Written by Richard Vetere
Directed by William Lustig
William Lustig does Death Wish with Vigilante! Vigilante follows a reoccurring Lustig motif, namely the entire system is corrupt and things can only get accomplished when you take matters into your own hands. Vigilante is the most extreme example, but the entire Maniac Cop series works under the premise the corrupt system framed the Maniac Cop, and even Hit List features police unable to protect people or legally bring powerful mobsters to justice. Vigilante says that what you can’t trust the cops and courts to do, you can trust guns and fellow angry citizens to carry out.
I saw Vigilante at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in their Bay Area Now 7 program, under the Invasion of the Cinemaniacs! heading, specifically the part curated by Jesse Hawthorne Ficks of Midnite for Maniacs, who hosted two William Lustig triple features (a sextuple feature?) spread across two days. Vigilante screened between Maniac and Hit List, while the next night was all three Maniac Cop films. William Lustig himself was in attendance, and did some entertaining Q and As. Lustig is very charismatic and shared stories about filming and some of the actors/producers of his films. I’ve included some of what he mentioned in the reviews.
Eddie Marino (Robert Forster) was just a normal good working man with a family, until his family is violently attacked and destroyed by a mad gang. The cops are unable to bring more than one member to trial (citing lack of evidence), and the trial quickly goes south due to corrupt lawyers and judges forcing plea deals, meaning the gang leader gets a whole two year suspended sentence for assault and murder of a young child. When Marino is rightly outraged over this, he’s the one tossed in jail for contempt.