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BOYS FROM BRAZIL, THE(director: Franklin J. Schaffner; screenwriters: Heywood Gould/from the novel by Ira Levin; cinematographer: Henri Decae; editor: Robert Swink; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Gregory Peck (Dr. Josef Mengele), Laurence Olivier (Ezra Lieberman), James Mason (Eduard Seibert), Lilli Palmer (Esther Lieberman), Uta Hagen (Frieda Maloney), Steve Guttenberg (Barry Kohler), Rosemary Harris (Mrs Doring), Denholm Elliott (Sidney Beynon), John Rubinstein (David Bennett), John Dehner (Henry Wheelock), Walter Gotell (Mundt), Anne Meara (Mrs. Curry), Jeremy Black (Boys), Bruno Ganz (Professor Bruchner), Linda Hayden (Nancy), Michael Gough (Mr. Harrington); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Robert Fryer/Stanley O’Toole/Martin Richards; Fox Video; 1978-UK/USA)
“It’s more a silly and unbelievable pic than a bad one, but very watchable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The fantasy thriller, pure fiction, is based on Ira Levin’s gripping novel. It’s written by Heywood Gould and directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (“Planet of the Apes”/”Sphinx”/”Patton”), who follows Levin’s ingenious plotline until he reaches for a ludicrous climax that can’t be translated sensibly into any language and brings the film down as quickly as a Doberman can bring down an intruder.

The youthful Jewish activist reporter Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) is in Paraguay, where he stumbles onto wanted Nazi war criminal, the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck), noted for being the sadistic doctor at Auschwitz who performed thousands of inhuman genetic experiments on his unwilling subjects and became known as The Angel of Death. Mengele, at this secret meeting, assigns a cadre of loyal Nazis to assassinate in the next 2 and 1/2 years 94 unrelated former Nazi civil servants living in various parts of the world who are all older than 65, and further orders them to make their deaths look accidental. The mad scientist tells his fellow Nazis that it is vital to the future of the Third Reich that the order be carried out without question. Barry bugs their conversation, but gets caught and as a result is eliminated while on the phone before he can finish telling elderly Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier), stationed in Vienna, fully about this insane plan. The Nazi hunter uncovers that this diabolical plan of Mengele has to do with cloning hundreds of Hitlers through the boys from Brazil who are all bred from the genetic skin grafts taken from the body of Adolf Hitler during the war years and that it is hoped that one of these clones of the Fuhrer will eventually bring about another Third Reich and conquer the world for the Aryan race. The Nazi hunter pieces together while investigating in Europe and in New England that the murdered men had all fathered sons who were identical and had Hitler-like personalities.

James Mason solidly plays a Nazi colonel who acts as a contact to the Nazi higher command for Mengele and provides him with the assassins. Peck is cast against type as the villain, and though giving forth a valiant effort offers a stiff portrayal of Mengele and also has trouble mastering a convincing German accent. Olivier gives a solid performance, but not a great one playing the sympathetic Simon Wiesenthal figure. It’s more a silly and unbelievable pic than a bad one, but very watchable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”