Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 8th, 2018
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1975 (Welcome Home Brother Charles), USA, 1976 (Emma Mae)
Director: Jamaa Fanaka (Both Films)
Writer: Jamaa Fanaka (Both Films)
Cast: Marlo Monte, Reatha Grey, Stan Kamber, Tiffany Peters, Ben Bigelow, Jake Carter, Jackie Ziegler, Ed Sander (Welcome Home Brother Charles), Jerri Hayes, Ernest Williams II, Charles D. Brooks III, Leopoldo Mandeville, Malik Carter, Eddie Allen, Gammy Burdett, Teri Taylor, Synthia Saint James, Robert Slaughter, Eddy C. Dyer, Laetitia Burdett (Emma Mae)
BluRay released: March 27th, 2018
Approximate running times: 103 minutes (Welcome Home Brother Charles), 100 minutes (Emma Mae)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Films)
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $32.98
The premise is deliriously absurd and yet the end result is a very satisfying exploitation film. The opening setup does a good job setting up who all the main characters are and foreshadowing where this film’s narrative is leading towards. The middle section of the film tends to drag. And it is during this section that protagonist tries to adjust to life outside of prison. Fortunately, things pick up once again by the final act. And it is during this section of the film where the protagonist exacts his vengeance on those who have done him wrong.
The performances are best described as serviceable. With this film’s most memorable performance being Marlo Monte in the role of this film’s protagonist Charles Murray. Another performance of note is Ben Bigelow in the role of Harry Freeman, the racist cop that mutilated Charles manhood. It should be noted that the majority of the cast had limited acting experience. And for the majority of them, this was their one and only film that they appeared in.
Content wise, Emma Mae is best described as a melodrama. The film superbly realizes the fish out of water scenario. The narrative is well constructed and the ending provides a satisfying cathartic release for it’s protagonist. The characters are well defined and the performances range from adequate to good.
With this film’s heart and soul being Jerri Hayes portrayal of Emma Mae. Over the course of the film her character goes through a massive transformation. And her performance does superb job capturing her characters state of mind. Another performance of note is Charles D. Brooks III in the role of Ezekiel ‘Zeke’ Johnson, a small time hustler who exploits Emma Mae’s feelings for him.
Welcome Home Brother Charles and Emma Mae come on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. Both films are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Both films transfers were scanned and restored in 2k from their 35mm camera negative. The transfer for Welcome Home Brother Charles has some minor instances of print related debris and grain remains intact, albeit grain at times looks very thick. The transfer for Emma Mae is in great shape, colors look accurate, black levels fare well and details look sharp. When compared to their previous home video releases, the transfers for these two films the best these film’s have ever looked on home video.
Each film comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound, clear and balanced throughout. Included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles for both films.
Extras for this release include, a reversible cover art, a thirty second teaser for Welcome Home Brother Charles, a sixty second teaser for Welcome Home Brother Charles, a trailer for Welcome Home Brother Charles (3 minutes 49 seconds), a post film Q&A with actress Jerri Hayes from a 2017 screening of EMMA MAE at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn, NY (20 minutes 16 seconds) and an interview with Jan-Christopher Horak, Director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive titled The History of the L.A. Rebellion & Jamaa Fanaka (31 minutes 8 seconds).
Topics discussed in the Q&A with Jerri Hayes include, Jamaa Fanaka, Emma Mae, production related topics, themes explored in the film and how they are still as relevant now as when the film was made and her thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the Jan-Christopher Horak include, the origins of African American cinema, Blaxploitation, the L.A. Rebellion, Jamaa Fanaka, Welcome Home Brother Charles, Emma Mae and his thoughts about exploitation cinema.
Also, included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo. Overall another solid release from Vinegar Syndrome, recommended.