It is set in the Western Isles of Scotland, and the long and murderous grudge between two clans there, the Macraes and McFarishes. Patricia Roc plays a serving girl, whose arrival to work for the Macraes reinflames the conflict and causes an internal power-struggle between two brothers in the Macrae clan (played by Maxwell Reed and Duncan Macrae).Patricia Roc as Mary
Will Fyffe as Aeneas McGrath
Maxwell Reed as Fergus Macrae
Finlay Currie as Hector Macrae
John Laurie as Dugald
Andrew Crawford as Willie McFarish
Duncan Macrae as John Macrae
Morland Graham as Angus McFarish
Megs Jenkins as Angustina McFarish
James Woodburn as Priest
David McAlister as George McFarish
Patrick Boxill as The Informer
David Keir as Postman
LAG Strong's novel was published in 1932. Strong was friends with David MacDonald and they agreed to make a film of the novel together. MacDonald took the project to Sydney Box who was enthusiastic about making it. Box wanted Ann Todd, star of The Seventh Veil, to play the lead but she refused. Patricia Roc played the role instead. Roc was reluctant to take a role refused by Todd but eventually agreed. Her fee was £5,000. (Roc had reportedly been kicked off Diggers Republic - which became Diamond City - because of her involvement in a divorce scandal.)
Roc ended up enjoying working on the film and said the role was her favourite, in part because of an eight week location shoot on the Isle of Skye.
Box wanted Emlyn Williams to play John and Michael Redgrave to play Fergus. Emlyn Williams dropped out and was replaced by Eric Porter. Porter refused to make a film with Todd and was replaced by Duncan Macrae. Redgrave dropped out to make Fame is the Spur and was replaced by Maxwell Reed. Todd did not want to work with Reed as she had not enjoyed working with him on Daybreak
MacDonald knew the film would be troublesome censor wise because of the material. "We hope to get by in the French way," said MacDonald. "Rape, murder and nature, that's about all."
There was an eight week location shoot on the Isle of Skye.
The film encountered censorship challenges for its release in the US, in part because of its depiction of illicit whiskey manufacturing. However Sydney Box managed to get the film passed by the US censors by adding some shots where detectives arrived on the island to break the operation, and filming an ending where the hero and heroine - the "good" characters - survived instead of being murdered.
The Radio Times wrote, "while Stephen Dade's images of Skye are highly evocative, precious little passion is generated by orphaned Patricia Roc and Andrew Crawford, even though she's the housekeeper of his deadliest rival (Finlay Currie). Part of the problem is the straightlaced nature of postwar British cinema, which kept emotions firmly in check.; while The New York Times wrote, "Patricia Roc is lovely in form and grace, but her hair-dos, her dresses and her expressions smack more of Elstree than of the Hebrides"; and TV Guide called the film a "fair effort with technical talent outweighing the performers"; but Eye for Film found the film "startlingly bold and suggestive for its time...surprisingly gripping."
The film incurred an estimated loss of £55,700.
The film's reputation has risen in recent years. An article in The Scotsman praised the film saying:
Tthere is sex, there is violence, there is nudity and there is one of the most shocking killings ever portrayed in a mainstream movie. An informer, who has reported illicit whisky trafficking, is bound hand and foot, with cork floats under his armpits and a fish tied to his cap. He is then sent bobbing out to sea, to await a passing seabird that will spot the fish and dive hundreds of feet to pierce fish, cap and skull in a single fatal movement....The Brothers is... the skeleton in the cupboard no-one talks about. It bears more resemblance to a Quentin Tarantino film than one by Powell and Pressburger.
Producer Christopher Young said “It’s slightly bizarre, some very good performances, fantastic cinematography, but quite a strange script, really quite dark."