The Brotherhood is a quickie Mafia movie with prestige names attached. The credit sequence, with Lalo Schifrin's tinny music and the big block letters creates the impression that what is about to follow is a TV movie, but it's slightly better than that. The tale concerns two brothers, the aging Mafiosa Frank Ginetta (Kirk Douglas, also the film's producer), who feels sentimentality about the old way of doing things, and Vince (Alex Cord), his younger sibling, who symbolizes the modern era that favors stock buyouts over shootouts. The film begins as Vince comes to Sicily to visit the exiled Frank and his wife (Irene Papas). What's not stated, but what Frank knows, is that Vince has come to execute him. The bulk of the film tells in flashback the events leading up to this act of fratricide. It's a tale that consists primarily of Frank and Vince clashing over how the mob should be run, with Vince's father-in-law (Luther Adler) taking sides with Vince to oust Frank. The story bears some interesting parallels to The Godfather, which was to appear five years later both open with a wedding; both feature an old-time '50s actor in a key lead role; both present rituals as masks for violence and hypocrisy; in both a father and daughter dance at a wedding; a smart Mafia scion is just out of the service and still in uniform; and, foretelling The Godfather, Part II, a man is betrayed by and kills his brother. The two movie Dons even live in similar stone-facade Long Island piles. And Frank is more like James Caan's Sonny than the Don. There are significant differences, of course. What Coppola took several hours to tell, The Brotherhood compresses mightily. It's only 96 minutes long, but in fact could have been even shorter if director Martin Ritt had chosen not to sustain beyond all endurance dull actionless shots, such as cars pulling away from a curb. The dialogue, by Lewis John Carlino, is usually awkward or strained, or maybe it's just the way Douglas delivers it, which is like an actor slumming: He just doesn't sound like a man prone to mixing verb tenses. Cord is sort of like an early version of Bill Pullman, with a little Jeff Daniels thrown in. Character actors Barry Primus and Murray Hamilton also appear in small parts. All in all, it's for movie Mafia buffs; other viewers probably will be mostly bored by its leisurely pace. Paramount's DVD release of The Brotherhood is a no-frills affair. The film comes in a surprisingly clean, but not perfect, anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1). Cinematographer Boris Kaufman shot the film darkly, so a lot of the blacks are dense (exteriors are better than the often overlit interiors). Audio is two channel Dolby Digital, in both English and French, with English subtitles and closed-captioning. No extras. Keep-case.
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