Quickie Review: The Boys From Brazil (1978)

bfb1The Boys From Brazil is an odd movie in that it brings together a number of topics that seem to have been in the air at the time of its development. The film is a hybrid of science fiction, conspiracy, and spy movie, all brought together under an umbrella of neo-Nazism. It depicts the efforts of infamous Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck), who has survived World War II and is still living into the seventies to, through the use of a secret cabal of war criminals and a combination of cloning and nurture to create a new Hitler and restoke the fires of the Third Reich. This plan is stumbled upon by amateur Nazi hunter Barry Kohler (portrayed by Steve Guttenberg) who is subsequently discovered and killed, but not before he can pass on the information he has discovered to Ezra Lieberman (Lawrence Olivier) who is a more experienced and famous Nazi hunter. Though Lieberman is at first skeptical and tries to dissuade Kohler from pursuing the leads he has found any further, the killing of the younger man, and a tape of a clandestine meeting that Kohler sent to him just before his death finally convince him to follow up, leading him into a web of intrigue and a final fatal conflict with Mengele himself.

Based on the novel of the same name written by Ira Levin, and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, The Boys from Brazil received three Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Actor for Lawrence Olivier. It’s a tight little bit of entertainment, which ends on a suitably ambiguous note that seems well fitting with many other similar films of the time. The plot, along with the Nazi’s scheme is a bit outrageous, but it is, in a way, that very outrageousness that adds at least a shimmer of realism to the film, and especially to the characterization of Olivier’s Lieberman who has to overcome his own skepticism before he can take any kind of action.

bfb2All in all, I found the film to be very entertaining, and well worth viewing, though I do think that, as is perhaps inevitable for films from this era, many younger audience members today might complain that it is rather slow-going, as, though it is punctuated through by a number of scenes of violence as the conspirators try to recreate the conditions of Hitler’s upbringing (since his father, Alois, died unexpectedly when Adolf was 13 years old, part of Mengele’s plan involves the killing of the clones’ fathers now that those children have reached the same age), it still spends a lot more time on the plot and intrigue than on the action which comes in short bursts. Nonetheless, for those willing to take the time to watch it unfold, I think you will be quite satisfied.

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