Messenger of Death feels like an extended pilot episode of a T.V. series, with excessive blood and violence. It works on a very non-assuming level, but it’s far from one of Bronson’s better efforts.
Plot: The brutal murder of three Mormon women and their children is just the tip of the iceberg as an investigative reporter digs into the seamy side of religious fanaticism and political corruption in the compelling crime drama Messenger of Death.
Newspaper reporter Garret Smith (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) with the help of local editor Jastra Watson (Trish Van Devere, The Changeling) set out to solve the horrific murders which they believe may be linked to a fundamentalist sect whose excommunicated leader, Willis Beecham (Jeff Corey, True Grit) is considered a prophet. Garret and Jastra discover just how deep still waters run as clues and the list of possible suspects pile up, which includes the husband & father of the murder victims (Charles Dierkop, The Sting) and his estranged brother (John Ireland, Red River).
Olive Blu-ray Review: Somewhat of a potboiler for a Cannon picture starring Charles Bronson, Messenger of Death begins with an incredible amount of daring dread, as it shows a faceless man shotgunning three defenseless women and a half a dozen children in the privacy of their own home. Startling and upsetting, this prologue might have had theater patrons running for the exits. It then introduces a newspaper reporter named Garret Smith (Bronson), who becomes drawn to the case.
It involves a Mormon sect based in Colorado, and the slain victims were related to a man who had split from the sect and may have started a feud with the minister. As Smith does his investigating, his life is put in danger and he is forced to defend his life several times. A scene in a bathroom where he fights a knife-wielding thug reminded me of a scene in Faster with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but the one in Messenger of Death is better. Bronson uses a trashcan to attack his assailant, and then he throws the guy out the window!
Bronson’s years at Cannon yielded some interesting action / thriller films like 10 to Midnight and even the Death Wish sequels had some merit, but Messenger of Death feels like an extended pilot episode of a T.V. series, with excessive blood and violence. It works on a very non-assuming level, but it’s far from one of Bronson’s better efforts. J. Lee Thompson (Murphy’s Law with Bronson) directed.
Olive Films has just released two of Bronson’s Cannon-era films onto Blu Ray for the first time. If you’re a Bronson or Cannon movie completist (like me), you’ll make purchasing even something as mediocre as Messenger of Death a priority. The film looks fantastic – better than it’s ever looked before – on Blu-ray. The picture quality is ultra clear and filmic, and alongside Olive’s simultaneous release of Kinjite, these could easily be purchased in a bundle and enjoyed back to back. Both are far superior upgrades from MGM’s DVD releases from over a decade ago. Despite not having any supplemental features, both discs are worth owning for the visual upgrade alone.