The Enforcer (1951) Bretaigne Windust

(This is a previously posted review from one of my former blogs.)

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The Enforcer (aka Murder, Inc.) (1951)
Directed by Bretaigne Windust
Produced by Milton Sperling
Screenplay by Martin Rackin
Cinematography by Robert Burks
Edited by Fred Allen
Warner Brothers
(black-and-white; 1:27)

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Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson (Humphrey Bogart) loses a man who has agreed to testify against crime lord Albert Mendoza (Everett Sloane). Mendoza leads a group of killers-for-hire and their hard-to-trace methods leave Ferguson baffled. As odd as it seems to us today, terms like “hit” and “contract” were somewhat new in 1951, and Ferguson and his men spend significant time trying to define them. Even once they do, Ferguson realizes that getting to Mendoza won’t be easy.

The Enforcer is a good, solid film noir that may not be great, but is pretty darn good, thanks mostly to the cast. Bogart seems just a bit pedestrian as the DA, far from the wise-cracking detective he played in many of his other noir pictures, yet believability eventually gains a foothold. More impressive is the supporting cast, including wonderful performances by Zero Mostel (above left) as “Big Babe” Lazick, one of the contract killers, noir stalwart Ted de Corsia as the informant, and Everett Sloane, who’s always excellent.

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A plethora of flashbacks make things a little murky, but this is noir, right? Flashbacks are practically obligatory. Although Bretaigne Windust is credited with directing the film, many of the movie’s action scenes (as well as the ending) were directed by Raoul Walsh (uncredited).

Or should the film even be considered noir? Some of the noir resources I checked do not include the film, probably considering it more of a crime drama or a police procedural. Regardless of how you classify it, The Enforcer is worth your time.

The Enforcer is available on Blu-ray from Olive Films.

4/5

(Photos: A Grande IlusãoNoir of the WeekBogart-Tribute)

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