The Boys from Brazil

At first glance, “The Boys of Brazil” seemed to deal with unusual subject matter, it seemed to come with a high pedigree and as a result I was initially expecting a great deal. Top notch stars such as Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier further whetted my appetite and I knew that Director Franklin J. Schaffner had a proven track record with titles such as “Papillon,” “Patton” and the original “Planet of the Apes.” “Welcome Home” starring Jane Fonda and John Voigt is another career highlight and another particular favorite of mine.

Originally released in 1978 and based on a book by Ira Levin, I saw the film as a teenager although it didn’t particularly stick in my mind. When I noticed a recent re-run in the terrestrial TV schedules I decided to do some reminiscing.

While attempting to explore a controversial topic, it proved to be an effective although ultimately shallow and unsatisfying thriller involving a Nazi cloning plot organized by Dr Joseph Mengele. Death camp Doctor Mengele, who performed infamous concentration camp experiments in attempts to develop a superior Aryan race, is now exiled in South America and still pursuing his dream of a Fourth Reich. Gregory Peck is excellent as Dr Mengele as is Laurence Olivier as a Simon Wiesenthal type professional Nazi Hunter, Ezra Lieberman, who hears of and then attempts to foil the plot. Other famous faces featured include an underused James Mason, a young Steve Guttenberg, Lili Palmer and Denholm Elliot. Watch out for Prunella Scales a.k.a. Sybill Fawlty too.

The scientifically possible but very improbable plot might hinder your enjoyment but the two main stars, high profile director and the quality cast live up to their reputations and provide good value for money although everybody involved has done much better.

In many ways this is a wasted opportunity and I personally was looking for something with more depth. No real attempt was made to address the legal, ethical or scientific aspects of cloning and the age old nature or nurture question concerning child development was hinted at but not fully explored.

It might be useful as a sixth form vehicle to provoke a discussion on cloning and associated topics such as GM food but my original appraisal from thirty plus years ago turned out to be highly accurate. Maybe I was a reasonably cultured teenager after all.

Is it time to play the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and Clash albums again?

Anyone for “Cranked Up Really High” by Slaughter and the Dogs?

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