Just Cloning Around,
This review is from: Boys from Brazil (Widescreen) (DVD)Based on the 1976 bestseller by Ira Levin, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL is an entertaining sci-fi/horror flick concerning a plot to establish a new German Reich, one headed by none other than Adolf Hitler himself. After Nazi hunters discover the whereabouts of Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous Auschwitz doctor--often referred to as the "Angel of Death"--who performed atrocious medical experiments on Jewish prisoners, they eventually uncover his most heinous experiment of all: Mengele has created multiple clones of the evil Fürer and has subsequently distributed the children around the world with hopes that one will grow up under the right circumstances and, with a little help from surviving Third-Reich Nazis, bring Germany back to its former "glory."
When Ira Levin writes a novel, he has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Even though his stories are often categorized as horror or science fiction, most of his works are not meant to be interpreted as speculation about something that could actually happen; instead, they should be read as allegories, satires, or even as cautionary tales. And the same is true of the films that have been based on his novels. The real message of THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL is that scientific advancement is a two-edged sword--it can be used for great benefit and good, but it can be used with equally strong malice when in the hands of the wrong person. (The movie also takes satirical pokes and jabs at certain aspects of the scientific community. One of the most obvious targets is the ongoing nature-versus-nurture debate in Psychological circles.)
Interestingly enough, however, the film has become even more chilling in recent years because some of the things depicted actually HAVE come about. Around 1985, it was learned that the remains of Joseph Mengele were in South America...and in the last country in which he'd taken refuge--Brazil! (It was determined that he'd died circa 1980). And, of course, the news today is replete with stories about cloning, the coverage dealing with the advancements in the laboratory as well as political and religious fervor over the ethicality of both the procedure and its potential results. So while THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL may be a satire or in some ways even a parody, the basic plot is more firmly rooted in reality than some critcs and moviegoers may have initially realized.
As with most decent movies, part of the fun of watching this film is the acting. Several big names show up: James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Rosemary Harris, and Steve Guttenberg, to name just a few. But it is the over-the-top performances of Sir Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck as the two principals--Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman and the infamous Dr. Mengele, respectively--that really steal the show. Both actors ham it up and often fervently chew the scenery, yet their performances in no way seem disrespectful to the script or its source material. Both actors manage to bring Mengele and Liberman to life as intelligent, driven men who are extremely passionate about doing their part in the bizarre events in which they have become key players (Mengele by choice; Liberman by circumstance).
Though the movie is not quite as strong or as cohesive as Levin's novel, it can still be quite intense at times and is engaging overall. Certainly worth a viewing or two.
The DVD from Artisan Entertainment is short on extras, and though it does not offer the greatest digital transfer ever, it is still quite viewable. Considering the fairly reasonable price, it probably deserves a spot in the film library of an ardent movie buff.