Murder by Contract (1958)

Feature Film | Crime-Drama | USA | English | 1h21m | Dir: Irving Lerner | Scr: Ben Simcoe | DP: Lucien Ballard | Prod: Leon Chooluck | Mus: Perry Botkin | Ed: Carlo Lodato | Cast: Vince Edwards, Phillip Pine, Herschel Bernardi, Caprice Toriel, Michael Granger, Cathy Browne
Lerner’s unnerving crime-drama – an odd mix of pared-down, existential plotting, economical yet striking direction, vaguely light-hearted acting, and strangely upbeat guitar-heavy scoring – engrossingly captures the life of a rookie hitman, as he begins to find his feet in his new profession. Claude (Edwards, coldly captivating), fed-up with his life as a New York wage-slave, determines to become a contract killer in order to be able to afford a swanky new home. After having his mettle tested by a mid-level mobster, he soon finds himself earning $500 a week, coolly dispatching his new boss’s various enemies, all the while saving towards his dream house. However, when a former girlfriend of said gangster turns state’s witness in order to avoid a prison sentence, Claude soon finds himself despatched to Los Angeles in order to silence her, under the promise of a bumper $5000 payday. Watched over by two mob associates (Pine & Bernardi), whom are slow to warm to him, he takes his time planning the hit. However, despite being as meticulous and professional as ever, things do not go to plan, leading him to believe that the job is jinxed and his incarceration-threatened employer to believe that he is perhaps not the right man for the job.