7.4/10
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31 user 22 critic

Murder by Contract (1958)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | December 1958 (USA)
Claude is a ruthless and efficient contract killer - until he finds his next target is a woman.

Director:

Irving Lerner

Writer:

Ben Simcoe
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Vince Edwards ... Claude
Phillip Pine ... Marc
Herschel Bernardi ... George
Caprice Toriel ... Billie Williams
Michael Granger Michael Granger ... Mr. Moon
Kathie Browne ... Mary - Secretary and Party Girl (as Cathy Browne)
Joseph Mell Joseph Mell ... Harry - Hotel Room Waiter
Frances Osborne Frances Osborne ... Miss Wiley - Ex-maid
Steven Ritch Steven Ritch ... Detective Shooting Tear Gas
Janet Brandt Janet Brandt
Davis Roberts ... Hall of Records Clerk
Don Garrett Don Garrett ... James William Mayflower - Plainclothesman
Gloria Victor Gloria Victor ... Miss Wexley - Bunco Squad
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Storyline

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 J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It's Kill or Be Killed!


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

December 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Assassinio per contratto See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Orbit Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The abandoned movie studio location in the film is the former Charlie Chaplin Studio. See more »

Goofs

In the last scene, when Claude is trying to escape through the drainage pipe the pipe is at least four feet high, when it is supposed to be only two feet. See more »

Quotes

Claude: The only type killing that's safe is when a stranger kills a stranger. No motive. Nothing to link the victim to the executioner. Now why would a stranger kill a stranger? Because somebody's willing to pay. It's business. Same as any other business. You murder the competition. Instead of price-cutting, throat-cutting. Same thing. There are a lot of people around that would like to see lots of other people die a fast death... only they can't see to it themselves. They got conscience, religion, ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Taxi Driver (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

Quirky crime film has the usual symptoms of a low budget and tight shooting schedule; but much of it works very well
21 June 2010 | by J. SpurlinSee all my reviews

Claude (Vince Edwards) 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.

This quirky crime film has the usual symptoms of a low budget and a tight shooting schedule: some poorly written scenes, poorly acted scenes and plot holes. But much of it works very well, especially the opening sequences depicting Claude's unusual job interview and his initial series of hits. I especially liked how the barber shop murder was handled. Vince Edwards is good in the lead, though he's better when he's not forced to mouth pretentious monologues that lay on the irony a bit too thick. (At one point I was reminded of Charlie Chaplin's fatuous comments about murderers versus soldiers in "Monsieur Verdoux.") The spare electric guitar score is effective. It's worth watching, especially since Martin Scorsese has acknowledged it as an influence on his films, notably "Taxi Driver."


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