Messenger of Death

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Messenger of Death
Messenger of Death.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Produced by Pancho Kohner
Written by Rex Burns (novel The Avenging Angel)
Paul Jarrico (screenplay)
Music by Robert O. Ragland
Cinematography Gideon Porath
Edited by Peter Lee-Thompson
Distributed by Cannon Films
Release date
  • September 16, 1988 (1988-09-16) (U.S.)
Running time
91 mins.
Country United States
Language English
Budget unknown
Box office $3,074,681 (USA)[1]

Messenger of Death is a 1988 American crime-action thriller film starring Charles Bronson about an attempt by a water company to start a family feud among fundamentalist Mormons to take the family's land for the company.

The movie marks the eighth collaboration between Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson (following 1976's St. Ives, 1977's The White Buffalo, 1980's Caboblanco, 1983's 10 to Midnight, 1984's The Evil That Men Do, 1986's Murphy's Law, and 1987's Death Wish 4: The Crackdown).


Children play outside a rural Colorado home. They belong to Orville Beecham (Charles Dierkop) and his three wives. Two masked men pull up in a truck and wait for the children to go inside. They proceed to kill the three mothers, who are sister wives, and then the kids. The police arrive before the father, Orville, who returns to find his family massacred.

Arriving on the scene with the chief of police, Barney Doyle (Daniel Benzali) is a Denver newspaper reporter, Garret Smith (Charles Bronson). They were having lunch with a wealthy local businessman, Homer Foxx (Laurence Luckinbill), to discuss how to get Barney elected Denver mayor when Barney was called about the murders.

Garret does a news story on the massacre. Orville is in a local jail, there "for his own protection." Orville is reluctant to talk to Garret but does reveal that his father, Willis Beecham (Jeff Corey), may have been involved. Willis lives in a compound with his followers. He is an excommunicated fundamentalist Mormon who practices polygamy, as do his son and followers. Willis is the sect's prophet.

Willis tells the reporter that he believes that it was his brother, Zenas Beecham (John Ireland), who killed Orville's family. Willis and Zenas are alienated from each other by a doctrinal dispute.

Garret, aided by a local editor named Jastra Watson (Trish Van Devere), begins to investigate if Zenas could be behind the killings. Zenas lives in a different Colorado county on a large farm that happens to sit on an artesian lake that a large corporation, The Colorado Water Company, has wanted for years. Zenas tells the reporter that Orville probably killed the family of his own son because Willis preaches blood atonement. The symbol of both brothers is an avenging angel, which is alleged to be an early Mormon symbol with a doctrinal counterpart reflecting the idea of blood atonement.

As soon as Orville is released from jail, he returns to his father's compound and plots to attack Zenas in retaliation. Garret tries to warn Zenas, but it's too late. Armed men back each man and they open fire. Garret gets them to agree to a cease fire, but a third-party shoots Zenas (not one of the followers) and the shooting begins again. Zenas and Willis both are killed.

Garret realizes what is happening -- The Colorado Water Company is behind everything. The company has hired an assassin (John Solari) and a junior partner (Gene Davis) to murder Orville's family, counting on the feud between the brothers to eliminate the rest.

Garret is approached by the junior assassin to make a deal, but the senior assassin kills his partner. It turns out the person who hired the assassin is Foxx, the businessman trying to get the police chief elected mayor.

The assassin shows up at a fundraising party for Doyle thrown by Foxx, where he attempts to kill Garret. The reporter gains the upper hand and gets the assassin to reveal that it was Foxx who was responsible for all of the murders. Foxx steals the chief's gun and kills himself.


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