Blu-ray review: “The Brotherhood” (1968)

“The Brotherhood” (1968)


Running Time: 96 minutes

Written by: Lewis John Carlino

Directed by: Martin Ritt

Featuring: Kirk Douglas, Alex Cord, Irene Papas and Luther Adler

Critical Commentary

“The Brotherhood” is a crime drama film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Kirk Douglas, Alex Cord, and Irene Papas. The story revolves around a young man named Frank Ginetta (Alex Cord) who wants to join the Italian-American Mafia in New York City. He is initially rejected by the Mafia bosses, but eventually becomes a member after proving his loyalty and bravery. The movie explores themes such as loyalty, betrayal, and the cost of power. It received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising the performances of the actors and the film’s portrayal of the Mafia, while others criticized it for glorifying organized crime. “The Brotherhood” is a notable film from the late 1960s that provides a glimpse into the world of the Mafia and the complexities of their relationships and power struggles.

The movie also touches upon the themes of family, tradition, and the pressure to conform to societal expectations. The central character, Frank Ginetta, is torn between his desire for power and acceptance within the Mafia, and his love for his family and the values they hold dear. Kirk Douglas delivers a strong performance as the aging Mafia boss, and Alex Cord is convincing as the young upstart trying to make a name for himself in the organization. The film also features a standout performance by Irene Papas as the wife of a murdered Mafia member who seeks revenge against the organization.

One of the criticisms of the film is that it portrays the Mafia in a somewhat sympathetic light, which has been a recurring issue in many movies and TV shows about organized crime. However, the movie does not shy away from the violent and ruthless nature of the Mafia and its members. “The Brotherhood” is an engaging and well-crafted crime drama that offers insight into the world of the Mafia and the individuals who inhabit it. While it may not be as well-known as some other movies in the genre, it is certainly worth watching for fans of crime dramas and classic cinema.

In addition to the performances and the portrayal of the Mafia, “The Brotherhood” is also notable for its visual style. The film features gritty, realistic cinematography that captures the atmosphere of the urban landscape and the world of the Mafia. The score, composed by Lalo Schifrin, is also noteworthy and adds to the tension and drama of the story. One aspect of the film that some viewers may find dated or problematic is its treatment of women. The female characters in the movie are often relegated to the background or portrayed as helpless victims, with little agency or power of their own. This is a common issue in many movies from the era, and it is worth noting as a potential drawback for modern viewers.

Despite its flaws, “The Brotherhood” remains a compelling and well-made crime drama that offers a glimpse into a fascinating and dangerous world. The film is worth watching for its performances, cinematography, and exploration of themes such as loyalty, power, and family. If you are a fan of classic crime dramas or interested in the history and culture of the Mafia, this movie is definitely worth checking out.

It’s also worth noting that “The Brotherhood” was released during a time when organized crime was a major concern in the United States. The movie was one of many films and TV shows from the era that explored the Mafia and its impact on society. It offers a glimpse into the cultural fascination with organized crime that has persisted in popular culture to this day.

Overall, “The Brotherhood” is a well-crafted and engaging crime drama that offers a window into the world of the Mafia and its members. While it may not be as well-known as some other movies in the genre, it is certainly worth watching for its performances, cinematography, and exploration of complex themes. However, viewers should be aware of its dated treatment of women and potential glorification of organized crime.

In terms of its legacy, “The Brotherhood” may not be as well-known or revered as some other crime dramas from the era, such as “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas,” but it remains an interesting and worthwhile film for fans of the genre. It has been praised for its realism and gritty portrayal of the Mafia, as well as its exploration of themes such as tradition, loyalty, and power.

The film has also been criticized for its portrayal of Italian-American culture and its potentially harmful stereotypes. Some Italian-American groups protested the movie’s release, arguing that it perpetuated negative stereotypes of their community. While the film is certainly not without its flaws in this regard, it is worth noting that it was made during a time when such stereotypes were more prevalent in popular culture.

“The Brotherhood” is a notable crime drama from the late 1960s that offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Mafia. While it may not be as well-known or acclaimed as some other films in the genre, it remains an interesting and worthwhile watch for fans of classic cinema and crime dramas.

Technical Commentary


Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, “The Brotherhood” arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Via Vision Entertainment. The master that was used to source this release is old and comes from Paramount’s vaults. The most notable fluctuations are in terms of depth, so on a large screen some panoramic shots definitely reveal weaknesses, but they are not disappointing either. As mentioned above, the master is simply old and there are inconsistencies in grain exposure that are responsible for the fluctuations. What is important to underscore is that they are not introduced by compromising digital work, so even with the weaknesses the visuals still have some decent organic qualities. 


There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 2.0. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided for the main feature. The composer Lalo Schifrin created a very unique and very effective soundtrack for “The Brotherhood”. Clarity, sharpness, and stability remain very solid. 

Special Features

  • The Kiss of Death: Paramount and The Brotherhood – in this exclusive new program, Bernard F. Dick, historian and author of “Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood”, discusses the exact period in which The Brotherhood was funded and produced, its promotional campaign and critical reception, as well as some of the film’s key strengths and weaknesses. Also, there are some quite good comparisons with The Godfather films. In English, not subtitled. (13 min).
  • Commentary – this exclusive new audio commentary was recorded by Cinema Retro publisher Lee Pfeiffer and film historian Tony Latino. It is very good commentary with plenty of information about the conception and style of The Brotherhood, its critical reception, Kirk Douglas and Martin Ritt’s careers, the evolution of the American gangster film, etc.

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