- Reviewed by
Directed by William A. Graham
Written by Jack DeWitt and Joe Greene
Produced and Distributed by 20th Century Fox
On the surface, Together Brothers seems to be one of the many films of the blaxploitation genre to be forgotten by mass audiences. Written by Jack DeWitt and Joe Green, directed by William A. Graham (who had directed one previous blaxploitation film, Honky, in 1971), and featuring the only cinematic soundtrack ever composed by Barry White, the film’s release was overshadowed by that of other blaxploitation pictures also released that year, such as The Education of Sonny Carson (1974), Foxy Brown (1974), and Sugar Hill (1974). However, Together Brothers represents an interesting entry in the genre, primarily because it subverts, as well as participates in, some of blaxploitation’s attitudes toward women, homosexuals, and white society. The film also represents a shift from the normal locations and actors present in most of the period’s films, while still utilizing the detective film genre and blaxploitation’s revision of what that genre entails.
The film opens with Mr. Kool (Ed Bernard) watching a house being demolished as a group of locals look on. Kool is a police officer who walks a beat, restoring peace and order to the impoverished areas of Galveston, Texas. He is also a mentor to several young boys in the community, including Mau Mau (Kenneth Bell), A.P. (Nelson Sims), Monk (Owen Pace), Gri Gri (Kim Dorsey), and their leader, H. J. (Ahmad Nurradin). Later in the evening, H.J.’s younger brother Tommy (Anthony Wilson) witnesses a masked figure brutally murder Mr. Kool. Tommy is rendered mute from the shock, and H.J. and the gang decide after the funeral to track down their mentor’s killer. This leads the “brothers,” as they are called in the film, to befriend a local group of Latinos in order to sneak into the police station and obtain files on recently released inmates. Eventually, it is discovered that the killer is Billy Most (Lincoln Kilpatrick), a drag queen who was previously arrested for stealing a baby from an affluent white man. Mr. Kool was the officer who took the baby back, and Most claims that he killed Kool because, “Mess with Billy Most, and your black ass gonna die.” The film ends with a twist, however, as Billy tries to kill Tommy, but then realizes that the young boy is the baby that he had stolen years earlier. The brothers and the police arrive in time to see Billy cuddling Tommy close to his chest, calling him “My baby!” He is then arrested. The final shot of the film shows the brothers walking off into the night, enacting their identity as “Together brothers.”
Together Brothers contains all of the blaxploitation genre’s establishing features, which Amanda Howell describes as “vulgarity, violence, and vanity,” but handles these atypically. The film contains only one scene of graphic violence, and while it does feature the use of racial epithets and various obscenities, it does not overplay these elements. Howell notes that “Most (of these films) were filmed on location in America’s largest—and most troubled—black neighborhoods,” and while Together Brothers departs from this model, the troubled images it conveys are similar. Set in an impoverished section of Galveston, Texas that is populated by prostitutes, vagrants, and street kids, the film merely shifts these urban issues from the ghettos of Los Angeles and Harlem to a coastal Texas town.
While Together Brothers features a typical black hero, described by Novotny Lawrence as “a character able to navigate the white world while maintaining blackness,” the main characters in the film are largely children. White characters are largely absent here, except in a few brief scenes where they appear as police. It is, however, up to the “brothers” to find Kool’s killer. Smart and clever, in spite of referring to themselves as “dumb darkies” in front of a white police officer, H.J. and his friends are the ones who ultimately solve the case.
The film’s representations of women follow genre conventions, which Kelly Hankin describes...