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The Curator of Schlock #22 by Jeffrey Shuster

Vigilante: A Whole Lot of Vigilantism Going On!

It’s come to my attention that I haven’t been covering enough vigilante films on this blog of mine. So without further ado, I announce that January is Vigilante Month here at The Museum of Schlock, and what better film to start off with than 1983’s Vigilante from director William Lustig. Apparently, this movie was inspired by Italian Death Wish knock-offs.  This means there are Italian Death Wish knock-offs. It’s the little things that make life worth living.


Don’t let the title Vigilante fool you. This is not a movie about a lone vigilante, but a whole bunch of them. It would seem New York City has gone (Spoiler alert) straight to hell. The street gangs do whatever they please. There aren’t enough cops to keep the tidal wave of crime at bay, but that’s okay. A factory worker by the name of Nick (Fred Williamson, from Hammer and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn fame) heads a group of vigilantes that deal out street justice to every mugger, rapist, and murderer they can get their hands on.

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Nick’s friend Eddie Marino (Robert Forster, of Jackie Brown and The Black Hole fame) has qualms about this vigilante business. Eddie still has qualms about vigilantism even after a local gang attacks his family. Allow me to share the gory details. Rico Melendez, the leader of the Headhunter Gang, stabs Eddie’s wife about a dozen times in their backyard. Prago, one of Rico’s henchmen, also shoots and kill Eddie’s eight-year-old son for sport.

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With his son dead and his wife in the hospital, Eddie still believes the law will punish the men who terrorized his family. Unfortunately, Prago manages to bribe both Rico’s lawyer and the judge. Rico gets a two year suspended sentence for assault. Eddie snaps and tries to go after the judge in the courtroom. The judge is furious and sends Eddie to jail to pay for his contempt of court. You have to think that by now Eddie is rethinking his whole anti-vigilante stance.

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While Eddie’s in prison trying to protect against incidents in the men’s shower, Nick and his crew are beating up local drug dealers trying to find the source of the drugs. Turns out it’s a successful Italian businessman named Stokes with enough connections to get into “the federal country club.” Not on Nick’s watch. He riddles Stokes with bullets.

Eddie gets out of prison and Nick offers helps Eddie get street justice for his son. They find Rico in some sleazy hotel and Eddie puts a bullet through his chest, but not before Rico reveals that it was Prago who murdered Eddie’s son. Eddie tries reconciling with his wife, Vicki, but she wants nothing to do with him. With his family gone, Eddie decides to leave the city, but not before he spots Prago walking the streets. One thing leads to another. There’s a foot chase and a car chase and another foot chase.

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Eddie throws Prago off a tower, splattering Prago’s brains all over the pavement. Later, Eddie blows up the judge who sent him to prison. There are hints of an imminent war between the gangs and everybody else, but I assume that plot was being saved for Vigilante II, a movie that, alas, was never made.

Ten Things I learned from Vigilante

  1. All movies should begin with a speech by Fred Williamson.
  2. Joe Spinell plays one creepy defense attorney.
  3. Robert Forster needs to stop talking about his hair loss. He’s a damned handsome man with or without hair.
  4. Drug dealers are fast on their feet.
  5. Drug dealers like to knock over guys in wheelchairs.
  6. Drug dealers can take quite a beating before giving up their source.
  7. If the man beating you up says, “Let’s play Superman,” it means he wants to throw you out the window.
  8. Pimps like to wear gold chains and gold colored jackets.
  9. The man who scored Star Trek: The Next Generation also scored this movie. Who knew?
  10. If you tell the man whose son you murdered to go ahead and throw you off the tower, he’ll actually do it.


Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.