Taglines: What the cops can’t do, he will.
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.
Messenger of Death is a 1988 American crime-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).
Messenger of Death (1988)
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Starring: Charles Bronson, Trish Van Devere, Laurence Luckinbill, Daniel Benzali, Marilyn Hassett, Charles Dierkop, Jeff Corey, Penny Peyser, Gene Davis
Screenplay by: Paul Jarrico
Cinematography by: Gideon Porath
Film Editing by: Peter Lee-Thompson
Costume Design by: Shelley Komarov
Set Decoration by: Susan Carsello
Art Direction by: Whitney Brooke Wheeler
Music by: Robert O. Ragland
Distributed by: Cannon Films
Release Date: September 16, 1988