A police lt. is ordered to stop investigating deadly crime boss Mr. Brown, because he hasn't been able to get any hard evidence against him. He then goes after Brown's girlfriend who despises him, for information instead.
Claude is a young man with a regular job, no history of trouble with the law and no chance of making any real money. He also has the brains and emotional detachment to make the big bucks as a hit man, and that becomes his new job title. A string of successful hits gets him sent to Los Angeles for his latest job. There he is accompanied by two goons: one who is perpetually nervous and the other who quickly worships the young man as a hero. The cold, ruthless hit man finally becomes unglued when he finds out that his latest target is a woman. She's a witness, set to testify against his boss, and guarded day and night by the police. It's her femininity that worries Claude: women are unpredictable, they don't do what you expect. Claude eventually proves that he is the unpredictable one and his own worst enemy. Written by
[to Harry with contempt]
Why are you miserable? Cause you haven't got any dough? And why haven't you got any dough? Because you're too scared to go out and get it yourself. You want it to come to you. Well, nothing comes to you, Harry. Nothing except one thing... death. Death comes to you... comes to everybody. Only everybody thinks they'll live forever.
There's a laugh. They think they'll live forever. The way i see it, Harry, everybody lives off everybody else.
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Or "Zen and the Art of the Hired Gun". "Murder By Contract" may possibly be the most sadly overlooked crime film of all-time. Martin Scorcese is one of the film's main champions, so maybe he could work around with some connections to get this gem released to DVD. If this and "Blast of Silence" were available to a wider audience, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, its neglected to a very small cult following who seek it out through expensive gray market bootlegs of varying quality. This is really unfortunate, because what we have here is really unlike anything I've seen. Its low-key and minimalist quality is quite unique. This isn't a quickly paced film-noir along the lines of "Kiss Me Deadly" or "The Killing". This is a more slow and introspective portrait of a hit-man and what exactly makes him tick. Its a shame that neither director Irving Lerner nor screenwriter Ben Simcoe did anything else of note, because they created a minor masterpiece. As far as b-films go, this is one of the best I've seen.
As the hep cat hired gun Claude, Vince Edwards has never been better. Some of his dialog may be goofy, but the philosophy behind it makes it all work. Hes also cool as all hell in that beatnik style. The film thankfully avoids making his situations unbelievable or over-the-top. The realism of it is another key component. The two supporting mobsters' characters are a tad annoying at first but eventually fit the film very well. The film also extremely atmospheric and moody, never flashy or outrageous. Adding to all this is a perfect acoustic guitar score by Perry Botkin. The only thing that keeps this from being a complete masterpiece is the ending which is a bit of a let down (I was hoping for something more along the lines of "Blast of Silence"). Still, this is one of the best b-films ever made. I'd go so far as to saying it ranks with "Detour". (9/10)
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