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Reviews & Ratings for
The Boys from Brazil More at IMDbPro »

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55 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

One Of Schaffner's Best...

8/10
Author: underfire35 from Chicago, USA
11 March 2004

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 James Mason, as Seibert and Bruno Ganz as a mouthpiece for outdated genetic research, do well to support the action, but are given little to do.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.

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39 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

A Real Scary Concept!

7/10
Author: (bsmith5552@rogers.com) from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
17 July 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When "The Boys From Brazil" was released in 1978, the concept of cloning was more science fiction than reality. Now, almost 25 years later, the possibility of human cloning is here.

The fictional story involves real life German WWII "Angel of Death", Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) having cloned 94 baby boys from the cells of you know who and placed them around the world in environments that closely approximate the real life conditions in which the donor was raised, in the hope of reproducing an exact duplicate. Student Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg in an excellent early performance) discovers the plot and tries to alert famed Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier). After Kohler is murdered, Weisenthal begins to take the warnings seriously. He too discovers the plot and frightens the Nazi commanders in South America (including James Mason) enough to have Mengele's project canceled. Mengele tries to carry on alone before the inevitable showdown with Lieberman.

Gregory Peck, cast against type, gives a chilling performance as Mengele. Olivier, complete with Jewish accent and looking thin and frail as the Nazi hunter (allegedly based on Simon Weisenthal), gives an excellent performance as well. Mason is given little to do as Mengele's Chief of Security. Young Jeremy Black plays the various clones convincingly right down to the accents. Others in the cast include Lili Palmer as Lieberman's sister, Uta Hagan as Frieda the prisoner who provides Lieberman with vital information, Anne Meara and Rosemary Harris as two of the mothers and Denholm Elliot and John Dehner in other roles.

It's really frightening to realize that the concept of cloning presented in this story could now become a reality.

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27 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Better than you'd think

7/10
Author: conspracy-2 from Denmark
19 May 2000

Had I seen the film without reading the back of the video cassette, I would have enjoyed the film a lot more. But for some reason, a major plot point, revealed 1 1/2 hours into the film, is plainly written in black on orange. Since the movie moves in ever decreasing circles to reveal this secret quite efficiently, I don't see why the publicity department chose to sabotage it.

Nevertheless, the plot is more plausible than it sounds when you try to describe it (which, as I have just said, should be avoided anyway), and the leads play beautifully. Especially incredible is Laurence Olivier as the doddering, worldly-wise jewish Nazi hunter, Dr. Lieberman. You'd never expect the frail form in this movie to be the same man as Hamlet. Gregory Peck also plays Dr. Joseph Mengele as suitably and calmly evil. A lesser actor would find playing the part of a Nazi Death Doctor, responsible for some of the worst atrocities in human history, a perfect excuse to ham it up and click into the black-hatted, moustache-twisting token villain.

The less impressive acting of Steve Guttenberg overacting into a telephone and Jeremy Black with a really strange german accent as Erich Doring. This I can forgive. The ending is also comfortable and understated, with a moral instead of a huge explosion, as could have been expected in a 90's movie. Worth seeing, especially if you know nothing about the film.

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24 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Good flick. Good, not great.

7/10
Author: counterrevolutionary from Spokane, WA
29 December 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An exciting plot, a workmanlike script, and good performances from Peck and Olivier help overcome the complete implausibility of the premise. It's fun seeing what may be Steve Guttenberg's best performance. And Lilli Palmer was still gorgeous, even in her 60s.

The worst thing about watching it for the first time is knowing beforehand what the film's big, shocking revelation is (in fact, summaries of the film's plot tend to give it away, apparently not realizing that it's supposed to be an epiphany). I would really like to have seen it without knowing in advance just what Ezra Lieberman was going to figure out about the mysterious deaths of those harmless old men.

Those who have looked into Mengele's postwar career will be amused at Peck's makeup. In an effort at accuracy, it is based on a picture which was widely circulated for years in the belief that it showed a middle-aged Mengele. In fact, the man in the photo was just some poor South American shlub who had the misfortune to be snapped by an overenthusiastic photographer. We now know that Mengele himself was much less impressive in his later years, with his sagging jowls, gray hair and walrus mustache. In fact, photos show him as rather friendly-looking and avuncular--except for his eyes, which are stone cold.

