THE CONTRACT

Airdates: May 31st and September 6th, 1962 
Written by George Eckstein
Directed by Bernard L. Kowalski
Produced by Del Reisman
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Gloria Talbot, Frank Sutton, John Larkin
Special Guest Star Harry Guardino
Featuring Kelly Thordsen, Dick Haynes, Oscar Beregi, Lane Bradford, Michael Barrier, Paul Baxley

“On February 4th, 1934, three months of intensive investigation by Eliot Ness and the Untouchables paid off suddenly. In a Lower East Side tenement in New York City, a cheap hoodlum named Smiley Barris was being run to earth.”

Smiley Barris (Frank Sutton) is a wanted man on the run from both sides. Eliot Ness knows Smiley can blow the lid off the New York Syndicate, and Joe Kulak (Oscar Beregi), head of the East Coast cartel, sends two assassins to take him out.

When the second attempt fails, Smiley phones his long-time friend Johnny Templar (Harry Guardino) in California to bail him out. When Kulak gets wind of Smiley’s move, he assigns Quist (John Larkin) to ferret him out. A methodical killer, Quist relishes the opportunity.

Arriving on the West Coast, Smiley heads for Templar’s plush gambling ship moored off Santa Monica in international waters. About to wed a young socialite, and hoping to get out of the rackets altogether, Templar nevertheless agrees to hide Smiley. But soon Quist appears, followed by Ness and his men, and both sides apply pressure on Templar to produce Smiley. Templar resists and smuggles him to a hotel in Los Angeles. Ness has Templar’s phones tapped and assigns Rossi to follow him.

Knowing Templar is hiding Smiley, Kulak phones Templar and reassigns the contract – to Smiley’s best friend: John Templar. Suddenly, he is faced with the prospect of either killing Smiley, or being killed himself, and despite pleas from his fiancee (Gloria Talbot), he sets Smiley up at an abandoned club to proceed with the hit. Smiley, meanwhile, has come to terms with his position and the trouble he has wrought. He begs Templar to kill him.

Last, Templar reports back to Quist with Smiley’s personal effects, but Quist, unconvinced that Smiley is dead, demands that he produce the body. Templar agrees and requests that Quist meet him later at the abandoned club.

Quist decides to pursue his own course and follows Templar’s fiancee. When she picks Smiley up at his hotel, Quist is not far behind. Seizing the opportunity, Quist fires at their car, killing Lauder, but Smiley escapes back to the club. Ness arrives to break the bad news to Templar, who then agrees to tum Smiley over to the police, but on his terms. Ness initially agrees, but hoping to prevent another killing, he has police check for the location of the abandoned club known as the Melrose Hide Out.

Confronting Quist with a pistol at the Hide Out, Templar relishes his moment of revenge. But suddenly, Smiley appears, and in a burst of confusion, Quist shoots Templar with a gun he had hidden under the trenchcoat draped across his arm.

Templar, mortally wounded, goes down firing as arrives Smiley jumps on Quist and disarms him just as Ness arrives, forcing Ness to lament that they “should have been a few minutes late.” Before being led away, complete Smiley the pauses contract. to pay his last respects to his friend who died rather than complete the contract.

“The testimony of Smiley Barris spelled the beginning of the end for Kulak’s murderous empire. Smiley himself died in prison in 1951. As for Johnny Templar, he had gotten his wish – he was out of the rackets.”

REVIEW

Well-written and finely executed, The Contract is the high point of drama and suspense for the third season. It is clearly George Eckstein’s best work for the series and perhaps the finest performance for Harry Guardino, rivaling his first appearance in One-Armed Bandits in the premier season.

More the saga of die-hard friendship than anything else, The Contract is made memorable by friendless Quist, John Larkin’s demure assassin with the perpetual sneer. Quist is the perfect Untouchables assassin. He has but a single attitude: precision ruthelessness. That he survived Smiley’s attack is almost in error; he truly deserved to die poetically in the hands of his victim. But Quist’s death would have jacked up the body count to five killings for the hour, more than enough to give even ABC executives pause.

Easily the most gripping moment arrives near the end when Smiley begs Templar to go ahead and put him out of his misery. Templar slaps Smiley to the floor, points a large .45 automatic to his bed and begs of Smiley “don’t make me do it.” He doesn’t.

The only awkward scene involves the drive-by shooting in which Templar’s fiancee is killed. Quist gets off too many shots faster than one can pull a trigger and Gloria Talbot’s death comes off like a theatrical swoon. It’s simply unconvincing. It is the only weak moment in an otherwise intensely developed story rich in Eckstein’s wise-cracking dialog and just enough hateful characters.

QUOTES

x

OBSERVATIONS

x

GALLERY

Kelly Lynch

Kelly Lynch

Kelly Lynch is a filmmaker and marketing professional whose award-winning work and love for cinema were largely influenced by his early exposure to The Untouchables, thanks to his father’s own fascination with the series. In addition to recompiling his father's book and research on the program, Lynch has also spent years researching, watching, collecting and studying the artistic and cultural impact of the program.