Murder By Contract (1958, Irving Lerner)

A gritty, efficient movie… hit man Vince Edwards is sent by his unseen boss to knock off a guy at the barber, a guy at hospital, then one of his own associates Mr. Moon. Vince gets a big head about being good at his job, suddenly making self-important speeches to everyone and being shitty to waiters. Then he loses his composure upon finding out his next target is a woman. He wires her TV knobs to a high voltage line but she defeats him by using the remote control, and the whole criminal conspiracy starts to fall apart.

“The only type of killing that’s safe is when a stranger kills a stranger… now why would a stranger kill a stranger? Because somebody’s willing to pay.”

Vince the Barber:

Kathie:

Vince’s hired hand, Herschel Bernardi of TV’s Peter Gunn and Arnie, gets a side plot where he learns to shoot a bow and arrow for one of their attempted hits. Their loud annoying partner Phillip Pine was in a sci-fi apocalypse movie the same year, later directed a 1972 anti-drug movie which potheads watch to laugh at. The girl, Caprice Toriel, was never seen before or since, but Kathie Browne, the hard-drinking party girl who lets Vince know that his second attempted hit killed a cop instead of the intended target, appeared in the late Howard Hawks comedy Man’s Favorite Sport?

Vince, almost getting away with it before falling into a police trap:

First movie watched on the new Criterion Channel! Irving Lerner would not go on to direct The Empire Strike Back – that’s Irvin Kershner, and I get them confused. Lerner also edited films for Scorsese, Kubrick and Vic Morrow and made two other crime dramas in the late 1950’s. Lead killer Vince Edwards was in Too Late Blues and played the wife’s boyfriend who gets everyone dead in The Killing. Composer Perry Botkin must’ve recently watched The Third Man.

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