Customer Reviews: Brother From Another Planet (1984)
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on September 24, 2002
NOTE: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS FOR THE UNITED AMERICAN VIDEO DVD RELEASE, NOT THE MGM DVD VERSION RELEASED A YEAR AFTER THIS REVIEW WAS WRITTEN - I saw this classic movie back in the mid '80s, and I must say that it is memorable. What really makes this movie is the performance of Joe Morton and the supporting cast. Joe doesn't say a word of dialogue throughout the movie, but his facial expressions and body language prove that he has an undisputed talent for acting. He plays an intergalactic slave running away from bounty hunters. Crash landing in New York City, he gets to experience what the world has to offer. The comedy in this movie is subtle, but very witty which adds to the charm of this movie. I was hesitant to buy this movie on DVD because of the reviews & the price. On the back of the keep case, there is a disclaimer stating that there are picture imperfections due to the master used. I've never seen this on a DVD before! The good things about the DVD is that it's very clear & in focus. The colour looks normal (people are not flaming pink or morbid grey looking) & the disc plays continuous & doesn't freeze after each scene. The bad things are: The master used is not even acceptable for broadcast standards. There are a lot of artifacts throughout the movie (periodic horizontal noise lines & pixelling around the 45minute mark) It looks like a worn out BETA SP master was used. This is where the price comes in, for a DVD it's really low priced, but it shows that you get what you pay for. It's unfortunate, because this movie deserves the respect of being digitally remastered and reissued on a properly produced DVD.
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on September 24, 2003
Having bought the UAV release of this movie and being disappointed in the playback, I was thrilled to see a major label like MGM has picked up this gem of a movie and released it rrecently on DVD. The picture is crystal clear, and the sound is great. This is how this movie should have been released on DVD in the first place. There are no noise lines or pixeling in the MGM version. There is just vibrant colour and clarity. Parts of the movie show graininess, but that is not the fault of the DVD, it's just the film used, plus this movie is from 1984, so there wasn't digital filming at that time. I am very happy to finally get this movie that has been properly transferred onto DVD. This disc features a running audio commentary from John Sayles, plus an interview with him too. If you were not happy with the UAV version of this movie, I strongly recommend picking up the MGM release, because the movie looks how it should look on DVD and that's great!
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on September 3, 2004
Imagine the result if someone were wise enough to adapt one
of the works of SF grandmaster Octavia E. Butler. Better yet,
imagine if there had been a grand convergence of Butler's
speculations on world development and African American
perspective, with the poetry, folklore and commentary of
Langston Hughes.
Sayles, cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson, and the
character acting master Joe Morton as the silent lead
all achieve this major feat of storytelling excellence.
Rarely have motion pictures captured the heart of the
Black Diaspora, let alone delve to the narrative core
of actual Science Fiction as deeply as this film does
so magnificently.
Its probing style and cutting edge satire hits with
stone irony; its humor dry to the bone, yet inviting
to the touch, and delightfully devastating to the
unprepared. 20 years later, THE BROTHER still resonates
with sharp genius. Its winding tale and participants
bring home a discerning warmth which delivers the wit
and pathos of Black perspective with breathtaking
From the hands of a White man, THE BROTHER is a
marked study of how to do one's homework well, and
more. Certainly, Sayles' pioneering independent
filmwork here proved far more astute in addressing
-and depicting- the Black aesthetic than the lackwit
Tommery, thug-happy Jim Crow jumping, and Stephen
Fechit gesturings far too in vogue -for far too
long- as "Black Entertainment".

Of course, it's how the film utilizes African
American ambiance to deliver one of the great
works of Science Fiction film which has
bewildered both critics and moviegoers alike
for 20 years. Consider how few "big" films are
based solidly in Black culture, let alone SF
films which find us discomfortingly absent,
too often, to this day, and you begin to see
the general confusion about a serious SF film
which is a serious film about an African
American community as well.
Further, since most people regard the SF film
field as technological playgrounds for "comicky
popcorn epics" (let alone the snob-ridden dribble
of "sci-fi"), films which can utilize technology
to help properly tell a great cinematic story has
traditionally bewildered American audiences.
BLADE RUNNER taking decades to be recognized
as an epic, along with the misconceptions
regarding more recent epics such as Spielberg's
MINORITY REPORT and the recent Simon Wells/John
Logan take on THE TIME MACHINE, bear this
For every thematic, dramatic and technical
triumph achieved by the likes of THE LORD OF
THE RINGS, major befuddlement at such daring
work from a principally Speculative source
(witness the tailing-off of interest towards
THE MATRIX trilogy, or the utter disdain
towards Lucas' current STAR WARS films)
all demonstrates just how far audience
attention & audience appreciation has
yet to go.

THE BROTHER eschews super-technology altogether,
throwing FX-seekers way off-line! Sayles and
friends opt for minimal opticals and some
old-fashioned staging to make the point
of THE BROTHER's alienation, as much a
product of the enslavement he's rejecting
as it is a reaction to the literal new
world to which he's come.
Thrown into the hectic thoroughfare of Harlem,
brought face-to-face with the pratfalls of
everything from Social Services to drink
minimums at night clubs, THE BROTHER has
a very short time to learn a whole lot about
the human race, and how he means to fit into
All manner of folk, from a gregarious
White single mother to as rich a collection
of barhoppers as you will find anywhere,
imbue the hapless extraterrestrial with an
array of pessimisms, joys, and reflections,
giving him ample space to contemplate upon
what it is to be human.
Even the proverbial gag of White rubes lost
in Harlem bears much thought to treasure,
poking wry wit at the ongoing perplexities
of "Race".

While the film is a cornucopia of great Black
talent seen in all manner of entertainment over
the past 20 years, it's the lead performer's
standout portrayal which makes this film so
particularly special. A mute wanderer with a
healing touch for man, woman, child and
machine poses a telling metaphor all his own,
one which Joe Morton executes with a skill
of pantomime worthy of Chaplin himself.
Silent, Morton's performance here communicates
volumes of emotional impact, and great dramatic
strength. From confusion over hard drugs and
death, to the pangs of romance, on to the
desperation of his chase for Freedom, Morton
delivers a bravura presentation which will bring
you enthusiastically to your feet by film's
A key longtime player in Sayles' repertory,
and a supporting player frequently seen in
a variety of roles for both film and
television, it's astonishing that this
acting marvel has not been casted in more
lead roles. Underrated, Morton is easily
among this generation's most accomplished
dramatic masters.
Undaunted, Morton carries the vision on,
even as THE BROTHER stands as his signature

demonstrates how the littlest things bear
the greatest significance. From the quick
social wisdom of a subway ride, to turning
a bureaucracy inside out, the film is a
wonderful excursion into the nature of
Struggle, getting by, and learning to do
more than just survive.
Even the value of keeping an eye on things
takes on a whole new meaning for inner
city dwellers and upwardly mobile bank
executives alike.

When all is said and done, it comes to this:

Be thoughtful.
Be entertained.

Give THE BROTHER some.
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on January 23, 1999
'Brother From Another Planet' is a gem of a movie from director John Sayles. Yes, it's low-budget (typical Sayles), and yes it sounds like b-grade science-fiction at first (alien lands on Earth, pursued by other aliens), but it's so much more than that. First off, the alien (played by Joe Morton, who does not utter a word througout the movie) is black and, luckily, lands in Harlem. Slowly but surely, he finds a way to not only make a living (by fixing electronics), but also manages to help out those who live around him. No offense meant to Mr. Morton, but this is probably his best performance to date.Meanwhile, he's pursued by the two other aliens, who are white (one of whom is played by Sayles himself), and have their own interactions with the Harlem community.In this little, very underplayed film, Sayles manages to say a lot about community, race, charity and mankind itself. Endnote: Keep your eye out for the 'eye out' scene.
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on March 17, 2003
The copies that have seen floating around of THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET were bootlegs. Not worth it. Look for fully restored and remastered DVD's coming in the fall of 2003.
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on December 9, 2013
Great plot! Joe Morton is a phenom, without speaking a word he humanized a nonhuman! Great showcase of Harlem and its residents,the good & the ugly. I enjoyed this movie as much or more than I did a quarter century ago
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 26, 2012
Joe Morton doesn't say a word, but his performance as a wayward alien is quirky and engaging, in The Brother From Another Planet (1984), a sci-fi/comedy written and directed by John Sayles (Men with Guns), that is set in Harlem. Except for his feet, Morton's character can pass for a human, and although he can understand English, he is not able to speak. The extraterrestrial doesn't really have a name other than "brother", yet manages to get by, mainly due to the kindness of the people that he meets, most of whom are African American. People just seem to respond to the Brother's charm and gentle ways.

