Messenger of Death (1988)

R | 91 mins | Drama | 16 September 1988

Director:

J. Lee Thompson

Writer:

Peter Achilles

Producer:

Pancho Kohner

Cinematographer:

Gideon Porath

Production Designer:

W. Brooke Wheeler

Production Company:

Cannon Films
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HISTORY

       A 22 Dec 1987 HR production chart announced that principal photography would begin 6 Jan 1988. According to production notes in AMPAS library files and a 16 May 2010 LAT article, filming took place in part at the Cohn mansion in Beverly Hills, CA, “the twenty-four room Italian Mediterranean home” commissioned by Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn in 1929. It was also noted that actor Charles Bronson did all his own stunts.
       The film was unpopular among critics, who noted that the role of "Garret Smith" was an unwelcome departure from Bronson's usual roles.
       End credits state: “Special thanks to The Colorado Film Commission for their assistance.”
      Onscreen production credits list actress Marilyn Hassett incorrectly as “Marilyn Hasset” in end credits. ... More Less

       A 22 Dec 1987 HR production chart announced that principal photography would begin 6 Jan 1988. According to production notes in AMPAS library files and a 16 May 2010 LAT article, filming took place in part at the Cohn mansion in Beverly Hills, CA, “the twenty-four room Italian Mediterranean home” commissioned by Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn in 1929. It was also noted that actor Charles Bronson did all his own stunts.
       The film was unpopular among critics, who noted that the role of "Garret Smith" was an unwelcome departure from Bronson's usual roles.
       End credits state: “Special thanks to The Colorado Film Commission for their assistance.”
      Onscreen production credits list actress Marilyn Hassett incorrectly as “Marilyn Hasset” in end credits.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Sep 1988
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
16 May 2010.
---
New York Times
17 Sep 1988
p. 12.
Variety
21 Sep 1988
p. 27.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Canon Group, Inc. Presents
a Golan-Globus Production
a J. Lee Thompson Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl cam op
Addl cam asst
Best boy elec
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
Photographic equip by
Provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Post prod supv
Post prod coord
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutting
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Const coord
Leadman
On set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst props
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
On set costumer
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus coord
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Foley ed
1st asst sd ed
2d asst sd ed
2d asst sd ed
2d asst sd ed
2d asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
ADR/Foley mixer
Voice casting
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
Title des
Main titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Key makeup & hair
Asst makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Prod auditor
Prod auditor
Weapons tech
Equip tech
Extras casting
Asst auditor
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Extra wrangler
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation secy
Prod services and equip provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Avenging Angel by Rex Burns (New York, 1983).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 September 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 16 September 1988
Production Date:
began 6 June 1988
Copyright Claimant:
Cannon Films, Inc., & Cannon International
Copyright Date:
9 January 1989
Copyright Number:
PA399161
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Ultra-Stereo®
Color
Duration(in mins):
91
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29264
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A gunman arrives at a country home in Denver, Colorado, killing three Mormon wives and their six children. Police chief Barney Doyle invites Denver Tribune reporter Garret Smith to accompany him as he walks through the crime scene. As technicians remove the bodies from the house, the polygamous husband, Orville Beecham, returns from work, and collapses in grief when he realizes that his family has been murdered. After a few days, Garret Smith visits Orville in jail and brings a copy of his murder story. Orville has been placed in a cell for his protection, but he refuses to speak with police or a lawyer. When Garret asks if there is anyone he trusts, Orville responds that he only trusts Garret. The reporter visits Orville’s father, preacher Willis Beecham, at his religious compound, where two of Willis’s associates frisk Garret and confiscate his gun. After Willis delivers a sermon, Garret is told that he is not welcome. Willis does not believe that his son, Orville, would entrust someone outside the faith to deliver his message. As Garret hands Willis his front-page murder story, he explains that Orville wants Willis to wait for his return to retaliate. Willis suggests that his brother, Zenas Beecham, who he refers to as “the anti-Christ,” is responsible for the tragedy. Garret tracks Zenas through property tax records to Grant County, Colorado. There, Sheriff Roy Yates refuses to help with the investigation, and Garret visits the offices of The Beacon, the town newspaper. The publisher, Jastra Watson, offers to ... +