This film, of course, has nothing to do with the real Mengele's postwar life. Mengele was not a commanding, white-suited figure, living the high life in expensive hotels, attending parties with sycophantic underlings, and continuing his hellish experiments in a jungle laboratory. He lived out his days as a sad, pathetic weasel of a man whom nobody liked. That's a better fate for Mengele...but it wouldn't make such a good movie.

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25 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Excellent film translation of Ira Levin's novel.

8/10
Author: Hyyr from NC
22 June 2001

I had read "The Boys From Brazil" years before I ever saw the movie. When I did see the film, I was amazed how closely it actually tracked the brilliantly-written novel.

This is an excellent thriller. The Nazi's plot is unraveled slowly, first filling you with confusion, then disbelief, and finally, astonishment & terror. As far-fetched as the Nazi's scheme sounds at first, it really is close enough to medical reality for a taste of true horror.

Gregory Peck is disturbingly realistic as the Nazi doctor Mengele, who masterminds the entire fiendish plot. His character in the film is so real and sinister as to be completely believable. In fact, the entire cast does such a great job that the movie's plot strikes even closer to home.

If you like well-written, well acted suspense/thrillers, this is one of the very best. I highly recommend it.

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44 out of 71 people found the following review useful:

Westphalian ham

7/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
18 April 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Man, does Gregory Peck seem to be enjoying himself here. He was never good with accents but he forges ahead anyway, so "Bobby" comes out as "Buppy." He huffs and puffs. He blows houses down. He strangles a man among bowls of fruit and caviar on the buffet table, and afterwards tells the guy's wife, "Shut up -- you ugly bitch." He makes horrible faces with his jowls widened like a basilisk's. He revels in his villainy. And the best moment in the film is at the end, when he finally greets his nemesis, Lawrence Olivier playing a Nazi hunter, raises his pistol, and smiles, "Herr LEE-ber-man."

Olivier overplays as well although in a more subtle fashion, as befits Lord Olivier, ex-Hamlet, using time-honored techniques such as long pauses before and during significant utterances, and a tendency to look out of the side of his eyes without turning his head. He also projects a kind of wiliness that Peck doesn't show, a kind of ferret compared to his adversary's bulldozer.

Both of them evidently had a good time working together. During the hilarious climactic struggle in which the two aging men with tasty scarlet slashes on their cheeks roll over each other, grabbing for the obligatory gun, biting each other's ears, Olivier at one point during the shooting found himself on the bottom, being crushed by Peck, and looking up at Peck he pursed his lips and batted his eyelashes.

The plot is an effective thriller, so silly that even Ira Levin joked about it. But it makes a kind of nutty sense and carries you along. The kid who plays Hitler really IS obnoxious and I wouldn't mind seeing David Rubenstein knock him off. The location shooting is terrific and distracts one from the weaknesses of the plot. There is an enormous dam set in a mammoth mountain range. And it captures Lancaster, Pennsylvania, perfectly -- the early winter drizzle and chill, rolling hills of woodlots and farm land, the Grandma Moses farmhouses with their distinctive architecture and their barns. (That part of Pennsylvania really looks like what is called "a picture postcard.")

There actually was an organization of ex-Nazi comrades rather like the one described. And a lot of Nazis made it to safety in South America where they lived quietly in modest settings, not the white-suited baronial splendor of Peck's place. They kept busts of Hitler on the mantelpiece, hung Nazi flags on the walls, and even had a Miss Nazi contest. (I'm not making that up. It's from the staff of the Jewish Heritage Museum.)

The historical inaccuracies are unimportant to the plot but perhaps not to our understanding of human nature. The mind seems to have a tendency to operate in superlatives. It makes it easier to think about things if they can be divided up clearly into good and evil. Not just good and evil, but perfect good and perfect evil. Thus, Mengele was a dentist, as we know, but here he is given both an MD and a PhD -- "the perfect combination for a scientist." Mengele, instead of a monstrous and lowbrow sadist, is turned into the personification of evil. He doesn't even have a dog or a girlfriend. Mengele is useful to human thinking -- the mythological Mengele that is -- because he provides us with a perfect bad example, someone we can fully hate without guilt. If Mengele didn't exist we would have to invent someone like him.

(PS: he does not exist anymore.)

