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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Brotherhood
The Brotherhood
Paramount // PG-13 // May 14, 2002
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 19, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Over thirty years ago, Paramount released a different sort of Mafia film. Instead of focusing on shootouts and prolonged chase sequences, this movie took a close look at the family, transported from Italy to a bustling large city in the United States. The head of the family is a mobster unwilling to embrace a lucrative but risky venture, and his opposition threatens his life. A wet-around-the-ears brother, fresh out of the military, joins the organization and soon finds himself in a position of great power and influence. This is a tale of family, love, and betrayal...and no, it's not The Godfather, as the big bold letters at the top of this page should indicate.

Kirk Douglas produced and starred in 1968's The Brotherhood, playing a Mafioso named Frank Ginetta, a man with a great appreciation for the mobsters of days past. At first, Frank is overjoyed when his brilliant and recently married younger brother Vince (Alex Cord) expresses interest in joining the organization. Frank isn't interested in an increasing number of the risky prospects explored by his fellow mobsters, refusing to allow them to drag Vince into a scheme to squeeze money out of the federal government. Brother is pitted against brother, and these sorts of conflicts rarely end on a happy note...

My comments would likely be more glowing if I hadn't ever experienced The Godfather, which retread similar territory four years after the lackluster theatrical release of The Brotherhood. I certainly enjoyed the movie, but realistically, not much stands up well when compared to the powerful epics Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola created with the first two Godfather films. The screenplay by Lewis John Carlino (who would go on to write and direct The Great Santini a decade later) was nominated by the Writers Guild of America as the year's best written original screenplay, edged out understandably by Mel Brooks' The Producers. The cast is strong, particularly Kirk Douglas and the simply phenomenal Eduardo Ciannelli.

Overlooked for decades, Paramount has unearthed The Brotherhood and provided it with a very respectable presentation on DVD. Though this disc is unlikely to reach the dizzying heights on VideoScan charts as the Godfather collection, perhaps it will at long last have the opportunity to be appreciated by DVD enthusiasts.

Video: The Brotherhood is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. As this is a Paramount release, the quality of the video is as high as can reasonably be expected from a film of its age. The first few minutes of the film as well as its concluding shot are rather grainy and a touch on the soft side. The remaining hour and a half boast reasonably strong contrast and detail, and colors appear to be accurately saturated. Speckling is rare, and no print damage was apparent. The only flaw with this presentation of The Brotherhood is excessive edge haloing. This ringing is so pervasive that it's certain to catch the eye of even those who believe edge enhancement is some sort of exploded myth. I generally see haloing as more of a mild nuisance, and as noticeable as it is here, I don't feel that such ringing significantly detracted from the overall viewing experience.

Audio: The Brotherhood marks the sixth Dolby Digital mono track I've listened to this week, and I'm quickly finding it even more difficult than usual to keep my comments from sounding overly repetitive. The audio here is a touch better than average, though. Dialogue is consistently clear and discernable, lacking the sort of muffled quality often evident on other mono tracks from the same time period. There's also a decent amount of bass carried in various sound effects and a score that could easily have been lifted from any '60s cop show.

Paramount's DVD release of The Brotherhood also includes a French mono track, as well as subtitles and closed captions in English.

Supplements: This DVD includes no supplemental material of any sort. The menu system is basic but attractive, and the film itself has been divided into sixteen chapters.

Conclusion: The Brotherhood is an effective Mafia drama and sure to please fans of such movies, so long as they don't go in expecting a film on the scale of The Godfather. Its presentation on DVD is more than adequate, despite the total lack of supplemental material. The Brotherhood is available for under $17 shipped from a couple of different online retailers, though I'd recommend a rental first.
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