DOC’S JOURNEY INTO HAMMER FILMS #19: PAID TO KILL [1954]

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Directed by:
Written by:
Starring: , ,

Hammer-films

 

UK

AKA FIVE DAYS

AVAILABLE ON R1 DVD

RUNNING TIME: 86 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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American James Nevill is the president of Amalgamated Industries. Through his willingness to take big gambles, he’s helped make the company become an international company of considerable size, much to the pleasure of most of the company’s board of directors. But his latest, and biggest, gamble does not pay off when an investor backs out of the deal at the last moment. James now faces certain financial ruin and a bankrupt Amalgamated Industries, so to at least help his wife Andrea, he asks his long-time loser friend Paul Kirby to kill him, even blackmailing him to do so when Paul refuses. But then things improve for James and his company…..

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The thing about some of these Hammer film noirs is that they often start with a great set-up and then don’t quite fulfil their promise. This one is a little different in that it has a good premise, albeit one partially borrowed from The Whistler, but is a bit dull for a while until it eventually begins to get better and better, and has some interesting class and sociological elements, such as the British character’s varying reactions to the American ones. There’s a very strong scene early on when James actually attacks Paul to force him to kill him, but the already short film dawdles a little and seems like it’s going to be very static with much emphasis on board meetings until James’s fortunes change, he tries to find Paul to tell him not to kill him, but somebody’s trying to kill him anyway. The mystery is fairly good and there are some reasonably exciting moments involving escapes from death and James using his fists. Cinematographer Walter J. Harvey gives us some strong visual set-ups, like a dark alley chase going into an even darker tunnel, and builds up the tension nicely just before its climactic revelations.

As is often the case with these British noirs [though this one is only really borderline noir], there’s a little bit of humour that somewhat jars but adds to the charm of the picture. Charles Hawtrey has a very funny sequence where he’s protecting a rare Aztec vase from his Sydney Greenstreet-like archaeologist boss. Elsewhere there’s some surprising subtlety, such as in the depiction of the understated love for James shown by his secretary, and the mirroring of that situation in the devotion of a barmaid to Paul, who is an interesting character we want to know more about. Star Dane Clark, in his fourth film for Hammer, could by now play these harassed, everyman heroes in his sleep, though this one’s much tougher than the last couple he played, and he still does it really well. He has a shop worn, seen-it-all quality that is quite appealing. Well directed by Montgomery Gully who, as with Terror Street, showed an a greater aptitude for this genre than Terence Fisher, Paid To Kill is a pretty decent effort, if nothing special.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2501 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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