Murder by Contract (1958) Hitman Tells You A Stranger Kills A Stranger

Murder by Contract (1958) Movie poster Vince Edwards Irving Lerner

Hitman Claude – “Have you boys ever killed anyone?… Well?”

“I thought not.. It’s not easy, you know. You read in the paper about some wife doing away with her husband, child murderer, knifing in a tavern brawl… These are crimes of passion. Crazy people off their rocker.

Then there’s the tigger-happy hoodlum, the kid that kills a gas station attendant because he can’t open the cash register fast enough. That’s another type of crazy person. Both types eventually get caught. They don’t plan. They can’t. Even if they did, it’d be no use. The only type of 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, families. They’re afraid of the punishment, here or hereafter. Me, I can’t be bothered with any of that nonsense. I look at it like a good business. The risk is high, but so is the profit.”

Marc – “You’re a real superman, ain’t you?”

Murder by Contract (1958) Hitman Claude Vince Edwards Irving Lerner

Murder by contract killer Claude (Vince Edwards) lays it on the line for the two henchman Marc (Phillip Pine) and George (Herschel Bernardi) sitting before him. Claude has been hired by a gangster called Brink to kill a witness in a high profile court case. Marc and George are there to assist Claude, to drive him where he needs to go, to help where they can. What they didn’t expect was for Claude to go sightseeing? Swimming, scuba diving, a night at the cinema and even off to the zoo! Frustrating for Marc but viewed with real fascination by George. Claude is just way too damn cool.

Murder by Contract (1958) Marc Phillip Pine George Herschel Bernardi Vince Edwards

George “What do you think?” Marc “I hold to my first opinion. He’s fresh-fried out of the nut factory.”

Claude is uber cool and methodology calculated. He’s focused, patient and an obsessively skilled ruthless and efficient contract killer. He also comes across as cocky but for good reason, he is the best at what he does and he knows it. Nothing will stop him until he’s satisfied his contract has been fulfilled. Surely nothing can get in his way for the LA contract, could it?

Mr Moon – “You can only make a mistake once in this job” Claude – “Well I’m different.” Mr Moon – “What do you mean you’re different?” Claude – “I don’t make mistakes.”

Murder by Contract (1958) Hitman Claude Vince Edwards Irving Lerner dagger knife blade

Murder by Contract features a style of filmmaking that feels very modern in its approach. Its stylistic and has an underlining coolness and happy to take its time with the three main characters. From the quiet moments of just waiting, to Claude’s ability to unleash dialogue that scares and bullies its way into an unexpecting, unfortunate soul. All the scenes are helped along by American jazz guitarist and composer Perry Botkin Sr  who gives the films soundtrack a wonderful quirky feel, even giving Claude his own theme tune. The twangs and strums give a kind of foreboding sadness which later flips in LA to almost, hipster cool.

Murder by Contract (1958) Mr Moon and Claude Vince Edwards Irving Lerner

It’s a brilliant film directed by Irving Lerner thats pushed along by the stark coldness of amoral Claude. Handsome, focused and way too smart. The scenes at the beginning with hitman Mr Moon (Michael Granger) as he tries to enquire about getting a job in the business are great. As the master tries to catch him out on many occasions just for Claude to calmy answer back with the right response each and every time. Claude is happy with the waiting game. Claude reminds me somewhat of Alan Ladd’s Raven in This Gun for Hire.

Murder by Contract (1958) Marc Phillip Pine George Herschel Bernardi Vince Edwards stakeout

It’s a fine film right from the get go but unfortunately it found itself rushing the end a tad. Though that is only a small little thing when the movie was so great. It’s very recommended if you get the chance or maybe you’ve seen it? Please let me know if you want to. This was another great example of why I do this here blog, finding little gems like this is the greatest buzz. Thanks for popping on by the wolf lair. All the best…. Mikey Wolfenstein.

PS Murder By Contract is on Youtube to stream at the moment.

  • Plus only watch this if you have seen the film as it has many spoilers. But here director Martin Scorsese discusses his love of the film. (Unfortunately the clip is out of sync but you can listen to the audio if its a bit distracting)

13 thoughts on “Murder by Contract (1958) Hitman Tells You A Stranger Kills A Stranger

  1. Great review Mikey, as usual. I’ve seen Murder by Contract, I read about it, that it’s one of Martin Scorsese favorites and it has Vince Edwards whom I’ve always had a crush on, so I wanted to like it. I didn’t. There were things I did like..I enjoyed the first 15 minutes and, yes, I appreciate the stylistic qualities but there was something too off kilter about it for me…that’s probably the whole point of the movie, but it went over my head. I do enjoy the contract killer sub genre. If you run across A Blast of Silence give it a watch–if you haven’t already–and let me know what you think. It’s even lesser known and not as critically acclaimed but I prefer it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done. This one’s a good one and Vince Edwards fit into these gangland thrillers perfectly. Kubrick’s Killing a fine example. Lastly, have you been rummaging around the vault here stealing my original one sheets? I’m gonna have to check cause I’m quite sure I have this one around here somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Damn I’ve been rumbled! Ok I confess I sneaked into the vault one night Mission Impossible style to nab me some posters! But curse your security system, the laser beams took a wedge of hair off each side of my head! I look blooming ridiculous, Yeah I know serves me right, I was gonna put them back, I promise…….

      There I was thinking that I hadn’t seen Vince Edwards before, how could I forget “The Killing” DOH!!. What a film.

      Liked by 1 person

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