Barry Kohler, a young Nazi hunter, tracks down a group of former SS officers meeting in Paraguay in the late 1970s. The Nazis, led by Dr Mengele, are planning something. Old Nazi hunter, Ezra Lieberman, is at first uninterested in Kohler's findings. But when he is told something of their plan, he is eager to find out more. Lieberman visits several homes in Europe and the U.S. in order to uncover the Nazi plot. It is at one of these houses he notices something strange, which turns out to be a horrible discovery. Written by
THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL opens in scenic and remote Paraguay where Barry Kohler (a young Steve Guttenburg) is on the trail of a mysterious gathering of former Third Reich heavy hitters, including Eduard Seibert (James Mason), now in exile. As his information becomes more detailed, he contacts Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), a renowned Nazi hunter. In the meantime Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) makes the scene and after Kohler's bugging of a secret meeting goes wrong, Lieberman is left with only a thread of a much deeper story, which he sets about to unravel...
Even though the plot is fairly well known by now, I will assume some people are not familiar with Ira Levin's book or the film. In fact the less you know about the plot the better; I think that the dust jacket gives far too much of the story away...Anyway, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL is a film that toes a very dangerous line, I mean few film makers want to turn a man like Menegele into a camp figure. But the cast and crew handles the material with deft intelligence. The cast is fantastic: Peck, as Mengele, delivers a strong performance that never falters. In the tired yet determined Lieberman, Laurence Olivier creates a wonderful character; a late highlight of a distinguished career. James Mason, as Seibert and Bruno Ganz as a mouthpiece for outdated genetic research, do well to support the action, but are given little to do. It is Peck and Olivier that propel the film along; the violent showdown between the two men is a must see.
Jerry Goldsmith supports the on screen action with a Straussian waltz to tie in the Austrian backdrop. Goldsmith also provide some terse action music for the third act of the film. This is one of the last films that Goldsmith and director Franklin J. Schaffner would collaborate on. On that note, it would seem to me high time for a more detailed retrospective of Schaffner's body of work; which includes THE WARLORD, PATTON, ISLANDS IN THE STREAM, PLANET OF THE APES, PAPILLION, LIONHEART. It is Schaffner's sensibilities that keep THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL from jumping the track. He uses steady camera work and smooth style to create a world the characters can inhabit (something "over" directors of today know little about). Schaffner's style is more subtle, workman like, which may explain why he is not better known among the general populace. He keeps THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL grounded and allows his actors to flesh the characters out, which makes all the difference in the world. 8/10.
64 of 77 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?