Thursday, June 6, 2024

Brother of the Wind (1972)

          To the best of my knowledge, innocuous outdoor adventure Brother of the Wind was the first production from Sunn Classic Pictures, makers of such memorable low-budget ventures as the ’70s Grizzly Adams franchise and countless sensationalistic documentaries about pseudoscientific topics. As such, it’s interesting to note how many signature tropes were present at inception. The subject matter fits the back-to-nature ethos of the early ’70s, so that checks the box for pandering to popular trends. The picture combines competent imagery with dubious sound work (goopy music, wall-to-wall voiceover), so that checks the box for keeping production costs low by leaning on post-production flourishes. And Brother of the Wind stretches a threadbare story across nearly 90 minutes of running time, which checks the box for padding content to merit theatrical exhibition. At their best, Sunn made harmless schlock, and at their worst, they made embarrassing dreck. Brother on the Wind falls somewhere between those extremes, and it established the critter-centric pocket that proved so lucrative for Sunn throughout the ’70s. Like the company’s Adams adventures, Brother of the Wind has roughly the vibe of an overly earnest John Denver song.
          When the movie begins, aging mountain man Sam Monroe (Dick Robinson, who also directed) takes custody of four wolf cubs after their parents are killed. Sam nurtures the wolves until, with his guidance, they embrace their instincts by learning how to kill prey. Per the familiar Sunn style, audio was added after filming, so we never see Sam speak onscreen; instead, we hear folksy voiceover that functions like an aural diary. Some of the picture’s episodes go down smoother than others. It’s impossible not to be touched when the mother wolf crawls into her den so she can die with her offspring, and many shots of animals and nature are beautiful. Flip side, the sequence of the cubs interacting with a weasel—accompanied by musical quotes of “Pop Goes the Weasel”—seem designed to vaporize viewers’ brain cells. Open to more subjective appraisal are elements such as the cutesy names Sam gives to the cubs: Fire Eyes, Shy Lady, Sunkleep, and Timber. (He also names a raccoon Cheeky.) That said, applying critical rigor to something like Brother of the Wind is a pointless endeavor—discriminating viewers won’t and shouldn’t seek this out, while sympathetic viewers probably know what to expect. If you’re willing to endure mawkish presentation so you can look at animals and forest scenery, this is for you.

Brother of the Wind: FUNKY

1 comment:

Rich Pniewski said...

I remember seeing this as a young teen, completely immersed in that "back to nature" thing. I was also a discriminating film watcher, too, and I remember being very disappointed at the production values - the wall to wall narration, surprisingly shoddy camera work, some plot aspects that just came out of nowhere (letter narrated by the unseen daughter, I'm looking at you.) But after a while the film's simplicity and charm began to work on me a little. I'd rather see this again than the Grizzly Adams or Wilderness Family films.

By the way, the narration was done by veteran character actor Leon Ames, of "Meet Me in St. Louis," "Peyton Place," and "Peggy Sue Got Married" fame.