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Short Cut to Hell (1957)

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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 »



(novel), (screenplay), 3 more credits »
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Title: Short Cut to Hell (1957)

Short Cut to Hell (1957) on IMDb 5.7/10

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Cast overview:
William Bishop ...
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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


See all certifications »




Release Date:

September 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

À deux pas de l'enfer  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


James Cagney's only directorial effort. 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 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

Such a weaker, imitative version of "This Gun for Hire" there is no real point in it
4 March 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Short Cut to Hell (1957)

A strained effort all around, including James Cagney giving a personal introduction standing next to an imposing movie camera, assuring us his two new leading actors were terrific, before we get a chance to see for ourselves. We can wonder about his motivations, but on the surface two things seem clear. One, he's trying to move from being an actor to being a director (he sort of says he's getting too old to act, interestingly). And two, he's going about it in a cheap and sort of safe way, as if Hollywood knew it wasn't going to go very far.

The result is pretty awful in enough ways to say you might just skip it. I'm a junkie for noir films, and "This Gun for Hire" is a true, early, formative classic from 1942. That one, with Alan Ladd in the lead, and Veronica Lake and Laird Cregar as support, is terrific in all the little ways that add up to something uniquely memorable, even in the hands of little known director Frank Tuttle. Now, fifteen years later, Cagney in his first and last directorial effort, remakes Tuttle's version. He sometimes matches it scene for scene (a few curious substitutions, like an air raid shelter instead of an empty railroad car) and actor for actor (the man taking Cregar's role seems to be vainly imitating him). And he leaves out a few of the key quirks that made the original more, well, original and disturbing (like Ladd's relationship to cats).

One stark difference is the different kind of female character Cagney casts, avoiding the sultry version of Veronica Lake for a very Doris Day kind of lead. And it's probably telling that these terrific new actors Cagney is using had very little in the way of careers after this. Cagney did act in a few more films, living until 1986.

If you have little patience, I think you might not make it through the first painful scene of a woman overacting her weariness in the motel hallway, but that's not fair. It does have faster and more interesting moments. In general, the filming and lighting has brightened up, losing at least the noir visual quality, maybe keeping its tonal range in line for television rebroadcast (an important concern by the late 1950s).

If you want to know the possibilities of the story at its best, start with Graham Greene's 1936 book (A Gun for Sale) and then to the seminal 1942 movie. Short Cut to Hell is an asterisk at beset, a curiosity.

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