Retrospektive 2018

Murder by Contract

Irving Lerner
USA 1958
81 min

Irving Lerner war in den 1930er Jahren eine Schlüsselfigur der linken Dokumentarfilmbewegung, in den 1950ern wandte er sich mit einer Reihe von subversiven, dunklen Kriminalfilmen der Regie zu. Legendär ist dieses klassische Porträt eines narzisstischen Attentäters, der von Vince Edwards mit sehr viel Understatement gespielt wird. In nur acht Tagen mit knappem Budget gedreht, wird MURDER BY CONTRACT wegen der Sparsamkeit der Mittel (darunter ein minimalistischer Gitarrensolo-Soundtrack) von Martin Scorsese und Hartmut Bitomsky als wichtige Inspiration für ihr Filmschaffen genannt.


At the time of MURDER BY CONTRACT’s production the double-feature as an institution was gradually coming to an end. The film tells a story that runs closely parallel to this change. A pedantic but shrewd petty-bourgeois and compulsive character hires himself out as a contract killer. But he doesn’t succeed in accomplishing his mission. His victim is a woman who is the key witness in a trial and very well guarded. We see her at home, playing the piano. The killer approaches her from behind to strangle her but doesn’t have the heart to do it. His client then puts two men on him while the killer in turn searches for the client he now wants to kill. The film plays through the dialectics of the relationship between subject and object as conveyed by a tool that triggers a process in which all positions are exchanged. The object becomes the tool and the tool wants to become the subject. A catastrophe of Hegelian dimensions. At the same time, MURDER BY CONTRACT is an example of a B-movie liberated from the slavery of large-scale productions, that for Hollywood are merely a means of making money, and able to reveal breathtaking dialectical counter-aesthetics. (Hartmut Bitomsky)

  • Michael Granger
  • Vince Edwards
  • Phillip Pine
  • Herschel Bernardi
  • Caprice Toriel
  • Kathie Browne
  • Joseph Mell
  • Ben Simcoe
  • Lucien Ballard
  • Perry Botkin Sr.
Columbia Pictures
35 mm
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