PAID TO KILL. Lippert Pictures, US, 1954. First released in the UK as Five Days (Hammer Films, 1954). Dane Clark, Cecile Chevreau, Paul Carpenter, Thea Gregory, Anthony Forwood. Screenwriter: Paul Tabori. Director: Montgomery Tully.

   This a film that’s been recently released in a box set of DVDs as a collection of “Hammer Noir” films, and while it’s slower moving than I’d like, the basic plot line is very much noirish in nature, and some of the scenes do show some stylish black-and-white touches. (More on this later.)

   It’s hard to say what a British company called Amalgamated Industries actually does, but Dane Clark, even though obviously American, is the head of it. He’s been doing well on the job until he takes one gamble too many, and when the deal fails to go through, the company is ready to go down the toilet with it.

   With no other recourse at hand, he blackmails a business associate into killing him so that his wife will receive his insurance money. (Insurance companies do not pay off in cases of suicide.)

   Well, at this point we all know where this s going, don’t we? The bad deal goes through, and life is livable again. But the would-be killer can’t be found in order to call the whole thing off. Not even Dane Clark’s highly efficient private secretary (who is obviously but quietly in love with him) can find a trace of him.

      There are some twists that follow in this otherwise very familiar story line, which are all to the good, but it’s the final scene that’s the icing on the cake — and makes this film as noir as noir could be. I wish I could tell you about it, I really do, but I think it best that I don’t.

   The story is better than good, to sum things up, and the acting, while a little flat at times, is as good as it needs to be. I like Dane Clark as an actor, but on the screen I’d have to admit that he’s often brooding and moodier than he really needs to be, with a hint of some hidden demons deep inside, or am I the only one who sees that?