Murder by Contract (1958)

Murder by Contract (1958)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Murder by Contract Photos

Movie Info

Murder by Contract was more professionally beneficial for its star, Vincent Edwards, than its director, the underrated Irving Lerner. Edwards plays hitman-for-hire Claude, who goes about his work with quiet, detached and deadly efficiency. After several "minor" killings (adroitly and subtly conveyed by director Lerner), Claude is assigned the task of murdering mob witness Billie Williams (Caprice Toriel). Despite his qualms about killing a woman-not because he's got a sentimental streak, but because women are "difficult" to kill without a lot of extra preparation-he accepts the job. His first two attempts come to naught, due to circumstances beyond his control. While laying the groundwork for his third try, Claude finds out that his two trusted associates (Herschel Bernardi and Phillip Pine) have been ordered to kill him because of his earlier failures. Wearily, he disposes of his ex-comrades and gets down to the business at hand. Had Murder by Contract been made a few years later, Claude may have triumphed in the end, but the state of censorship in 1958 dictated a less happy fate for the "hero". Enhancing the low-key ambience of Murder by Contract is the matter-of-fact cinematography of Lucien Ballard and the muted one-guitar musical score by Carlo Lodato.
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Columbia Pictures


Vince Edwards
as Claude
Caprice Toriel
as Billie Williams
Michael Granger
as Mr. Moon
Frances Osborne
as Miss Wiley
Joseph Mell
as Harry
Steven Ritch
as Detective Shooting Tear Gas
Davis Roberts
as Hall of Records Clerk
Don Garrett
as James William Mayflower
Gloria Victor
as Miss Wexley
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Murder by Contract

All Critics (6) | Top Critics (1)

Lerner directs with a wary neutrality that leaves judgment aside; he lets the killer speak his piece, resulting in a few politicized surprises.

Full Review… | July 20, 2014
New Yorker
Top Critic

Irving Lerner's direction is almost hypnotic as he matches the deliberation of his killer with meticulous direction...

Full Review… | December 5, 2009

Takes a shockingly low-key, detailed approach to the job of contract killer.

Full Review… | November 5, 2009
Combustible Celluloid

Limpid, compact low-budget ingenuity.

Full Review… | May 1, 2006
Slant Magazine

They don't make noir films better than this.

Full Review… | April 17, 2003
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Quote not available.

October 23, 2003

Audience Reviews for Murder by Contract

a very entertaining 50s noir that somehow escaped my radar until yesterday. the banter of the supporting characters and the third man theme music made me smile. great existential vibe, better than blast of silence. and surely a template for le samouraï. oh those crazy, irrational, trouble-makin women...

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

excellent noir thriller this is a B pix that really works. this is one martin scorsese's faves. the music score is very sparse only a single electric guitar but like welle's the third man (which it reminded me of) it works a the movie goes on and the characters get closer & closer the music add to heighten tension. final bonus: alot of the exterior shots r shot in my hometown of sta monica and it was interesting to see what it looked like back then.

Gregory Wood
Gregory Wood

A spectacular B-movie noir about a hitman with a difficult assignment. Vince Edwards is glorious as the cold, calculating, philosophical killer. Watching him coolly go about his work with detachment and precision is gripping. Director Irving Lerner tells the story with economy and flair, constructing a number of memorable sequences. The "waiting for the call" montage is a clear influence on Taxi Driver... indeed, Martin Scorsese is a big fan of the film. One of the most striking elements is the score: jaunty jazz guitar, very reminiscent of (and probably inspired by) The Third Man. The music builds and takes on a driving rhythm as the narrative becomes more tense. I got a huge kick out of this unique and compelling film. A few really shoddy rear projection shots and a somewhat annoying secondary character are the only notable flaws in this otherwise spellbinding treat.

Martin Teller
Martin Teller

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