Murder by Contract (1958)

Murder by ContractMurder by Contract poster
Directed by Irving Lerner
Written by Ben Simcoe
Orbit Productions/Columbia Pictures Corporation
First viewing/Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics I DVD

Claude: The way i see it, Harry, everybody lives off everybody else.

This quirky little film is worth a look.

Claude (Vince Edwards) has his eye on a house that costs $23,000.  He has $523 in the bank and makes about $75 a week on his job.  He does the math and decides to try out for a job as a contract killer, a career to which he turns out to be ideally suited.  He has no record, doesn’t write anything down,  and has a distaste for guns.  He is soon impressing his boss with his efficiency.

murder by contract 2

After several successful jobs, Claude is sent to Los Angeles for a contract on a witness who is set to testify against his boss.  He is met at the railway station by two minders who never leave his side.  He takes his time planning the hit.  First he wants to see the Pacific Ocean, go to the zoo, etc.  This makes the minders very nervous but they have no choice but to go along.

When Claude finally gets around to casing the house where his victim lives he learns there are a couple of complications.  First, the victim is a woman.  Claude thinks he should double his fee.  Second, the house is heavily guarded by police and the victim is so terrified she never takes a step out the door.

murder by contract 3

This shoestring budget noir was shot in seven days.  Although it is played very straight, the situations are so far-fetched that they made me smile.  The incongrously peppy music, Vince Edwards’s code of conduct, the whining minders,  everything contributes to a good time.

Trailer – cinematography by Lucien Ballard

Martin Scorsese on Murder by Contract

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