ENFORCER, THE(director: Bretaigne Windust/Raoul Walsh (uncredited); screenwriter: Martin Rackin; cinematographer: Robert Burks; editor: Fred Allen; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Martin Ferguson), Zero Mostel (Big Babe Lazich), Ted de Corsia (Joseph Rico), Everett Sloane (Albert Mendoza), Roy Roberts (Captain Frank Nelson), Lawrence Tolan (Duke Malloy), King Donovan (Sgt. Whitlow), Patricia Joiner (Teresa Davis/Angela Vetto), Don Beddoe (Thomas O’Hara), Jack Lambert (Zaca, Philadelphia), Susan Cabot (Nina Lombardo), Adelaide Klein (Kirshen), Alan Foster (Shorty), Tito Vuolo 90Tony Vetto); Runtime: 88; Warner Brothers; 1951)
“A fast moving film…”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A fast moving film about crusading Assistant District Attorney Martin Ferguson (Bogart) who goes after a mob that does contract killings. The film is loosely based on the testimony in 1940 of mob informant Abe Reles about an organization in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn that was known as Murder Incorporated. The crime film tells for the first time in film how a mob works and its use of terms such as “contract,” “hit,”and “finger man.” It is shot in a semi-documentary style and looked more like a crime caper movie than the film noir category most film critics have classified it under.
Ferguson prosecutes mob boss Albert Mendoza for murder. He has only one witness who is a minor underling in the mob, Joseph Rico, and he’s set to testify tomorrow in court. But after attempts on Rico’s life, the cowardly mobster tries to escape from the police guarding him and accidentally falls to his death from the prison building.
This leaves Ferguson in a bind, as he will now have to let the guilty killer loose. He spends the night with his trusted confidante Captain Nelson (Roberts) sifting through all the evidence and tape recordings they have on how Mendoza ran the mob.
The story of Duke Malloy catches Ferguson’s interest. He is the mobster who cracks when ordered to do a contract killing on the young woman witness to a murder, and instead she becomes his girlfriend and runs away with him. Through low-level underlings Big Babe and Philadelphia, Ferguson gets a clearer view of why the gang was hired to track both the girl and Duke down.
Ferguson now comes across another murder witness against Mendoza–a young woman. The film ends with Ferguson satisfied that he can now get justice in court.
To make the film more snappy the producers called in Raoul Walsh, though not credited, to shoot some scenes over. His fingerprints are on the finale, where a hired-gunman gets killed in the doorway.
REVIEWED ON 10/2/2001 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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