7.4/10
1,670
31 user 21 critic

Murder by Contract (1958)

Claude is a ruthless and efficient contract killer - until he finds his next target is a woman.

Director:

Irving Lerner

Writer:

Ben Simcoe
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

City of Fear (1959)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A vicious killer escapes from San Quentin with a cannister of what he believes to be heroin but is actually a radioactive substance that threatens all Los Angeles.

Director: Irving Lerner
Stars: Vince Edwards, Lyle Talbot, John Archer
The Lineup (1958)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In San Francisco, a psychopathic gangster and his mentor retrieve heroin packages carried by unsuspecting travelers.

Director: Don Siegel
Stars: Eli Wallach, Robert Keith, Richard Jaeckel
Nightfall (1956)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Through a series of bizarre coincidences artist finds himself falsely accused of bank robbery and murder and is pursued by the authorities and the real killers.

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Stars: Aldo Ray, Anne Bancroft, Brian Keith
The Sniper (1952)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A sniper kills young brunettes as the police attempt to grapple with the psychology of the unknown assailant.

Director: Edward Dmytryk
Stars: Arthur Franz, Adolphe Menjou, Gerald Mohr
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Julia Ross secures employment, through a rather nosy employment agency, with a wealthy widow, Mrs. Hughes, and goes to live at her house. 2 days later, she awakens - in a different house, ... See full summary »

Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Stars: Nina Foch, May Whitty, George Macready
Pushover (1954)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Undercover cop falls for the beautiful moll of a bank robber on the run and together they double-cross the hood and the cops.

Director: Richard Quine
Stars: Fred MacMurray, Kim Novak, Philip Carey
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

When 2 detectives steal $80,000 from a dead robber, one of them suffers from a guilty conscience which could lead to murder.

Director: Don Siegel
Stars: Ida Lupino, Steve Cochran, Howard Duff
Naked Alibi (1954)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A chief of police detectives fired for brutality, tries to get evidence on a man suspected of killing 3 of his officers.

Director: Jerry Hopper
Stars: Sterling Hayden, Gloria Grahame, Gene Barry
Crime Wave (1953)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Reformed parolee Steve Lacey is caught in the middle when a wounded former cellmate seeks him out for shelter.

Director: André De Toth
Stars: Gene Nelson, Sterling Hayden, Phyllis Kirk
Plunder Road (1957)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Five men rob a train in Utah of 10 million dollars in gold and head to Los Angeles in 3 trucks hoping to meet up with their beautiful accomplice, and leave the country.

Director: Hubert Cornfield
Stars: Gene Raymond, Jeanne Cooper, Wayne Morris
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A crime-busting lawyer and his initially reluctant attorney father take on the forces that run gambling and prostitution in their small Southern town.

Director: Phil Karlson
Stars: John McIntire, Richard Kiley, Kathryn Grant
The Prowler (1951)
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

When Susan Gilvray reports a prowler outside her house police officer Webb Garwood investigates and sparks fly. If only her husband wasn't in the way.

Director: Joseph Losey
Stars: Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell
Edit

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
Edit

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 »
Edit

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 »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Goofs

When the three are driving around in Los Angeles it is very obvious that the car is in the studio in front of a projection screen. You can see that the windshield has been removed and studio lights are reflected in Claude's sunglasses. See more »

Quotes

George: [referring to Claude] What do you think?
Marc: I hold to my first opinion. He's fresh-fried out of the nut factory.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Taxi Driver (1976) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Stylized and spare to the point of awkwardness, but somehow utterly fresh, too...
7 May 2011 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

Murder by Contract (1958)

This cult-style low budget film is both fascinating and detached to the point of coldness (if not boredom), and whether you'll like or not might depend on attitude. The relentlessly cold-blooded murderous main character (played by Vince Edwards), in his late-50s handsome and sharply dressed style, is just false enough (if not exactly unconvincing) to keep the movie from taking on a life of its own in any conventional sense. We spend a lot of time watching this man get phone calls and then perform murders of various kinds (off camera, for the most part), and then zero in on the big one with a couple cronies watching. And yet he isn't especially fascinating or complex, just very hardened and determined. And so his functional presence, good looking as it might be to some viewers, isn't enough to lift up the movie.

And yet the story is told in such rapid, spare, and matter-of-fact terms it's downright original. I can't think of a movie like it, though I just happened to see "Blast of Silence" which is a far better low-budget story of a gunman, and it comes from the same period (1961). What helped that later movie, and many other offbeat non-Hollywood affairs, is all the location shooting (that is, the locations themselves were fascinating), and "Murder by Contract" almost studiously avoids any sense of place, or mood and ambiance from a place (except for bright, spare, fringe of L.A. stuff, which is nice). This series of mostly rooms and interiors (some with the same oddly speckled walls and doors) creates a blankness that is both drab and defining.

If this movie isn't really existential in the dramatic Orson Welles sense (or Carol Reed, or what the heck, Stanley Kubrick), the main character really is a film noir staple of a man out of place in the world and utterly utterly alone. His solution is a cold and increasingly false one--kill kill kill. For money, all toward some dream house on the Ohio River, of all places. I think the idea there is that his dream is actually modest, not some love nest in the south of France, but rather a place of honest comfort, like the farm Sterling Hayden returns to in "Asphalt Jungle." It may be no coincidence that Ben Maddow worked on the screenplay for both films.

So if you can adapt to the minimalist style (and acting), and absorb the rather intelligent cinematography by Lucien Ballard (a big name for this small film), you might start to see why it has such a lasting reputation. The music is pretty terrific, a kind of 1950s electric guitar ambiance ahead of its time. In fact, much of the movie is forward thinking out of desperation to make it cohere and succeed without any money. Director Irving Lerner (famously caught spying for the Soviets during WWII though never prosecuted) has had a long career as a secondary director or editor to some of the greats in Hollywood, and some of that talent and visual acumen is shown off here, whatever the larger limitations.


8 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 31 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed