Hey, remember that wholesome movie starring former teen idol Bobby Sherman as a castaway trapped on a leper-colony island in the Pacific? No? Well, chances are you’re not alone, because He Is My Brother ranks among the most obscure mainstream movies of the ’70s. The picture has a respectable degree of Hollywood gloss, and it benefits from the participation of familiar talents including Keenan Wynn, who plays the priest overseeing the leper colony, and director Edward Dmytryk, who closed out his long career in ignoble fashion by helming this box-office dud. While you might understandably think that He Is My Brother should be avoided like, well, a leper colony, the movie isn’t awful, per se. To be clear, it’s formulaic and padded and predictable, with more than a few shoddy performances, and the overly sincere moralizing of the piece makes He Is My Brother feel like a PSA for overseas missionary work. One should not investigate this movie with expectations of surpassing quality. Nonetheless, some elements of He Is My Brother deserve respect, including Wynn’s performance and the provocative issue of modernism clashing with primitivism.
Jeff (Sherman) and his preteen brother, Randy (Robbie Rist), wake in the leper colony following a shipwreck. Jeff is aghast, fearing that he and his brother will immediately contract leprosy, but Brother Dalton (Wynn) calms them down, explaining that the disease only spreads after long periods of exposure, and further explaining that he’ll put the brothers on the next supply ship when it leaves the island. Trapped among the lepers, Jeff watches Brother Dalton battle to keep his flock intact while an indigenous mystic, The Kahuna (Joaquin Martinez), promises salvation for those who return to ancient ways. Then complications ensue. Jeff and his brother miss their boat, and Jeff becomes romantically involved with an island girl, Luana (Kathy Paulo). None of this is deep or surprising, but it’s all moderately interesting even though Sherman gives a hopelessly vapid performance. The gruffness of Wynn’s portrayal provides helpful balance, the locations are alluring, and the themes are meaningful no matter how clumsily they’re handled.
He Is My Brother: FUNKY