- Movie Rating -

The Boys from Brazil (1978)

| October 5, 1978

If it didn’t have so many impressive names attached, then I might be tempted to think that The Boys from Brazil could make for great schlock.  Yet, the gated names that keep it out of that realm (or seem to) are Laurance Olivier, Gregory Peck, James Mason, Denholm Elliot, Bruno Ganz, Michael Gough, director Franklin J. Shaffner (Patton), and writer Heywood Gould (of the underappreciated Vietnam drama Rolling Thunder). 

But maybe this was the point.  The producer was Sir Lew Grade, whose habit of rolling out unwise big-money features earned him the nickname Sir Low Grade.  His idea of filmmaking craft was to take something popular (in this case, a well-established book), pad it with internationally known stars (see above), tack on a director of something award winning (again, see above) and have splashy ads with images that seem like appetizing trash (in this case, Nazis).

Sure, it makes for good dangling bait for the masses, but when you are the profiteer of such garbage, who cares if the public is sold a bill of goods once they enter the theater.  Screw them.

Given the financial shell game being played here, you might be tempted to think that the movie is really beside the point, and you’d be right.  If you weren’t one of the people making money off of this project then you understand where it came from and why it was made.  If you paid money to see it, then well that’s your problem.  That’s a sucker born every minute.

What passes for a movie here is based around a singular idea: the notion that sometime in the 1970s, an armada of escaped Nazis holed themselves up in South America and were being led by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele with the goal of reestablishing The Third Reich.  Not only establish it, but the scientifically create 94 clones of Adolf Hitler and set them loose in North America and Europe with the same upbringing in the hope that just one will follow in the footsteps of the previous Fuhrer and continue the 1,000-year reign as promised.

Okay, as mad scientist plots go, this one is pretty robust.  It opens up a gaggle of follow-up questions, but as far as ambitions go, for a pot-boiler like this, it’s a pretty good one.  The problem is that its stuck in one of the most ludicrous, overacted pieces of tripe ever to come out of a respectable studio (in this case 20th Century Fox, which was still rolling in the dough from Star Wars).  But the movie’s ambitions exceed its grasp.  We do get the clone Hitler (Jeremy Black), who is made just a shade away from looking exactly like Hitler but is just enough that you see the twist coming if you’re paying attention.  Still, an expensive embarrassment, an egress of excess.  Scheisse in the extreme.

[reviewed October 12, 2019]

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1978) View IMDB Filed in: Drama