Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Paid To Kill (1954)
Dane Clark (who starred in three of these co-productions) is James Nevill, a successful American businessman in post-war Britain. He is about to pull off the deal of his life with eccentric entrepreneur-explorer Cyrus McGowan (Howard Marion-Crawford) when he gets a telephone call from McGowan (who is leading an archaeological expedition in Mexico) telling him the deal is off. Nevill is now facing financial ruin. His one thought is how to provide for his wife Andrea (Thea Gregory). He comes up with an ingenious plan. He will pay someone to kill him so that Andrea will get the insurance money.
The deal is made and Nevill has only to wait. While he’s waiting to be killed McGowan suddenly returns to England and tells him the deal is now very definitely on. That’s good news - there’s no longer any reason for Nevill to want to die. The bad news is that he can’t contact Kirby to tell him the deal is off. So now he knows he’s being stalked by a killer that he paid.
The basic plot idea is hardly original but screenwriter Paul Tabori throws in enough twists to keep it reasonably interesting.
Montgomery Tully was a solid journeyman director and while his work was rarely startling it was always competent and he does pull off a fairly effective visual set-piece in a rain-soaked laneway. The movie has a fairly effective noir look to it and it has atmosphere.
At just over 70 minutes this movie is well-paced and there’s no danger of boredom setting in. James Nevill finds himself in a classic noir situation where events spin out of his control and he finds himself facing a danger that is not the danger he thinks he’s facing. He can’t go to the police without implicating himself in what was after all an attempted insurance fraud and he soon finds himself wondering if there’s anyone he can really trust. Nevill is a decent guy but his one mistake could cost him dearly.
Paid To Kill is not an ambitious film. It’s content to be a very entertaining noirish thriller. That’s all it is, and that’s all it needs to be. A fine piece of British movie-making. Highly recommended.