“Murder by Contract” (1958)

Claude (Vince Edwards) is a young man who recently held a regular job and has no history of trouble w/ the law. He also has the arrogance, intelligence, and emotional detachment to become a hit man, as he proves to Mr. Moon (a go-between to a crime boss). A string of successful hits on the East Coast gets Claude sent to LA for his latest job. He is accompanied by two minders (George and Marc): one is often nervous (Herschel Bernardi) and the other comes to admire Claude for his cool demeanor (Phillip Pine). Though self-assured in his previous kills, Claude becomes unglued learning that the target is a woman. She’s a witness set to testify against Clause’s boss, so under police protection 24/7. Claude is worried b/c women are unpredictable- they don’t do what you expect!

Claude: The only type 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.

I’m sure that the writer was thinking of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) when he came up w/ the above lines! You have to be in a certain mood to enjoy this type of movie; it has a lot of style, though not much dialogue. Edwards looks a bit dangerous, yet also handsome, and is comfortable in his role. He is tall (6’2″), athletic (a former swimmer), w/ thick dark hair and dark eyes. The film has some comic moments when Claude unsettles the two men sent to accompany him. Scorcese and Tarantino consider this to be one of their favorite B-movies.

[1] Is he worried about killing her because he has more moral fiber than he would like to admit or is it genuinely harder to kill a woman? Whatever the case, this is a fascinating look into a dangerous mind.

[2] Stylish direction and some interesting camera work compliment a thoughtful script. Be watching for one particularly unsettling scene which unfolds in a barber shop.

[3] Vince Edwards’ character… was also fun to enjoy. His dialogue, and just the way he carried himself through this film, was fascinating.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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