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Enforcer [Import USA Zone 1]
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'If you're smart you'll come down - if you're dumb you'll be dead...' This fast-paced crime/noir thriller is reminiscent of some of Bogart's best films of the 30's. Bogart plays a tough District Attorney who goes after an organized gang of killers, based on the real life 'Murder Inc.' case. Bogart trades bullet for bullet when his chief witness falls mysteriously to his death and is given 24 hours to rebuild his case. " --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
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THE ENFORCER is a cop show, a police procedural starring Humphrey Bogart as Martin Ferguson, the `hard-hitting' Brooklyn district attorney who cracked the Murder Incorporated syndicate. Imagine Sam Spade waking up one morning and deciding he'd rather be Joe Friday and you know all you need to about his character. Understandably, Bogie films are as opium to his legion of fans, while Humphrey Bogart movies are always interesting even though they may be too easily dismissed, or something worse, by the hard core fan. Ever give an empty pipe to an opium eater? To put it another way, the answer is `yes,' and the question is: Could a Bogart movie be good if he plays a relatively bland character that wouldn't have stretched the acting skills of a William Bendix?
THE ENFORCER is a tough and sometimes brutal movie. If Bogart's character lacks the edgy testiness of his more memorable creations, the movie compensates with a cast full of rough and rude secondary characters played by some of Hollywood's best tough guys. Veteran actor Roy Roberts plays Ferguson's sidekick Capt. Frank Nelson, a no-nonsense cop who would have fit in comfortably in Clint Eastwood's 1976 Dirty Harry movie of the same name. Capt. Nelson doesn't savor his wickedness to the extent Dirty Harry does, but the movie does, with a straight face, give him these lines of dialogue - "What's wrong with the law that we can't touch him? Our kinds of laws are designed to protect the innocent. It's not enough that we know a man is guilty. We have to prove it." I had to wind through that speech twice to make sure I heard it right. Later Nelson says this to a thug he'd just wrestled to the ground - "Answer me straight or I'll blow your head off! Where are the bodies?" Dirty Harry would've been proud.
Capt. Nelson may be a tough guy, but he's got nothing on the syndicate crime boys. Veteran actor Jack Lambert plays an oft psychotic character named Philadelphia who fakes a nervous breakdown to hide out in a mental institution from the omnipresent, and omni-vengeful, Albert Mendoza (Everett Sloane), the progenitor of a new type of gangsterism that he calls Murder, Inc., a murder for hire outfit. One of the fun aspects of the movie is to see the police struggle -What are you talking about!? Speak English! - when confronted with the then new thug terms for hired killings. Words like "hit" and "contract" had to be introduced somewhere, and it appears THE ENFORCER was their coming out film.
If there is such a thing, I'm an aficionado of old movie character actors, and Sloane and Lambert are very good in their limited screen time. Also adding welcome spice to the stew is a young Zero Mostel playing a naïve gunsel named Babe who finds himself out of his element, and over his head, in this brutal environment. The best performance, though, is given by Ted de Corsia as Rico, Mendoza's lieutenant and the only one with the direct evidence needed, as the movie puts it, to send Mendoza `to the chair.' De Corsia, who looks a bit like a beefy Robert Mitchum, steals every scene he's in, usually playing it brute-mean, but ratcheting it down when he learns that the jailed Mendoza is aware that the birds are singing and that he, Rico, is the ripest pigeon out there. Simply put, it's a tour-de-force performance.
I liked THE ENFORCER a lot. Bogart is certainly more than adequate in the undemanding role of the determined district attorney and the supporting cast is very strong. My only beef was with the movie's ending, which I thought was a little too climatic and Hollywood for an otherwise verite film. That aside, a very strong recommendation for this crime film.
The story centers around the breaking of a crime syndicate whose work consists of murder for hire. Much of it is told in flashback with few flagging moments. This isn't Bogart's best, but you won't be disappointed. This is a water-down version of a real life event based in the mid-40's in NY City. Another film, Murder, Inc with Peter Falk is a grittier tale of the same incident.
