If you're like me, you should immediately pop "The Boys from Brazil" into the hopper, sit back with a big bowl of extra-buttery popcorn, and you'll cheer up in no time.
Director Franklin Shaffner pulls out all the stops in this delicious 1970's romp, uses all the tricks at his disposal to concoct and serve up a steaming, hardy serving of Nazi conspiracy mongering deep in modern day South America, and garnishes this well-seasoned little dish with ample amounts of the red sauce, killer attack Dobermans, a small army of sneering little clones, and gratuitous amounts of both Lawrence Olivier and Gregory Peck chewing up the scenery like starving men at an All-you-can-Eat Buffet.
And what a tasty and well-stocked buffet it is: "The Boys from Brazil" gets to work immediately and plunges its arms deep into its tale of young Jewish Nazi-hunters (one of whom is played by Steve Guttenberg) on the trail of infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, now escaped to Paraguay and meeting with SS officers to brew up an insidious plot.
Gregory Peck has the time of his career playing the wicked, moustachioed, banana-yellow tie & white sear-sucker suit-wearing Mengele, barking orders, rolling his R's, making midgets cower, yowling invective at an improbably ugly SS wife, and generally having great fun. And what high-cheese Nazi hunt would be complete without Sir Lawrence Olivier, who plays veteran Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman, who gets drawn into all the fun from semi-retirement in Vienna, Austria?Read more ›
Peck lives up to his reputation with this white-faced, black-haired, insane profile of Dr. Mengele. Mengele in person wasn't nearly as impressive! It is a refreshing change from Peck's usual roles, about as far from Atticus in "Mockingbird" as you can get! His cold and calculating confidence in himself and his work is still a standout among movie thrillers. Back when this film was made, the rumors of an international Nazi cabal operating out of S. America would still made the papers. Now, more than 50 years since V-E Day, it's a little less credible.
Olivier is great, as always. He plays to character, at least for an American stereotypical Jew, though possibly not for a European. Lilli Palmer is beautiful; no amount of effort to make her look shabby would succeed. I particularly enjoyed Uta Hagen as the imprisoned Nazi operative; I wished there was more exposure for her.
There wasn't a weak part in the cast of the film; everyone plays to a high standard. It was a pleasure to watch when it first came out, and doesn't appear too dated now. And, in some ways, it is even more believable now, particularly re cloning!
Gregory Peck gives the performance of his career as evil Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. People are so used to seeing him play all-American upstanding hero types in movies like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Gentleman's Agreement" (coincidentally, in which Peck plays a newspaperman trying to expose anti-Semitism), that the viewer can see the glee he feels when playing the demented genetecist. Sure, it's a hammy performance, but that doesn't mean it's poorly acted; Peck's Mengele ranks with other great hammy performances, such as Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry and Orson Welles as......every role he's ever played.
Laurence Olivier plays the Jewish Nazi-hunter Ezra Liebermann a bit over the top as well, but quite convincingly, particularly when he drags on a cigarette for his nicotine fix; by the expression on his face, you can see it's simultaneously boosting him while killing him slowly. Liebermann is based on real-life figures Serge Klarsfeld and Simon Wiesenthal. For a Brit, Olivier delivers his lines with a more than passable Yiddisha accent that sounds like a cross between Billy Crystal and Mel Brooks' 2000 year old man.Read more ›