Brothers Till We Die Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: March 28, 2023 (as part of Violent Streets: The Umberto Lenzi/Tomas Milián Collection)
Audio: English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, English
Run Time: 99:34
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Note: This Blu-ray is currently only available as part of Severin’s Violent Streets: The Umberto Lenzi/Tomas Milian Collection five-movie set, which also includes Almost Human (Italian: Milano odia: la polizia non può sparare; aka: The Death Dealer, 1974), Syndicate Sadists (Italian: Il giustiziere sfida la città, 1975), The Cynic, the Rat and the Fist (Italian: Il cinico, l'infame, il violento, 1977), and Free Hand for a Tough Cop (Italian: Il trucido e lo sbirro; aka: The Numbskull and the Cop, 1977).
For a longer look at the careers of director Umberto Lenzi and actor Tomas Milián, please read my Almost Human review first.
After surviving a botched hit, Vincenzo ‘Il Gobbo’ Marazzi (Tomas Milián) goes to ground and hooks up with his brother, Sergio ‘Monnezza’ Marazzi (also Milián). The two hatch a plan to wreak bloody vengeance on the criminals that sold Vincenzo out. Meanwhile, the police, led by Commissioner Sarti (Pino Colizzi), employ a dragnet to find the siblings.
For their final collaboration, Lenzi and Milián tossed all pretense out of the window and doubled-down with an outrageous gimmick: if one Tomas Milián character is good, two must be better. Technically, The Hunchback’s surname was Moretto in The Tough Ones and he was killed at the end of that movie, but audiences – who already confused Commissioner Tanzi with Betti and Giraldi with Monnezza – took the retcon in stride. By dreaming up the sibling relationship, Lenzi connected all the other movies that Monnezza, The Hunchback, and Tanzi appear in. Perhaps even all the movies Betti and Giraldi appear in, too, if you’re playing as loose with the continuity as Lenzi is. Milián revels in the chance to play two brands of criminal wretch and his performances sell the illusion of two completely different people, which is especially impressive during the scenes where the brothers are interacting with each other. The use of body doubles is awkward in close-ups, but the handful of split-screen effect that Lenzi employs works quite well.
It’s silly, vulgar, and every bit as over-the-top as you’d expect from a combination of The Tough Ones and Free Hand for a Tough Cop (at one point, Vincenzo literally crawls through the mud, muck, and rats of a storm sewer and Monnezza is committed to an insane asylum), but the actor, who was known for writing his own dialogue by this point, took the process seriously and even used his leverage as a superstar to load the film with some truly subversive anti-establishment sentiment. During one of the longest scenes in the movie, Vincenzo takes a date to an elite dinner club and ends up lecturing the snobby clientele at gunpoint after they make fun of his dancing and call him “riff-raff.” There’s even a scene where Vincenzo defends trans prostitutes against his brother’s prejudice. He still threatens to kill them if they don’t move his stolen watches, but, hey, at least he never misgenders them (later, Monnezza returns with the money and says “I went to that gay guy and got the money she owed you,” exhibiting a modicum of growth). This was the final movie Lenzi and Milián made together and, somehow, despite the publicity stunt quality of its Abbott and Costello meets Frankenstein concept, Brothers Till We Die ends up being the most politically coherent and challenging film in the five part series.
That said, Lenzi’s script – which he wrote alone, without support from previous Milián collaboration writers, like Vincenzo Mannino, Ernesto Gastaldi, or Dardano Sacchetti – meanders relentlessly and lacks structure. There’s a lot of exposition and describing events that occur off-screen, and it takes an unusually long time to get to an action sequence (almost 20 minutes). Viewers looking for another rip-roaring crime epic might be left disappointed, but those in the bag for The Tomas Milián Show might find Brothers Till We Die to be the most entertaining movie in the Lenzi/Milián collection.
Blazing Magnums: Italian Crime Thrillers Vol. 1, edited by Tristan Thompson and Paul J. Brown (Midnight Media, 2006)
Italian Crime Filmography, 1968-1980 by Roberto Curti (MacFarland & Co., 2013)
Brothers Till We Die is another movie that was not previously released on US home video and only otherwise available for English language fans from German DVD companies. There were previous Blu-rays available from 88 Films in the UK (another limited edition) and X-Rated in Germany, but I don’t know how they compare to Severin’s new 1080p, 2.35:1 disc. The 2K remaster looks similar to the other films in Severin’s Lenzi/Milián collection, though on the grimier side, in part due to the grittiness of returning cinematographer Federico Zanni’s photography. Detail and color quality is very nice and black levels, though verging on too deep, help to maintain shapes in the grainiest and dimmest shots. This particular transfer struggles a bit during evenly-lit interior shots, which end up having a bit of a fuzzy quality.
Brothers Till We Die is presented with English and Italian dub options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mono sound. Once again, the film was shot without sound and all language tracks are dubbed. This time, the sound quality of the two tracks are almost identical, from volume and range to overall cleanliness. Neither is outstanding, but definitely as good as we can expect from a single channel, low-budget mix. The dub performances are also comparable, so it all comes down to preferences. I’m not sure if any of the cast is speaking English on set, so if you’re a stickler for lip sync, I recommend the Italian dub. Curiously, the Free Hand for a Tough Cop English dub refers to Monnezza as ‘Trash Can,’ but this one translates the Roman slang to ‘Pig Sty.’ Micalizzi returns for one last Lenzi/Milián score and it is his grooviest, including a hard-hitting title track that makes you want to jump in your car and cruise the bad parts of town, looking for trouble.
Tomas and Tomas (12:05, HD) – One last interview with the late director Lenzi, who talks about writing the script himself (with Milián writing his own dialogue), being influenced by Robert Siodmak’s The Dark Mirror (1946), the technical process of cloning Milián on screen, and eventually giving up collaborating with the notoriously difficult actor.
He Called Me 'The Tamer' (19:28, HD) – Editor Eugenio Alabiso looks back on his spaghetti western work, long history of collaborations with Lenzi, and the director’s relationship with Milián.
Music and Bullets (19:32, HD) – Composer Franco Micalizzi discusses his music across Lenzi’s filmography, Milián’s performances, the poliziotteschi’s connections to neorealism, and his writing/composing techniques and influences.
Heart of Rome (18:51, HD) – The collection’s featurettes are wrapped up with this 2019 interview with composer/songwriter Antonello Venditti, whose song “Sora Rosa” is used throughout the film.
English export trailer
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be seen by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.