The Brute(blu ray) - The Brute [Powerhouse - 2022]
The Brute is a late 70’s UK crime drama with slight thriller touches. Its focus is domestic violence & physical spousal abuse, which it tattles in an often slightly haphazard, exploitative and at points flippant manner. Here from Powerhouse is a new Blu Ray release of this controversial film- with the region free disc featuring a new 4k print of the picture, a commentary track and a few other extras.
The Brute appeared in the year 1977 and was filmed in and around London. It was written and directed by Boston, Lincolnshire born Gerry O'Hara. In all, he had fourteen feature-length credits to his name these went from dangers of STD drama of That Kind Of Girl (1963), onto model posing as a jewel thief thiller Marco 7( 1967), shrinking kids fantasy featuring Todd Carty( Garage Hill’s Tucker) Professor Popper's Problem( 1974), big-budget period set softcore Fanny Hill (1983), PG13 mummy terror film The Mummy Lives(1993). The Brute is a competently enough scoped film, with largely passible to good acting and effective locations- with the only real issue being some of the editing/ cutting been somewhat out- though this may be down to the versions of the film we have here.
The film kicks off with a lulling creepiness then shock- as we watch Diane(Sarah Douglas) sleeping in her four-poster bed. A shadowy figure stumbles and stalks through the garden, into the house and up the stairs- pulling Diane out of bed to beat, then rip her nightwear- she staggers from the house, to fall asleep in a car- waiting until morning to go back in. We find out the attacker was Diane’s smug and obnoxious husband Teddy (Julian Glover)- clearly, these attacks have been going on for some time- but Teddy won’t get help, and as the film progresses things go from bad to worse- with him first dressing up as a woman to batter Diane, then he tries to brand her- this pushes her out of the marital home. She stays with campy-though-sleeping around photographer Mark(Bruce Robison), and his girlfriend as Carrie (Suzanne Stone) a jump suit-wearing and Kung Fu fighting afro English woman. Added into the mix we have Diane and Teddy’s ten-year-old son Tim( Nicholas Barnes) who is at a private school, fellow abused and beaten wife Millie(Jenny Twigge), and her rather unhinged husband Alan (Sylvester Morand).
The film, in both versions presented here, runs around the one hour and a half mark. I watched the longer more explicit export cut, and it moves between fairly tense-to-slightly more camp 70’s drama, light softcore if not fully agreed fleshy encounters, male on female abuse and beating- some of which is rather winched including, and sweaty- at points- sleazy inappropriate in bed flashback to the abuse….oh and we do get a few quite tense car chases/ fights. On the whole, The Brute is an effective enough 70’s domestic abuse drama edged with slightly dodgy exploitation leanings & light thriller elements.
Moving onto this new region free Blu Ray- and we get a new 4k scan of the film, and this largely looks good with the 70’s tones coming through nice and clear. On the extras front, we get a new commentary track from Sarah Douglas and respected film writer Kim Newman. Over the length of the track, they discuss Ms Douglas memories of the cast and crew, and her research for the role. Moving on she discusses what she would have changed if she was given the role now, and talks about her shows of flesh- the tracks on the uncensored UK cut, so there is less flesh present on this version. Moving on the pair discuss the more exploitative tones/ elements in the film, and its change of title from The Brute Snydrrome to The Brute. They talk about how the film is still impactful & relevant today- and the growth in understanding/ support for domestic violence since the film appeared. On the whole, this is a most rewarding track- with Douglas largely recalling the making of the film well, and Newman as always adding in interest facts and observations. The other new extra here is Sticks And Stones- this is an around thirteen & a half minute on-screen interview with the films director/ writer Gerry O'Hara. He talks about how the script came about, and the woman he knew who was been abused by her drunken gambling husband who influenced the script. Moving on he talks about the cast- and how they got cast. He relates amusing stories about the film- including how Michael Carreras wife commented that the film frighted her at the screening, and how the director met actor Julian Glover a few years back- and he’s now rathered ashamed of his connection with the film. So a most worthwhile/ worth a play interview. On the archive side of things, we get the following: The Sea Can Kill – a twenty-seven-minute royal navy short by director Gerry O'Hara, focusing in on surviving a disaster at sea. This Week in Britain: ‘Erin Pizzey’- a five-minute on-screen interview with Ms Pizzey from 1978, who formed Britain's first woman's refuge. As well as a selection of trailers, promotional/ publicity material gallery. The finished release comes with a 36-page booklet with a new essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson, a look at the public response to the film’s controversial screenings, an interview with fight arranger Roberta Gibbs, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Anthony Nield on The Sea Can Kill, and film credits.Roger Batty
It’s fair to say that The Brute rather sits, at points awkwardly, between more serious drama and sleazed exploitation- and at times, this does lessen its more genuine intentions. Never the less there is worth here, and it’s a good example of more edgy 70’s drama. As we’ve come to expect from Powerhouse we get a nice new print, and a good selection of new/ old extras- and this release is part of the first batch of the companies titles that are available in both the UK & US- with 2’000 copies here, and 2’000 copies available stateside.