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Yep. The only actor ever to get named a lord acted alongside the guy from the "Police Academy" movies

7/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
14 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Boys from Brazil" is admittedly an improbable movie, but chilling nonetheless. American college student Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) finds Nazi doctor Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) hiding out in South America. Kohler tries to report Mengele's diabolical plans (for a Fourth Reich) to Nazi hunter Ezra Liebermann (Laurence Olivier*), but Mengele murders him. The rest of the movie shows Liebermann investigating the mysterious deaths of several men around the world, all of whom had sons who look exactly the same. The climax comes when Liebermann and Mengele finally meet.

As is apparently always the case with Ira Levin's stories ("Rosemary's Baby" and "The Stepford Wives"), everything seems to be normal at first, until some point where you realize that there is clearly something unseemly going on. It may be an outlandish concept, but the whole movie is quite intense once you realize what Mengele and his cronies are planning.

*Interestingly, Laurence Olivier had played a Nazi in "Marathon Man" two years earlier.

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23 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Engaging mystery with impressive performances

6/10
Author: Christian Lee Pyle (CLPyle) from Lexington, KY
5 April 2000

Young Nazi-hunter Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) is tracking war criminals in Paraguay when he discovers that the old Nazis seem to be plotting something big. Kohler's fears are confirmed when the Nazis' guest of honor arrives: the infamous concentration camp scientist Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck). Mengele order his followers to carry out the murders of over 90 men, all of whom are 65-year-old civil servants, none of whom are Jews.

Kohler phones his idol, Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), with a report of what he's uncovered. Lieberman has fallen on hard times and lives in a leaky apartment where he cannot pay the rent. He's spent his life following every lead about Nazi war criminals and is tired of the chase. However, when Kohler's call (and his life) are abruptly cut short, Lieberman knows he must act.

He begins to investigate the bizarre plot. Why should Mengele want to kill these men who seem entirely unconnected to each other or the war? Why 65-year-olds? Why civil servants? Sadly many of the blurbs about this movie give away the solution to this mystery and the meaning of the title, but the mystery is much more engaging if the viewer unravels it along with Lieberman.

Olivier is fantastic in his role! He always put as much effort into his roles in genre films like this one, "Marathon Man," and "Dracula" as he devoted to Shakespeare, and it shows. He is thoroughly convincing as an elderly German Jew. Gregory Peck is also magnificent; he radiates pure evil. The top-notch supporting cast includes James Mason and Denholm Elliott. (So what's Steve Guttenberg doing in this movie?)

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23 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Pretty good, thought provoking thriller.

Author: Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) from Todmorden, England
14 February 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Boys From Brazil was made in 1978, but it deals with human cloning. At the time, short sighted people dismissed it as ludicrous, but in light of recent cloning experiments the films has a topicality about it and probably seems marginally more plausible nowadays than it did when it was released.

So who are the boys from Brazil? They are young boys all bred from genetic skin grafts taken from the body of Adolf Hitler during the war years. In Paraguay, in the '70s, one of Hitler's most feared accomplices, Josef Menegele (Peck), has been toiling away in a jungle laboratory trying to breed young Hitler clones. A young reporter (Guttenberg) hits upon the plot, and is killed, but not before passing a message onto famed Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Olivier). As Lieberman investigates, he realises that something is going on and tracks down Mengele when he visits one of his creations in America.

There are some surprisingly violent moments, such as the savage dog sequence near the end, and a shocking murder at a dam in Sweden. The performances range from excellent (Olivier, Palmer, Mason) to stiff and unconvincing (Peck). The film is pretty interesting and thought provoking. I still don't totally buy the idea that Hitler could be cloned so perfectly that he would turn out like a power-hungry, racist, evil Nazi (surely it would be impossible to recreate all the life experiences that turned hium into the type of man he was). However, it poses some disturbing thoughts and is worth seeing provided you don't try to pick out the plot holes.

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15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Overlooked

9/10
Author: R_O_U_S from United Kingdom
20 February 2004

This is such a classic piece of mystery drama, it's inconceivable that it's not better known. A late seventies film starring the cream of cinema from 20 years earlier, this follows a Nazi plot (in the present day) and the efforts of a Nazi hunter to put the pieces together. The elements include a number of apparently unrelated children, a decades-old plot, a series of murders, Josef Mengele, and a short appearance by one `Steven' Guttenberg, in an early film role. When you finally realise what has been going on, it ups the stakes dramatically. Well worth seeking out.

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