Criminal Intent: The Enforcer (1951) – review

More than twenty years before Clint Eastwood proclaimed Dirty Harry as “The Enforcer”, screen legend Humphry Bogart ruffled the feathers of the criminal underworld in a genre classic of the same name – and it’s now available on Blu-ray in the UK market through Signal One Entertainment.

District Attorney Martin Ferguson has all his ducks in a row to put away crime boss, Albert Mendoza, but on the night before the trial, there’s a foul-up with the star witness and former henchman, Joe Rico. With time running short, Ferguson is left to comb through the investigation’s records on the hunch there’s another witness able to give the damming testimony he needs for justice to prevail.

Law enforcement at the time had very little insight into organized crime and it would be a further ten years until Mafia soldier, Joseph Valachi, publicly admitted its existence and divulged its inner workings during a Senate hearing. I feel The Enforcer is Hollywood’s way of somewhat gently introducing the public to the idea of contract killings within a criminal hierarchy, to which several of the main characters express their shock and disbelief, which is now a tad humorous in retrospect.

Told mostly in flashbacks, with themselves having flashbacks there are more layers than Christopher Nolan’s Inception, so careful attention must be paid to the narrative. Looking at the plot in a linear fashion, it plays out very similar to an episode of the original Law & Order with its very street-level plot and addictive quality.

More on the subject of the television staple, there’s a fair comparison to be made between Bogies’s Martin Ferguson and Law & Order’s Jack McCoy, played Sam Waterson, two diligent and devoted attorneys. Ferguson does not agree with the idea of Mendoza walking free, but he accepts it as a possible reality and is able to stay within the letter of the law during his hands-on pursuit of finding that key witness. Whereas decades later, the public’s view of the justice system has waned from the days when Hollywood presented things in black and white. McCoy, like Ferguson, is equally involved but bends the laws to his will, often exploiting loopholes and legal grey areas. He’s borderline corrupt yet applauded by audiences.

Stefan Kanfer penned a 2012 biography of Humphry Bogart titled, Tough Without a Gun, and The Enforcer is the perfect example of that sentiment. Bogart gives a very steady and unphased performance who speaks in such a serious manner, embodying the public trust and has no qualms about smacking a crook if they get out of line. The supporting cast of killers is of a mixed assortment, many with faces that only a Godfather could love, but they give the film a lot of character.


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Presented in 1.37:1, the black-and-white image offers a nice level of sharpness, bringing out much detail, especially during close-ups. Shot in a light noir style, the deep blacks don’t suffer from being washed out. It’s an overall well-balanced 1080p transfer that only dips during a very brief scene, which is more related to the film stock. Mono 1.0 PCM certainly won’t give your surround system a workout with only one speaker being used, but aside from low volume, there’s nothing to criticise about the sound. Option English SHD subtitles are included.

I want to take a moment to recognise the tiny miracle of a Warner Bros. classic being available outside of the studio’s very restrictive and expensive Archive Collection, granted the license holder is Paramount, but I commend Signal One for giving The Enforcer its first Blu-ray release in ten years. It retails for around £12.99 in the UK and AUD 21.33, so if you’re located in His Majesty’s colony of Australia, like me, I recommend grabbing a copy.

(1951, director: Bretaigne Windust)



direct blu-ray screen captures


production still courtesy of Signal One Entertainment


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