The Boys from Brazil
Release Year: 1978
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Writers: Heywood Gould (screenplay), Ira Levin (based on his 1976 novel The Boys from Brazil)
Starring: Gregory Peck, Laurene Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Denholm Elliott, Steve Guttenberg, Rosemary Harris, John Dehner, John Rubenstein, Jeremy Black, Bruno Ganz, Walter Gotell, Michael Gough
Rating: Nominated for 3 Oscars: Best Actor (Laurence Olivier), Best Editing, Best Score. Nominated for 1 Golden Globe: Best Actor – Drama (Gregory Peck). Nominated for 6 Saturn Awards: Best science Fiction Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Laurence Olivier), Best Supporting Actress (Uta Hagen), Best Writing, Best Music.
A young Nazi hunter working in South America discovers a sinister plot to rekindle the Third Reich led by the notorious war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck). He passes his information on the to the elderly Jewish Nazi hunter Lieberman (Laurence Olivier) who sets about uncovering the truth.
The Boys from Brazil is the sort of film you should know as little about as possible for the plot to have its intended effect. Such films are often only really fit for one viewing, but The Boys from Brazil has the great asset of Gregory Peck (Moby Dick, 1956) and Laurence Olivier (Rebecca, 1940). Peck has a change the give his best shot at utterly despicable villain as the, sadly, all too real Dr. Josef Mengele who as a Nazi physician at Auschwitz was behind horrendous human experimentation, and, as in the film, evaded capture and lived in South America after the end of the war. As his opposite is the legendary thespian Laurence Olivier as the Jewish Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman in a surprisingly funny performance considering the dire subject matter. The film’s source material is the novel of the same name by Ira Levin, the writer who also penned the stories behind films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Stepford Wives (1975), films that also brilliantly exploits black humour in horrific circumstances. The plot is brilliant and ludicrous in equal measure, but sold by a fear of how easy things can turn sour again and the fragile resistance symbolised by the lone knight, the semi-forgotten Lieberman. The rest of the cast does very well in the shadows of the two leads, especially Uta Hagen (The Other, 1972). The film is not a technical master piece or a particularly beautiful film, nor does it offer character development, it is purely a plot driven thriller and as such is probably a 7 star film, but two memorable leads earns it an extra star. Highly recommended.
The movie publicity stated that the film was Gregory Peck’s first villainous role. Although Peck had played characters that could be seen as villains before, Peck himself felt that Dr. Josef Mengele was the only completely unsympathetic role of his career.
For his performance in this film Laurence Olivier received his 10th and final Oscar nomination, making him the most nominated actor in Oscar history, until his record was broken by Jack Nicholson. Ironically, he had received his 9th nomination two years earlier for Marathon Man (1976) in which he played a character based on Josef Mengele.
Gregory Peck received a lot of criticism for his performance (despite a Golden Globe nomination), which Peck felt had to do with unability of some reviewers to accept actors breaking with their image. His feelings were shared by Laurence Olivier and close acting friends Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.
Picture Copyright: On Air Video