A gunman arrives at a country home in Denver, Colorado, killing three Mormon wives and their six children. Police chief Barney Doyle invites Denver Tribune reporter Garret Smith to accompany him as he walks through the crime scene. As technicians remove the bodies from the house, the polygamous husband, Orville Beecham, returns from work, and collapses in grief when he realizes that his family has been murdered. After a few days, Garret Smith visits Orville in jail and brings a copy of his murder story. Orville has been placed in a cell for his protection, but he refuses to speak with police or a lawyer. When Garret asks if there is anyone he trusts, Orville responds that he only trusts Garret. The reporter visits Orville’s father, preacher Willis Beecham, at his religious compound, where two of Willis’s associates frisk Garret and confiscate his gun. After Willis delivers a sermon, Garret is told that he is not welcome. Willis does not believe that his son, Orville, would entrust someone outside the faith to deliver his message. As Garret hands Willis his front-page murder story, he explains that Orville wants Willis to wait for his return to retaliate. Willis suggests that his brother, Zenas Beecham, who he refers to as “the anti-Christ,” is responsible for the tragedy. Garret tracks Zenas through property tax records to Grant County, Colorado. There, Sheriff Roy Yates refuses to help with the investigation, and Garret visits the offices of The Beacon, the town newspaper. The publisher, Jastra Watson, offers to drive him to meet Zenas, and reveals she is his cousin. When Zenas invites Garret and Jastra to dinner, Garret asks if Zenas murdered his nephew’s family. Zenas conjectures that his brother Willis is responsible. Garret finds it hard to believe that Willis would kill his grandchildren to save their souls. When he asks Zenas if this belief is part of their Mormon doctrine, Zenas asks his guests to leave. In the car, Jastra admits that Willis and Zenas have always hated each other. Soon, a Colorado Water Company truck forces them off the road, but they are not hurt. Later, Garret returns to Willis’s compound, and accuses him of planning an attack on Zenas. As Willis denies the claim, he appears to die of heart failure. The following day, Garret attends Willis’s funeral, and notices that there are no male relatives in attendance. Grabbing an unattended rifle, Garret shoots the casket and discovers it is empty. Garret drives to a pay telephone and warns Jastra that Willis and his followers are on their way to Zenas’s farm, and she agrees to alert Sheriff Yates. Meeting Garret at the airport, Jastra tells him that Sheriff Yates refuses to get his men involved in a possible confrontation between Zenas and Willis’s clan. The state police are also hesitant to get involved. As Garret and Jastra warn Zenas, Willis and his men surround the farm. Zenas orders the women and children to hide in the house, and all men and boys over twelve to defend the property. As a gun battle erupts, Garret learns that Zenas’s farm sits on a lake of artisanal water. The Colorado Water Company has made several offers to buy the property, but Zenas refused because it is sacred land he inherited from his father. Garret calls for a truce, and persuades Willis and Orville to speak with Zenas, who swears that he did not commit the murders. As Willis denies any involvement in the crimes, both brothers are shot and killed by an unseen assassin. Garret makes his way through the fields in time to see a black pickup truck drive away. On the way back to town, Garret theorizes that the men in the pickup were hired by the Colorado Water Company to kill Orville’s family and stir up the hatred between the two brothers. Soon, three Colorado Water Company trucks force Garret and Jastra off the road. Their car flips over, but they escape from the damaged vehicle just before one truck rams their car, causing a fiery explosion. Garret returns to Denver, updates Chief Doyle, and looks at mug shots to identify the assassins. The chief asks Mayor Homer Foxx to arrange a lunch for Garret with Trudy and Cyrus Pike, the owners of the Colorado Water Company. The Pikes claim to have no knowledge about the offers made to Zenas Beecham for his property, or the company trucks that tried to kill Garret. Meanwhile, Garret excuses himself to take an anonymous telephone call regarding the Beecham case. He agrees to meet the contact in a hotel lobby, where the man claims he was a “lookout” for the murders, and a driver during the gun battle at Zenas’s farm. Upon payment of $50,000, he will reveal the name of the killer, but demands that Garret print the information after he leaves the country. As Garret telephones his editor for permission, the killer follows the contact into the men’s room. Finishing his call, Garret looks for the contact, and notices him collapsed in a pool of blood next to the urinals. The killer swings a knife, but Garret pushes the killer out a window into a dumpster below. Days later, Garret attends a cocktail party fundraiser hosted by outgoing Mayor Homer Foxx for Chief Doyle, who is a candidate for mayor. As Garret tells the chief that he may have found the Beecham killer, the real assassin poses as a waiter and serves wine to other guests. Homer Foxx asks Garret to meet him in his study upstairs. As Garret waits, the killer confronts him with a gun, and vandalizes the room to make it look like a robbery in progress. Garret breaks a table lamp and fights the killer in the dark. When he loses his gun, Garret threatens to beat him to death unless he reveals the name of the man who hired him. As the killer tumbles down the stairs, Homer Foxx and his guests hear the commotion. When the assassin claims that Homer Foxx hired him. Homer protests that he has nothing to gain by the murders. However, Cyrus Pike reveals that he made a deal to merge Homer’s shale company with his water company. Cyrus gave Homer an option to buy back the new company, which was worth millions. Protesting Cyrus’s claim, Homer grabs Chief Doyle’s gun out of his hand, and aims it at the assassin, accusing him of being a liar. For a moment the mayor weighs whether or not to kill the assassin, but turns the gun on himself and commits suicide. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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