Boys From Brazil, The


Olivier, Peck Are Boys Again

Main Cast:   Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

A classic what if scenario worked out as a spy/thriller flick, 1978’s The Boys From Brazil seemed credible at the time given that World War II era Nazis were likely still in South America.   People who fought for the Axis in the 1940s were still running around Brazil 30 years later, although obviously not the as the cliche-ridden villains they’ve become now.

Boys opens with a young man (Guttenberg) hunting those Nazis hiding in South America.  Guttenberg’s Barry isn’t entirely noble since a big motivator is his desire to impress aging hunter Ezra Lieberman (Olivier, in an Oscar nominated role).

After Barry believes he has hit the jackpot and found Josef Mengele, a reluctant Ezra joins the fight, slowly working to discover Mengele’s plans.  If Olivier at the top of his game isn’t wonderful enough screen candy, check out Gregory Peck, even in his 60s, as a manic Mengele whose own colleagues stop him.

Adapted from a sly Ira Levin novel, The Boys From Brazil is a cult classic fans still rave about, even film students who study the composition and editing.   Olivier and Peck are brilliant in their lead roles and surrounded by a capable veteran cast.    Common grist for pulp novels, the rise of the Third Reich in Paraguay was a shift for audiences who were devouring Grease and Animal House at the box office.

The other war movies that year were The Deer Hunter and Coming Home.  They split the Oscar vote, but it’s safe to say that only Olivier had a chance at a statue despite Peck’s Mengele.   In many ways, The Boys From Brazil holds an interesting place between the more serious films dealing with war and the funny films everyone went to see more than once. There is nothing humorous about Nazis, of course, but the heavy satire relieves the subject more effectively than Hogan’s Heroes ever did.

The Boys from Brazil isn’t as famous as 1978’s funny films, but is every bit as important certainly worth your time.

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