Look for Zero Mostel in a supporting role and for the work of Raoul Walsh who has several uncredited directing scenes.
"The Enforcer" was inspired by the real-life Murder, Inc., the arm of the organized crime syndicate that did contract killing in the early 1930s through mid-1940s. In fact, the film was released under the title "Murder, Inc." outside of the United States. Murder, Inc. was founded by the infamous Bugsy Siegal and Meyer Lansky as an efficient way of eliminating problems in the syndicate, in particular police informants. At its height, the organization employed hundreds of hit men recruited from Brooklyn neighborhoods. Good pay and excellent benefits, including legal representation, made the men loyal. Murder Inc.'s success depended on the murderers having no connection to the victims and no apparent motive, which made it nearly impossible for authorities to find the killers, let alone convict them. Murder Inc.'s downfall began when Abe "Kid Twist" Reles decided to squeal to King's County District Attorney William O'Dwyer in return for a light sentence. The character of Joseph Rico seems to be based loosely on Reles, who fell to his death from a Coney Island hotel window in 1941. Martin Ferguson seems to have been inspired by William O'Dwyer, whose successful prosecution of organized crime made him a celebrity and then Mayor of New York 1946-1950.
Often categorized as film noir, "The Enforcer" does start out that way, but quickly becomes a more straightforward crime thriller, only hinting at cynicism and devoid of introversion. Joseph Rico is the most noir of the characters, on the run from his past, but caged and in more danger from his own impulses than anything else. Martin Ferguson is stoic, single-minded, and strikingly cruel when he wants to be. His methods of getting information allude to the extortion that O'Dwyer and others used to break Murder, Inc. "The Enforcer" is famous for being the first film to use the words "contract" and "hit" and to address the subject of "murder for profit". Bretaigne Windust is credited as the film's director, but he fell ill during the shoot and was replaced by Raoul Walsh, who is believed to have directed some key scenes, including the ending. The film's only real fault is some temporal confusion after the first act. I found it difficult to tell whether some scenes were flashbacks or in present time. But "The Enforcer" is an intense thriller inspired by intriguing events that were in recent memory when the film was made.
The DVD (Republic 2003): Picture and sound quality are good on this print. The only bonus feature is a theatrical trailer (2 1/2 minutes). No subtitles.
But noir fans should be in their element as the 'look' of the film reminds me, in spots, of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950), and it is no wonder, once we find that THE ENFORCER was shot by cinematographer Robert Burks. Perhaps that it is no coincidence that Alfred Hitchcock snatched Burks for his next film, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN ... and that Burks would remain Hitchcock's cinematographer for a long string of films, including; I CONFESS, DIAL M FOR MURDER, REAR WINDOW, TO CATCH A THIEF, VERTIGO, and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, among others.
THE ENFORCER is also blessed with a wonderful collection of noir actors; Zero Mostel (Raymond Fitch in PANIC IN THE STREETS), Everett Sloane (Arthur Bannister in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI), Roy Roberts, Bob Steele (Canino in THE BIG SLEEP (1946)), and Jack Lambert (Dum-Dum in THE KILLERS (1946)). And this is one of Ted de Corsia's best, and largest roles.
It is difficult to know which parts were shot by director Bretaigne Windust before he took ill, and which ones were shot by Raoul Walsh. Apparently, Walsh went uncredited, because he knew this was Windust's 'big break' to prove himself as a director. Nice guy.
The story involves Dist. Atty. Ferguson's attempts to bring Albert Mendoza Everett Sloane) to the electric chair. Mendoza is in prison awaiting a trial the next day for running a business based on `murder for contract'. [In fact, the words 'contract' and 'hit' used in this context were new to moviegoers in 1951. Unfortunately, not only the words, but the plot too is based on a true story.] But Ferguson runs into last minute difficulties with his witness Joseph Rico (Ted de Corsia). So Ferguson has to head back to the case records, in search of another option, or Mendoza goes free in the morning....
I thought the image and sound quality were fine; but the Special Features are pretty scant: a Theatrical Trailer.