Murder by Contract (1958) - Rotten Tomatoes

Murder by Contract1958

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.


Caprice Toriel
as Billie Williams
Frances Osborne
as Miss Wiley
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
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Critic Reviews for Murder by Contract

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4)

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

July 21, 2014 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Edwards is strongly cast as the killer and provides a quiet menace which pays off in audience attention.

July 31, 2008 | Full Review…

A terrific, no-nonsense B movie which comes on like something by Jean-Pierre Melville: cool, calm and dispassionate.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Neither the screenwriter (Ben Simcoe) nor the director (Irving Lerner) ever acquired a big reputation, but here they achieved something singular and nearly perfect.

April 17, 2003 | Full Review…

Murder by Contract is a svelte, plucky noir that feels like a spiritual sequel of sorts to Carol Reed's The Third Man.

April 20, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Here's a real gem and total justification for the existence of the B-movie.

May 8, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

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

Murder by Contract Quotes

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