Friday, September 23, 2022

#2,820. Brotherhood of Death (1976) - Brotherhood Triple Feature


I went into 1976’s Brotherhood of Death knowing that its cast featured a number of professional football players. Producer Ron Goldman (who also came up with the story) was friends with a handful of Washington Redskins, and convinced them to appear in his movie.

It was a good idea, using non-actors who nonetheless had some notoriety, but I admit, when I heard this, it tempered my expectations and didn’t give me much hope for the film.

Turns out I was both wrong and pleasantly surprised. The performances, by actors and football players alike, ranged from serviceable to good, but the characters and story grabbed me right from the get-go and held my attention throughout, leading up to a final showdown that absolutely blew me away.

After a run-in with a local KKK member (Ron David), Raymond Moffat (Roy Jefferson), his brother Junior (Haskell V. Anderson III), and their friend Ned (Le Tari), leave the town of Kincaid behind and enlist in the army. All three are shipped off to Vietnam, where they’re taught by their commanding officer, Capt. Quinn (Mike Bass), how to avoid the deadly traps set by the Viet Cong.

When their tour of duty ends, the three return to Kincaid, only to find things haven’t improved much for the black community. Initially, Raymond and the others, spurred on by their Baptist preacher (Ed Heath), rely on legal means to bring about change, convincing every African American in Kincaid to register to vote. But when the KKK, led by Harold Turner (Rick Ellis), resorts to threats and even violence to keep the status quo, Raymond, Junior and Ned decide it’s time to hit back… and hard!

Of the three main leads in Brotherhood of Death, only Roy Jefferson was a pro football player, and while his performance isn’t quite as strong as either Anderson’s or Tari’s, he certainly isn’t bad, and is especially believable in the last act, when things get rough.

There are elements of the story that also work well, and carry Brotherhood of Death above your typical exploitation film. The entire sequence involving the vote, where Raymond, Junior and the others are trying to bring about change the legal way, getting every black citizen in town to vote the racists out, was handled well, and had me rooting like hell for them (even if the results were a foregone conclusion).

But while Brotherhood of Death occasionally dabbles in loftier areas, the ending, a fight to the finish between our heroes (using their army training to their advantage) and the bigots, is 100% exploitation goodness, and is as satisfying as they come.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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