Tag Archives: Will Geer

Brother John (1971)

brother john 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Is an apocalypse coming?

Upon the death of his sister, John Kane (Sidney Poitier) returns to his hometown in Alabama to attend her funeral, but the town’s mayor (Bradford Dillman) and sheriff (Ramon Bieri) think he is an outside union agitator there to stir up trouble with the local factory. Doc Thomas (Will Geer) is an old man who’s been in the town his whole life and knows better. He recognizes that John has a special gift of some kind and can see into the future, but what John proclaims is not good as he states that an end of the world is coming and the human race will have to justify their existence to the almighty.

This film, which was written by Ernest Kinoy and directed by James Goldstone, is unique in that it never reveals too much and keeps the viewer in a shroud of mystery the whole time. We’re given certain hints that John may hold a special power, but never any explanation, which in some films could prove frustrating, but here it makes it intriguing and unusual. Everything is given the low-key treatment including a memorable scene where a racist police officer (Warren J. Kemmerling) invades an African American home bent on teaching John ‘a lesson’ by taking him into the basement only to get a surprise whooping of his own when John proves to be far superior.

Poitier is billed as the star, but he seems constrained in a part that allows for very little emotion. Geer is the one that gives the film its biggest impact particularly with the conversation that he has with Poitier while sitting in a jail cell at the end. I also got a kick out of the fact that he was able in a passing conversation to mention Frankfort, Indiana which was the town that he had been born and raised in, in real-life. Bieri is also quite good as the town’s corrupt sheriff who’s racist on one end, but then when things get out-of-control he then ‘negotiates’ with the town’s black pastor (P. Jay Sidney) to see if they can work together to quell the unrest.

Although the setting is supposedly Alabama it was actually filmed in the town of Marysville, California and for the most part it’s successfully able to camouflage it, but not quite. The ending like the rest of the film is vague and answers little of the questions that the plot puts forth, which may be a turn-off to some, but I enjoyed it. In an era where so many other films were intent on making statements and broad characterizations this one pulled back and much like with religion and faith kept things at an elusive level, which gives it a more sophisticated flair.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 24, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated GP

Director: James Goldstone

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Dear Dead Delilah (1972)

dear dead delilah

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Greedy family gets hacked.

Delilah (Agnes Moorehead) is the matriarch of a large southern family who brings together the other members to tell them that her deceased husband’s gambling earnings of $600,000 is hidden somewhere on the premises. Desperate and greedy everyone goes on the hunt for it, but find they are being slaughtered one-by-one by an ax-wielding maniac.

As low budget horror movies go this one is about as poorly produced as you can get. This was John Farris’s first and so far last foray behind the camera. He is most famous for authoring ‘The Fury’, which was later made into a hit movie, but as a director he shows no visual ability. The scenes are poorly staged and the sets are illuminated by a bright unfiltered light that makes the center of every room in every scene look like it is under a spotlight. The scenes drone on with over-the-top characterizations of greedy family members and one-dimensional monotonous talk about money. The southern setting seems hooky almost like an amateurish attempt at Tennessee Williams. The scares and tension are non-existent and the film is an embarrassment to anyone having anything to do with it, which includes Bill Justis and his terrible music score.

It doesn’t help matters that the 1986 Embassy VHS issue of this film, which is as of this date the only source where this film can be seen, is terrible. The negative has a lot of scratches and the color is dark and faded making it look almost like someone’s forgotten home movie.

Moorehead, whose last film this was, is the one gem. She wears a brown wig and the only cast member who speaks in a Southern accent that sounds genuine. Her constant frowning facial expression is entertaining and helps enliven this otherwise poor excuse of a film with every scene that she is in.  She shares several scenes with Will Geer who plays her estate attorney. The two co-starred earlier that same year in an episode of ‘Bewitched’ where Geer played George Washington brought back to life by Esmerelda.

The film does boast some graphic murders that seem well ahead of its time in the grisly department. One of the best ones is when a female sitting in a wheelchair gets decapitated and the viewer sees her head lying on the ground next to her still quivering, blood spurting body. The opening sequence has a daughter speaking with her mother while the old lady has an ax sticking out of her head and her severed arm lying on the floor, which the daughter nonchalantly steps over like it is no big deal. The part near the end where a man gets shot through the back of his head and the bullet come out through his right eye socket is impressive as well.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: June 16, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Farris

Studio: Southern Star Entertainment

Available: VHS