Mob Flick Death Collector Was Pesci's Debut

Family Enforcer marked Joe Pesci and Frank Vincent's debut.
Frank Vincent sports a '70s 'fro in Family Enforcer, Joe Pesci's film debut.

Wanna watch Family Enforcer, the film that launched Joe Pesci's career? Robert De Niro allegedly viewed the B-flick and recommended that Martin Scorsese check it out. That's apparently how Pesci (and Frank Vincent, who also starred in the film) wound up in Raging Bull, then Goodfellas.

Family Enforcer was originally named The Death Collector, and versions of the 1976 film can be found under either title. Amazon offers it as part of a double- and even triple-feature DVD for as little as $5 (with free two- day delivery for Amazon Prime members).

Grindhouse Releasing, which focuses on acquiring and distributing "classic" films (ie, shock horror (Cannibal Holocaust) and exploitation films) is preparing a new version of Family Enforcer for release as well.

Or you could watch Family Enforcer for free....

Cosa Nostra News presents Family Enforcer, directed by onetime filmmaker Ralph De Vito....who I just read was shot to death in 1983.

The film is public domain and there's a couple of things to keep in mind.

First off, Pesci isn't the star; he supposedly has third billing (I didn't watch the film yet myself). And I'm not sure if Frank Vincent's role is larger or smaller. Also the film comes highly recommended. A former Mafia captain recommended it to me, among other people.

According to one of Amazon's most-helpful reviews:

... Aside from Joe Pesci and Frank Vincent, most of the actors are pretty much unknown. The plot of the story is solid and believable... the soundtrack and the time-to-time nudity makes it seem like a cheesy porno flick. Joe Pesci's character, Joey, is similar to the psycho character he portrayed in "Goodfellas". Another unique aspect is that the main hitman is African-American (Keith Davis), pretty rare for a Mafia movie. Based in New Jersey it's pretty much a 90 minute episode of "The Sopranos" before the series was even thought of! This would make a great remake....

There's quite a lot "unnecessary nudity" (???) by an actress who was also given good reviews (for her acting ability). However, she, like the writer/director, apparently dropped out of the film world as well.

Family Enforcer's taglines
  • If You Liked "The Godfather" & "Dog Day Afternoon," Then This Is Your Kind of Motion Picture.
  • JERRY BOLANTE isn't afraid of anyone or anything. He's young, street-smart, tough, with a fierce raw sexual energy ... He's MAFIA!
  • He always collects...or you pay with your life!
  • The Mean Streets Just Got Meaner.

If you've already viewed, leave your thoughts below. If you view it on this blog or purchase the DVD version, also leave a comment below.

From Wikipedia, part of the film's plot:

"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......."