Enforcer, The (1951)

The Enforcer (1951), directed by Bretaigne Windust and Raoul Walsh.

A tight, very gritty police procedural told in flashbacks. After a key witness dies, prosecutor Humphrey Bogart must come up with last minute testimony or Mr Big of a murder-for-hire ring will walk.

This must have seemed intensely realistic and brutal at the time, and in fact still does. Great credit goes to Ted de Corsia for establishing the tone. We first see him in prison as a state witness: sweating, terrified, a ruined man. Then we have the flashbacks to when he is the cool, imperious lieutenant of the organization and realize how far he has fallen.

Another plus: we don't have the documentary-style voice-over narration customary in a lot of these realistic films.

The police and prosecutors play a hard game: they threaten to seize the children of uncooperating witness, and propose death by failure to protect gang members who are reluctant to testify.

This film introduced the vocabulary of mob "contract" and "hit" to film audiences. Inspired by true events of the Murder, Inc. investigation and trial.

This is the second time Bogart shot Bob Steele; see The Big Sleep (1946).

Raoul Walsh directed most of the film but refused to take credit. At Bogart's request he took over when the original director became ill.

Hard-charging David Buttolph score.

Available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. No subtitles. Detail is ok, but black levels poor.