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Saturday Night Cinema: The Brothers

6

Tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema feature is a little gem, The Brothers.

The Brothers is a classic drama from 1947, filmed on the scenic Isle of Skye. A young orphan girl named Mary arrives on a remote Scottish island to become a servant to the Macraes, a family clan who are arch rivals with another family on the island, the McFarishes. Her arrival provokes competition between the young men of the two households and eventually turns to jealousy within the Macrae family itself. Both Fergus and John Macrae are determined to wed her, but their chase may have chilling consequences for all. This DVD edition features a restored version of the film.

An unvarnished and very dark tale of life in the Western Isles of Scotland in 1900. Surprisingly for a British film of this period, a cold-blooded murder early in the proceedings is naught but incidental to the story as a whole.

ON THE SCREEN; ‘The Brothers,’ New British Film Starring Patricia Roc, Has Its Premiere at Sutton
By BOSLEY CROWTHER
Published: May 5, 1948

A strange tale of feudin’ and fightin’, of lust and jealousy and revenge, among the dark, dour, shaggy crofters of the mist-shrouded island of Skye is told with a great deal of beauty but with considerable confusion as to plot in the British-made film, “The Brothers,” which opened at the Sutton yesterday.

Those who recall the visual grandeur of such previous island-set films as Flaherty’s “Man of Aran” and Michael Powell’s “The Edge of the World” will note a striking similarity in the natural settings seen here—in the cloud-capped hills, the grose-filled meadows and the sweeping, mountain-rimmed bays. And one will catch, too, the salty flavor of the rugged Hebrides in the glimpses of local gatherings and the documentation of folkways.

There is one quite exciting sequence showing the settlement of a feud by having three men from each rival clan sit on opposite sides of a boat and row without let or hindrance until all but one man drops. And picturesque, too, is the dramatization of the vegeance which the whiskey-smugglers take on a clan-convicted informer; they tie a herring on his head, dump him into the bay in a life-preserver and let him float there for the gulls to peck to death. (The culmination of this sequence is not as graphic as it sounds, fortunately.)

But the story told against these backgrounds and with the benefit of these folksy events is more melodramatic than ethnic, more hackneyed than hewn from the rocks. It centers around a beautiful maiden who comes to live as a servant-girl in the home of a craggy old islander and his two laconic sons, with the younger of whom she quite naturally (being a healthy girl) falls in love. First she stirs an old feud between this family and the next-glen McFarishes, whose woolly and wily son, Willie, is not too dour to lark with a lass. And then, when the old man of the family has died of over-exertion at the oar, she causes the two smoldering brothers to have a long-drawn and fatal falling-out.

In the role of the latter, Patricia Roc is lovely in form and grace, but her hair-dos, her dresses and her expressions smack more of Elstree than of the Hebrides. Finlay Currie, however, is rough and rock-ribbed as the bearded father of the clan and Maxwell Reed and Duncan Macrae are fierce and burrish as his beetle-browed sons. Andrew Crawford is bonny and irrepressible as the McFarish wolf, while the late Will Fyffe is slyly charming as a local scamp in a couple of scenes.

THE BROTHERS, screen play by Muriel and Sydney Box, from the novel by L. A. G. Strong; directed by David MacDonald; produced in Britain by Mr. Box and released by J. Arthur Rank and Prestige Pictures. At the Sutton Theatre.
Mary . . . . . Patricia Roc
Hector Macrae . . . . . Finlay Currie
Fergus Macrae . . . . . Maxwell Reed
John Macrae . . . . . Duncan Macrae
Aeneas McGrath . . . . . Will Fyffe
Priest . . . . . James Woodburn
Willie McFarish . . . . . Andrew Crawford
Angus McFarish . . . . . Morland Graham
Dugald . . . . . John Laurie
Angusina . . . . . Megs Jenkins
The Informer . . . . . Patrick Boxill

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