• Messenger Of Death

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: October 26th, 2015.
    Director: J. Lee Thompson
    Cast: Charles Bronson, Perry Lopez, Juan Fernandez, Peggy Lipton, James Pax
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    Another J. Lee Thompson and Charles Bronson collaboration for the mighty Cannon Films, Messenger Of Death isn’t a high point in either of their respective filmographies nor is it their best collaboration but it’s a solid action picture worth seeing for fans of either collaborator.

    Based on the novel of the same name by Rex Burns, Bronson plays Garrett Smith, a reporter tasked with investigating the mass murder of the wives and children of a Mormon man named Orville Beecham (Charles Dierkop) that took place in rural Colorado. The cops have got Orville in custody but oddly enough, given the circumstances, not only is he keeping mum about all of this but he’s flat out refusing to help them in any way. When Smith interviews Orville, he’s able to get him to talk where the cops were not and before you know it, the two of them are working together to solve the crime.

    As Smith, with some guidance from Beecham, starts digging deeper into the crime and the very town that it took place in, he starts to uncover some pretty shifty behavior on the parts of pretty much every faction involved. Armed with the truth, Smith sets out to get revenge…

    The opening scene in Messenger Of Death is genuinely chilling stuff. During this sequence we see, first hand, how the mass murder was carried out and it’s actually pretty unsettling. It sets up big things to come and it hooks us, it makes us wonder who could be behind all of this and why. It kind of occasionally goes off the rails here and there are Bronson’s character starts snooping around but it remains pretty entertaining. There are those who claim Bronson was too old for this part, maybe there’s truth to that, but he’s got that screen presence and that strength even here at a somewhat advanced age, the kind that keeps the whole thing watchable, even if at times he’s a bit restrained and the pacing gets bogged down when and where it should move much quicker.

    There are some decent supporting players at work here as well. Dierkop isn’t half bad as the Mormon widower and it’s fun to see none other than John Ireland show up as the plot starts to unfold. The movie is nicely shot and does take full advantage of some genuinely scenic locations. When the movie finally does get to the action scenes they’re nicely staged and fairly exciting – which makes is lament that they’re infrequent and lobbed in between some lackluster scenes of investigation that could easily have been trimmed down and improved. There’s a decent story here and an interesting premise but the actual exploitation of that story and premise gets a bit too muddied up for this to ever catch fire the way that the best Bronson revenge movies tend to.

    As it stands, Messenger Of Death is okay. Not great, not terrible, just okay.


    Olive Films presents Messenger Of Death on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 that, generally, looks pretty good. Detail is much improved over the DVD release from a few years ago and color reproduction feels more natural here even if some scenes look a little flat in that department. The film is as grainy as you’d want it to be but not to the point of detriment and aside from a few tiny white specks here and there, you won’t find much in the way of actual print damage to complain about. Black levels are okay but not reference quality while skin tones look nice and natural, there’s no evidence of any noise reduction having been applied here.

    The English DTS-HD Mono track on this disc is also fine. The score sounds good, the dialogue is easy to understand the levels are properly balanced. There are no issues with hiss or distortion and everything comes through cleanly and clearly. As this is an older mono mix you obviously can’t really expect much in the way of channel separation or fancy surround action but for what it is, this older single channel tracks sounds just fine. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.

    Extras are slim, limited to a static menu offering chapter selection and a theatrical trailer for the feature.

    The Final Word:

    Messenger Of Death isn’t a high point in the film’s that Bronson and Thompson made together but it has its moments. Bronson is good in the lead and it’s all nicely shot. The pacing, however, is a problem. Regardless, Bronson devotees will want to add this to their collection and while Olive’s Blu-ray debut for the picture is light on extras, it does offer up a nice upgrade in the audio and video departments.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!