The Boys From Brazil (1978)


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Rating: The Good – 69.3
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 125 mins
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Stars: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason

The premise which Ira Levin’s novel worked off was that a group of exiled Nazi’s attempted to create another Hitler not only by cloning him but by ensuring that the clones experienced the same chronologically synchronised socio-environmental and personal episodes as Hitler himself did. This was and still is a fascinating premise. However, it’s also very far-fetched and to prevent any film adaptation from seeming slightly absurd, some very clever adapting was needed. So did director Franklin J. Schaffner (him behind Planet of the Apes and Patton) and script-writer Heywood Gould pull it off? Well, yes and no. The script is economic and tight so while the movie is playing, the audience isn’t given much time to dwell on some of the logical stretches. There are also a couple of genuine heavy-weight actors on show with Lawrence Olivier as a famous Nazi hunter and Gregory Peck in an against-type turn as Dr. Mengele and that presence alone adds an air of credibility to the movie. On the other hand, Olivier (being a theatre actor first and foremost) does over-act in many of his scenes and because Peck is so far away from his most famous roles, his performance seems all the more conspicuous. Moreover, there’s the clunky performance of Steve Guttenberg who drags the drama down to the level of goofy in the earlier parts of movie. That said, when the film really clicks it’s quite thrilling such as when the boy clones are on screen, or when we catch glimpses of the local Brazilians whom Mengele was experimenting on, or during that final showdown between him and Olivier’s Nazi hunter. Overall therefore, The Boys From Brazil is definitely worth watching whether you are fan of science fiction movies or those paranoid thrillers the 70’s produced so easily.

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