Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Together Brothers

Several weeks back FXM Retro ran an obscure movie I'd never heard of called Together Brothers. It's going to be on FXM Retro again twice tomorrow, at 3:00 AM and again at 11:30 AM. This would be your chance to catch a very interesting movie.

The movie starts off with a policeman patrolling his beat somewhere in the business district of a city that looks like it's going to seed in the early 1970s. (I don't think the movie ever actually mentions the city until the end credits, where it's revealed that everything was shot on location in Galveston, TX.) The cop deals with loiterers, people we can assume to be prostitutes, and other such minor things, until an adolescent goes into one of those 1970s vintage convenience stores and pilfers a soda. The cop chases the young man, until finding him as his regular hangout.

The cop and the young man are well known to each other. Indeed, the young man is part of a gang that's probably not quite a gang even in the West Side Story sense of the word, and certainly not in the latter-day New Jack City sense. These are really just a bunch of teens who need a good father figure in their lives, and the cop knows it. He treats them as well as he can within the confines of the law, and they reciprocate by calling the cop Mr. Kool (Ed Bernard; I didn't mention the name of the boy in the gang or the actor who played him because this was a low-budget movie with a bunch of nonprofessionals doing much of the acting).

Unfortunately, Mr. Kool has made some enemies with his arrests back in the adult world, and one of those enemies corners him in an alley, shoots him, and pulls down his pants. To make matters more complicated, a little boy witnesses the whole thing. He's shocked, and so our murderer has the chance to get rid of his witness by committing a double murder. However, the gun jams and our little boy can run off. The boy is known to the members of the gang, but he's not telling what he's seen. However, they know Mr. Kool was murdered, and that something really traumatic happened to the boy, so it shouldn't be that difficult to put two and two together.

And, of course, since the gang respected Mr. Kool, they want to find out who murdered him. The only problem is, they have no leads. The only way for them to get leads would be to get at Mr. Kool's private personnel file, which is of course locked in a file cabinet at police headquarters. The only people who can help the gang get into the building are the Chicano gang who aren't on the best of terms with a black gang. But they earn each other's respect, get the personnel file, and allow our black gang to start investigating.

Together Brothers starts out slowly, and meanders such that up until they invade police headquarters you wonder where the heck the movie is going. Once that happens though, the movie becomes both more conventional and more unconventional. I say this because I find the movie conventional in terms of turning into a relatively standard detective movie that could fit in well with Bonita Granville's Nancy Drew movies of the late 1930s. But it's also unconventional because the investigation takes the kids into a very dark and disturbing world, with a scene involving a prostitute (remember, Mr. Kool was trying to move the hookers along at the beginning!) who serves a very niche market. It leads up to a climax in an abandoned cotton warehouse, and an ending where some loose ends aren't wrapped up but is designed to be satisfying for your average viewer.

Together Brothers isn't quite a mainstream (for the 1970s) movie, but it doesn't quite fit in with the more over-the-top blaxploitation movies like Coffy either. In fact, you could say that the movie has definite flaws, in that it's often not quite sure what it wants to be and if it does make that decision, it takes a long time getting there. But it does get there, and the journey and destination are both rewarding. It's also nice to see all the location shooting. I've never been to Galveston, but according to some of the IMDb reviewers, the place has changed quite a bit in the four decades since the movie was made.

IMDb suggests that Together Brothers isn't even available at Amazon, so you're going to have to catch this all-too-rare airing on FXM Retro if you want to see it. I highly encourage you to do so if you've got access to FXM Retro.

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