Siegfried Line'), details that pique interest but go nowhere in attempting to satisfy curiosity.

Short Cut to Hell is an all but forgotten movie but a noteworthy one nonetheless, if only as the only title James Cagney ever directed. Night of the Hunter it's not (the sole directorial effort of Charles Laughton), but another point of engagement is in its being a remake of the 1942 Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake vehicle This Gun for Hire, drawn from the Graham Greene 'entertainment' of that name.

The Ladd/Lake allure didn't last into a new millennium (who knew?), but in 1957 both of them were still reasonably active, their less than glamorous (all right, alcoholic) endgames still a few years, or decades, off. Cagney chose to update them using actors without much in the way of either past or future.

In the Ladd role of the icy, isolated killer-for-hire, Robert Ivers is little more than a trenchcoat and a topper, skin and bones, who brings to mind an unlikely amalgam of Elisha Cook Jr. and James Dean. Finding himself set up through marked bills, after carrying out the two brutal murders contracted by pompous 'fatso' (Jacques Aubuchon, whose indulgences are pretty young things and peppermint patties), he eludes police, taking as hostage Georgann Johnson, a lounge singer engaged to police detective William Bishop.

Johnson proves a game gal, but in the wrong way. She has a way with a wisecrack, but it's not in the flirtatious Veronica Lake way (nor that of Lauren Bacall or Gloria Grahame); the spin she gives is more in the Eve Arden-ish, vinegar-virgin mode, less seductive than matey, even matronly. So the chemistry between captor and captive (our old friend The Stockholm Syndrome) rarely reaches reactive force. (Nor, for that matter, do the reactions between Johnson and Bishop.)

Notwithstanding its unknown cast, Short Cut to Hell doesn't have the look or feel of a B-movie, and Cagney keeps a good pace and an acceptable amount of tension (a few quite brutal scenes help to quicken the pulse as well). It's not quite clear why Cagney chose this material to direct, and he makes (or had to accept) some less than ideal choices, but he'd worked in movies long enough to insure that the movie he directed was brisk and absorbing, a better little movie than its obscurity might suggest.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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