THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, 1978
Starring: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner
A leading Nazi-hunter discovers a sinister plan to restart the Third Reich in South America.
What makes this movie shocking is that it was true-to-life in many ways. The huge swathes of Nazi’s which departed Germany for South America was shocking and their detection lay undisturbed for years. Eichmann, who orchestrated the Final Solution, was captured in Argentina by Mossad forces and brought to Israel where he was tried and hung for his crimes. The same cannot be said for Josef Mengele, aka the Angel of Death who worked at Auschwitz where he led horrific experiments, who evaded capture for the whole of his life and died as a result of a stroke in 1979.
Mengele (Peck) is now living in Paraguay and living the life of a King. His obsession with genetics led to him now trying to start up a new Third Reich, otherwise known as a Fourth Reich, in his adopted country after he drew Hitler’s blood and now starts to clone the Fuhrer in many countries. Aided by leading SS Officers and neo-Nazi’s, Mengele yearns to start up this new evil venture of his but is hindered by the Nazi hunter Erza Lieberman (Olivier) as he tries everything in his power to stop this from happening. Will Mengele be successful or will he be stopped at last?
A mixture of science fiction and thriller, the movies plays on this brilliantly. The intense way in which this world is created is disgusting as a number of Hitler clones can be found throughout the world and Mengele’s menacing nature is portrayed perfectly thanks to Peck and at no point do we pity his life and that we root for Olivier’s character as he tries to find out where Mengele is.
Olivier is the cinematic portrayal of leading Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Lieberman too is frail but gathers up all his strength to try and destroy this notorious Nazi. It might seem odd that the same man who played Henry V in 1944 would then portray this character but what makes this an excellent role is this part in particular as he gives a human voice to the madness which the Nazi’s had in them.
Like its sister film “Marathon Man”, which was released in 1976 and starred Olivier too but this time as a Nazi, “The Boys From Brazil” shows the significance of bringing to account those who were responsible for some of the worst atrocities known to man. And it is thanks to the director which puts this point across perfectly. This movie in particular was one of the last to be directed by Schaffner and it is due to the subtle way in which he moves the camera that the tension not just between Olivier and Peck becomes apparent but also with other characters such as the SS Officers as they try to evade capture.
Based on Ira Levin’s novel, this film takes into account what was probably known about Mengele. He did live in Paraguay but his exact whereabouts were not known. It is not known that Mengele did actually draw Hitler’s blood as when he escaped Auschwitz before Soviet forces arrived at the notorious death camp. Mengele did not have time to take these types of specimens and it was mainly papers which he had with him. But what this movie compensates for in fact, it provides a highly entertaining film which towards the end of it provides justice as Mengele has his comeuppance which he never rightfully received.
With recent movies released which are about Nazi’s, such as “Downfall” in 2004, the obsession with this political group will never go away but as long as history learns from its mistakes it means that periods like this won’t happen again. One of the leading films based around Nazism, “The Boys From Brazil” not only has a stellar cast but subject matter which is enthralling from start to finish.
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