On the run from a pair of "men in black" types who want to recapture him, the Brother crash lands on Earth, and emerges from the water in New York City. He eventually ends up in a bar in Harlem, and with help from a social worker, is taken as a boarder with a widow and her son.

The Brother has strange powers, and is able to heal wounds and repair machines with just his touch, and he uses this talent to earn some coin repairing video games. Many appreciate the Brother's gentle ways, as even without being able to speak, he finds love with a night club singer. As the Brother attempts to fit in, the men In black (David Strathairn and John Sayles) are on his trail, flashing the Brother's photo and questioning those in the neighborhood. When they do eventually locate him, the Brother finds that he is not alone, as his many friends rally to his side.

While mostly a low-key affair, the action highlight is definitely a cool extended fight scene in a bar. Special effects do occasionally come into play, such as when the Brother removes an eye for use as surveillance device. Joe Morton (Terminator 2 - Judgment Day) gives an animated and winning performance in a challenging role, where he has to rely on his expressions and body language, to try and communicate his feelings. Though we don't really know what the Brother is all about, like those in the movie, we feel that he is a good guy who means no harm. Mostly quirky and fun, with a little action at the end, Brother From Another Planet is a sensitive little sci-fi flick that may bring a smile to your face.
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on May 24, 2004
This is one of my favorite films of all time. Like many really good Sci Fi tales, it is ultimately a very human story. I love so many of the scenes - the character interactions in the bar scenes are great. And Joe Morton is terrific.
They didn't have much budget for this and there are obvious clumsy mistakes in the movie. Some of the mistakes are even pointed out in the director's comments, but it just adds to the enjoyment. (But my DVD copy is just fine. I don't understand the quality complaints in other reviews here.)
For all the rough spots, I don't miss the million dollar effects one bit. Effects might even push the story aside too much. This DVD will always have an honored place on my shelf and I will enjoy this many more times. (And I could never say the same for Matrix Revolutions, for example.)
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on November 17, 2012
This movie has been a cult favorite of mine for many years after first seeing it on late night TV.

The brother (Joe Morton) from another planet arrives in 1980s NYC (the city is almost an additional character) and we immediately see that he is possessed of extra-human abilities.

Although he is mute, he is welcomed by the residents of the Harlem neighborhood he wanders into.

The brother doesn't understand our culture which gives John Sayles an opportunity to expound on racism, ethnic stereotypes and our society's ingrained biases.

The casual treatment of bias in our culture confuses the brother, which allows for a frank appraisal of the "racial" bias in that era (I was there and it's spot-on) that continues to this day. Fisher Stevens' "last trick" was so poignant, especially as I saw that "trick" just about every day.

We find out that the brother has escaped from a society that discriminates against people based on a ridiculous premise ("Three-toe") which really points up the inherent stupidity of the biases based on inherent characteristics (skin pigmentation, sexual orientation, etc.) in our own society.

No more spoilers, but the acting is reasonably good and the very serious subject matter is embedded in a number of extremely amusing vignettes. Once again, the backdrop of 80s NYC is really fabulous.

There isn't a lot of subtlety but it's fun and somewhat thought provoking. Did I mention that NYC provides a wonderful backdrop for this film?
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This has remained on my Top 25 list of sci-fi films since first seeing it in the 1980s. If you haven't yet, please do yourself a favor and give it a try. No CGI, but it's films just like this one that remind us how science fiction doesn't necessarily need high-tech wizardry to be top notch.

Caveat emptor. If you are considering purchase, check out 50 Movie Pack: The Brother from Another Planet, etc., which is a much better deal (I just bought it for $9). If you don't care about the extras found on the MGM release (Audio Commentary by John Sayles, Featurette with John Sayles) or the aspect ratio (the MGM release is 16:9, the Movie Pack version is 4:3), then you may as well own 49 additional movies for less money than the cost of this one. 🚀
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