Brothers of the Head Review
By Shawn McKenzie 09/29/2006
Tom and Barry Howe (real brothers Harry and Luke Treadaway) were born in 1956 on the shores of L’Estrange Head on the east coast of England, according to an unfinished documentary called Two-Way Romeo directed by Ken Russell (as himself.) Their father Albert (Roger Watkins) and their older sister Roberta (Elizabeth Rider and Jane Harrocks at various times) raised them, and when they were 18 years old in 1974, Albert “sold” them to musical impresario and former Vaudeville child star, Zak Bedderwick (Howard Attfield.) The promoter was down on his luck, since Chris Dervish (Ed Hogg), the lead singer of the Noize, the band Zak used to promote, died in a car crash, and he now needed a musical act with a gimmick. Why were the Howe brothers so special? They happened to be conjoined twins, connected by the chest. The Howe brothers were relocated to Zak’s residence, Humbleden Hall, and were set up with an abusive manager named Nick Sidney (Sean Harris) to guide them on their path to stardom. Musician Paul Day (Bryan Dick; David Kennedy in the present), a former member of the Noize, teaches the brothers music, having quiet Tom play guitar and having angry Barry handle the vocals. They front Zak’s new band, the Bang Bang, with a guy named Tubs (Nicholas Millard) on drums and Spitz (Steven Eagles) on rhythm guitar. Zak hires an American filmmaker named Eddie Pasqua (Tom Bower) to document their exploits and a photographer named Cilla (Anne Lambton) to take photos of them. They start rehearsing, and word of their rehearsals captures the interest of a journalist named Laura Ashworth (Tania Emery; Diana Kent in the present), who wanted to write about the “disabled” twins. Even though they refuse to become the subject of her story, she begins to fall in love with Tom…which makes Barry mad, since he had to be involved in their unintentional love triangle. They make their debut in a London pub called the King’s Head, where the patrons think that the brothers are a little too affectionate. Barry furiously reveals their conjoined status (and not that they were hugging each other)…and they become a huge hit. With their good looks and the gimmick, Zak’s intuition of the guaranteed success of the Howe brothers proves to be true. The discovery of a third twin though, previously hidden and thought to be a tumor, makes their already bad attitudes even worse.
Brothers of the Head has been described as a “mockumentary,” except that it isn’t one. When I think of a “mockumentary,” I think of Rob Reiner’s 1984 masterpiece This is Spinal Tap or Christopher Guest’s movies (1996’s Waiting for Guffman; 2000’s Best in Show; 2003’s A Mighty Wind; the upcoming For Your Consideration.) While this is a fictional movie with a documentary style, is definitely not the same as those movies.
The main difference is that it is not a comedy by any means. While it has its humorous moments, it is a dark tale that is actually somewhat depressing at moments. It certainly isn’t like the 2003 Farrelly Brothers movie Stuck on You about conjoined twins. Fortunately, it isn’t exploitive either, despite having a character who purposely uses the Howe brothers for exploitive purposes.
I just wasn’t crazy about the movie. It had an interesting premise, and I thought that it was unique to create a fictional documentary that wasn’t a comedy, but I found myself bored by the end, even though it was just 93 minutes long. I liked the music, which sounded like it could have actually come from the punk era of the ‘70s (in fact, if the Academy weren’t so uptight about punk songs, I’d like to see their song “Two-Way Romeo” get an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. They did award two rap songs with Oscars, so maybe there might be a possibility of that happening.) Also, the makeup job on the Howe brothers was so convincing that I had to make sure that the Treadaway brothers weren’t actually conjoined.
The acting was okay. Other than the Treadaway brothers, who personified the angry punks of the ‘70s accurately, I couldn’t remember much about the other performances.
That actually might describe my overall opinion of the Brothers of the Head. The movie was based on a 1977 novel by author Brian Aldiss, who specializes in science fiction novels (the 2001 movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence was based of a short story by Aldiss named Supertoys Last All Summer Long.) Unless the novel itself was meant to be science fiction, I missed it. The only sci-fi element I saw in it was the third head that was discovered on the Howe brothers. If they had played more on that element, it might have been more interesting (I wonder what it would have been like if it had been directed by David Cronenberg?) Keith Fulton and Louie Pepe directed it, and from what I’ve heard, it is a huge departure from their last film, the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha (I’ve never seen that movie, but from its description, it might be more entertaining than this one.) Unless you want to check out a fictional documentary filled with some decent punk music, I would skip this one.
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