Welcome Home Brother Charles (With Bonus Feature Emma Mae) (Blu-ray/DVD Review)

Welcome Home Brother Charles (With Bonus Feature Emma Mae) (Blu-ray/DVD Review)
Directed By: Jamaa Fanaka
Rated: UR/Region O/1:85/1080p/Number of Discs 2 (Movies share the same disc)
Available from Vinegar Syndrome

Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975)
Directed By: Jamaa Fanaka
Starring: Marlo Monte, Reatha Grey, Stan Kamber

In Fanaka’s debut feature, WELCOME HOME BROTHER CHARLES, a young black man is sent to prison, after being brutalized by a corrupt racist cop. Upon release, he takes deadly revenge against the cops, lawyers, and thugs who got him busted, using a most unusual weapon… As much a parody of exploitation films as it is a proud piece of genre cinema, BROTHER CHARLES combines horror and blaxploitation tropes with stirring social subtext resulting in a drive-in movie unlike any other.

Welcome Home Brother Charles is from the very same director that gave us Penitentiary, Jamaa Fanaka. This tells the story of a black man named Charles who ends up on the wrong side of the law and on his way to jail one of the cops gets a bit crazy, starts spewing a whole bunch of racist stuff, and then tries to cut off Charles’ manhood. Charles goes to jail for three years and now he’s back out for vengeance and wants to take down all the men that caused him trouble. Now that alone is a pretty solid vengeance plot. After all, this was a movie called Soul Vengeance once upon a time before it got the retitle. The movie along the way has some interesting parts but one could question if we get enough from it to stand on its own. The last act of this film is where things get all sorts of weird and where stuff happens that stands out with this one, for better or for worse.

It is there where there is an odd turn of fate Welcome Home Brother Charles has an ending so out of left field that I can only compare it to my very own film, Morbid, I made in 2013. If I was anyone else and saw what this movie does and then saw my movie you’d think I got the influence for a scene from this one. But I actually had never seen this one before until now. Anyway, that might be the most memorable part of Welcome Home Brother Charles. From a transfer side of things, the movie looks solid. I wouldn’t say it will blow you away because it does have a lot of grain and white stuff in the transfer at times (That could also be grain, I don’t know the technical term for it) but it still looks better than any other version of this film you’ll find out there I’m sure.

Emma Mae (1976)
Directed By: Jamaa Fanaka
Starring: Jerri Hayes, Ernest Williams II, Charles D. Brooks III

Fanaka’s second feature, EMMA MAE, tells the story of a naive young woman who moves from the Deep South to Watts. Initially finding herself at odds with her surroundings, Emma eventually gains acceptance from a local drug addict and dealer. But when he’s arrested and jailed, she plans a daring bank robbery to bail him out… Featuring a cast of mostly non-professionals and shot entirely on location in Watts, this uniquely subversive action film is an insider’s view of black, working-class LA neighborhoods.

Emma Mae seems more tagged along as a bonus movie here in this release, but it is the better-looking film in the release I think. You’ll probably be shocked as to how solid this movie actually looks on Blu-ray as the colors also seem much richer and pop a lot better than Welcome Home Brother Charles did. The story is a lot less wild and a more straight along tale of nieve girl who goes out of her way to help people who probably don’t really appreciate it. On top of coming from the country and moving to the city where she does things like fist fight the locals, Emma Mae also gets in a relationship with the town drug dealer and that leads to a lot of hectic stuff including a robbery scene that is pretty solid.

I’m not sure I’d toss Emma Mae on top of my list of favorite films by Jamaa Fanaka but I will say it shows a solid power in storytelling in just his second film and if I’m not mistaken this was the film that came right before his best film, Penitentiary. While mostly just a character film the movie does offer up a lot of the same themes and such you’d see in other Fanaka films and it is nice to have it on Blu-ray to go along with all of his other films coming to Blu-ray or on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome.

Extras

– Region free Blu-ray/DVD combo pack
– Newly scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm original camera negatives
– “The History of the L.A. Rebellion & Jamaa Fanaka” – an appreciation by Jan-Christopher Horak, Director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive
– Post film Q&A with actress Jerri Hayes from a 2017 screening of EMMA MAE at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NY
– Original theatrical trailer
– Multiple original teaser trailers
– Reversible cover artwork
– English SDH subtitles

Quality of Transfer (Welcome Home Brother Charles): 84%
Quality of Transfer (Emma Mae): 98%