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?
Franklin Schaffner was a high-powered Hollywood director who had helmed some mega-hits and a few classics, including "Planet of the Apes", "Nicholas and Alexandra", and "Patton", and he plays it straight in "The Boys from Brazil", rounding out an impressive ensemble of serious actors with a Jerry Goldsmith score (solid, but sounding like something Strauss might have composed had he done his composing from the inside of an insane asylum).
But it's all to no avail: much like "Dreamcatchers" did with Larry Kasdan, "Boys from Brazil" gets away from its director, zagging when it should zig, taking on a life of its own, and as a result the movie is a hoot and completely, and unintentionally, hysterical. For one thing, Olivier's performance is so over-the-top as to constitute self-parody---and yet it works! On the bad-guy side, despite the inclusion of staid veteran actors like James Mason and Walter Gotell (the elegant, understated German actor who played Soviet General Gogol in the bond films)ideally to serve as ballast on Peck, the man digs in to his role like a Frenchman with a slab of brie---you *roll* those R's, Gregory! With that in mind, what do you get with this little Wagner-goes-Samba potboiler?
*See Gregory Peck stomping around in banana-yellow tie, white suit, and (occasionaly) booties, screaming profanity at underlings! See Peck get all mushy over fond memories of vivisection and genetic experimentation!
*See Peck and Nazi-Hunter Olivier in a bare-fisted, no-holds-brawl that would make Mike Tyson blush, complete with neck clawing eyeball gouging, and arm-biting!
*See a full-bodied Nazi celebration at a Paraguayan hotel, replete with drum-beating Hitler youth and Adolf Hitler banners!
*See an exposition sequence that makes the DNA-splicing segment in "Jurassic Park" look nimble and deft!
*See a sneering international army of snotty little clones (played to nerve-twitching perfection by child-actor Jeremy Black, born ahead of his time---a shame, too, he would have been a natural for the Annakin Skywalker role in "Star Wars: Episode 1") stomp around and bully their parents and anyone else who gets in the way!
*And best of all, see Uta Hagen get her dander up and prove that Olivier is outgunned when it comes to chewing scenery!
"The Boys from Brazil" is a hearty serving of Bavarian cheese with a side-order of cheese, but fortunately this little excursion is helmed by professionals: good pacing, good direction, good cinematography, competent acting, and a score that complements the action---and best of all, "Boys" delivers on its premise with both barrels, and isn't afraid to skimp on the red sauce. If you've ever wanted to see Gregory Peck rolling around on the floor with Laurence Olivier in a kind of 1970-s version of "Bumfights", this is the movie for you.