Murder by Contract

Rated NR 81 minutes 1958

This rarely screened 1958 gem about the mind of a contract killer is one of Martin Scorsese's favorite thrillers, and it's easy to see why. An existential hipster (Vince Edwards) coolly regards his work as a business to be carried out rather like Zen in the Art of Archery, until he's thrown by a big-time assignment to rub out a woman who's about to testify in court. Neither the screenwriter (Ben Simcoe) nor the director (Irving Lerner) ever acquired a big reputation, but here they achieved something singular and nearly perfect—with a memorable score performed on guitar, a lean, purposeful style, and a witty feeling for character, dialogue, and narrative ellipsis. Lucien Ballard did the black-and-white cinematography.

Film Credits

Director: Irving Lerner

Cast: Vince Edwards, Phillip Pine and Herschel Bernardi

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