The Death Collector
|Directed by||Ralph De Vito|
|Produced by||Peter S. Davis
William N. Panzer
|Written by||Ralph De Vito|
|Music by||Jake Stern|
|Edited by||Dominique Milbank|
|Distributed by||Goldstone Film Enterprises|
|October 29, 1976|
The Death Collector (also known as The Family Enforcer) is a 1976 low-budget crime film directed by Ralph De Vito and starring Joseph Cortese, Joe Pesci and Frank Vincent. Also sometimes entitled Family Enforcer, it was Ralph De Vito's first and last effort as a director and Joe Pesci's first billed appearance in a movie.
Pesci and Vincent's performances in the film were met with high critical acclaim. Actor Robert De Niro saw the film and recommended them to director Martin Scorsese for Raging Bull, which was the start of De Niro's numerous collaborations with Pesci and Vincent.
Jerry Bolanti (Joe Cortese), a mafia-connected hoodlum, is released from jail and needs a job. During this very uncertain and stressful transitional period he plays the field to help stay relaxed. He discovers almost by accident that he has a talent for debt collecting and intimidation. He then decides to pay a visit to a mid-level wiseguy acquaintance (Lou Criscuola) and offer up his services.
His first gig is to collect from a certain Bernie Feldshuh (Frank Vincent). Before he can deliver the swag to his capo, however, he is intercepted by Bernie's henchmen who take back the money and leave him for dead. Jerry returns to Bernie's home while still healing from his gunshot wounds and extracts a moderate amount of retribution. Bernie's response is to hire a top-notch assassin named Marley (Keith Davis) to take down Jerry as well as the lawyer named Herb Greene (Jack Ramage) who commissioned him to collect on the debt in the first place. An unfortunate secretary becomes collateral damage. Jerry's boss Anthony learns of the deed and sends a man of his own to even the score. An unfortunate bodyguard becomes collateral damage. But Jerry never does recover the $28,000.
His next assignment is to team up with enforcers Joe (Joe Pesci) and Serge (Bobby Alto) to conduct a raid on a shop manager for $40,000 that he may or may not have "owed" to somebody. But Bernie's newly hired hitman Marley is watching and waiting for an opportunity to take Jerry down. This proves disastrous for the entire operation. After the heist the trio of gangsters heads over to a hotel room to count out the profits and celebrate a little.
While Jerry is downstairs in the hotel restaurant their secret adversary, Marley, assassinates both Serge and Joe. He makes off with the money as well. At this point Jerry's handler Tony begins accusing him of keeping the loot for himself. He just can't believe that Jerry could make off with so much money only to immediately lose it again. Nobody could possibly be that incompetent. Jerry manages to tease out the contractor's identity from a restaurateur named Spinoza (Frank Ammirati). He hunts Marley down and terminates his career in a field of tall grass.
The very next scene shows him receiving a call from Gus (Sal Lapera) at the local junk yard. There's a camper that just came in, he says, that Jerry might be able to salvage for himself and his live-in girlfriend Paula (Anne Johns). Just as things begin looking rosy for Jerry and Paula, however, he is bushwhacked right there in front of the battered red camper by three gun-toting villains. He dies. The movie ends exactly the same way it began by showing the same two hoodlums in the same automobile dumping yet another body into the same ravine. Only this time instead of an anonymous corpse it's young Jerry Bolanti. The mastermind behind this particular hit is then shown to be none other than his former boss, Tony.
- Joseph Cortese as Jerry Bolanti
- Lou Criscuolo as Anthony Iadavia (billed as Lou Criscuola)
- Joe Pesci as Joe
- Bobby Alto as Serge
- Frank Vincent as Bernie Feldshuh
- Keith Davis as Matley
- Anne Johns as Paula
- Jack Ramage as Herb Greene
- Lorenzo Philip Gonnella as craps dealer
- Philip Gonnella as craps player