Friday, October 5, 2018

Brazilian Barbarism

This is my entry in the James Mason Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Movies.

"Mr. Kohler... it may be a blinding revelation to you that there are Nazis in Paraguay, but I assure you it is no news to me..."  So says Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier) to the young intrepid Jewish investigator, Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg).  And of course, everybody knows that many Nazi war criminals hid out in South America, some to be found by intrepid Nazi hunters,  like a younger Lieberman, who was fictional; but based on real people.

The trope of a Nazi Fourth Reich has had a half-life of popularity in fiction almost since the day the Allies invaded the bunker that held Hitler's body.  The action/adventure section of the used book store stacks will reveal any number of books that concern espionage and covert operations, and in fact there actually were plans to revive the Reich. (For an actual history, might I suggest The Axmann Conspiracy: The Nazi Plan for a Fourth Reich and How the U.S. Army Defeated It by Scott Andrew Selby? It's rather intriguing.)  Not all the novels came with such intriguing scenarios as the one portrayed in Ira Levin's book and subsequent film The Boys from Brazil, however.

Lieberman continues to chide Kohler, implicitly stating that if he continues in his prying, "there will still be Nazis in Paraguay, but there will be one less Jewish boy."

The Boys from Brazil (1978):

There you go. As Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) discovers, there are indeed Nazis in Paraguay.  But Kohler is onto something really big.  He has been pestering his idol, the aging Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier) with his findings and persists in his endeavors, despite the relative lack of encouragement Kohler receives from his would be mentor.

And indeed there are some serious shenanigans going on in Paraguay.  Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) himself, the holy grail of Nazi criminals, if you will, is on hand.  As well as several trusted bigwigs in the former Third Reich.

Mengele has a plan.  There are almost a hundred men, all civil servants, who must die in the coming years.  Not just die, but die at certain points in their lives.  It's all part of a nefarious plan.  And no it's not a coincidence that all the men must die at or around age 64.  Nor is it a coincidence that each man will be leaving behind a wife who is 20 years younger than he is.  And it is definitely not a coincidence that all the men have a son, each of which looks astoundingly like each other.

(I don't have to put a mustache on that picture to help you along, do I?)

Mengele is gung ho on his plans, and everything is going along smoothly.  He even has the encouragement of the boss of his project, Eduard Siebert (James Mason).

Except that somewhere along the way things start to go awry.  As they usually do when bad guys try to rule the world.  See, Kohler, despite his failure to initially get Lieberman's help, manages to instill a curiosity in his idol.  Of course, Kohler had to die to do it, just like Lieberman predicted.

But now, without much to go on, Lieberman is making progress on unraveling the nefarious plans of Mengele, Siebert and  So Siebert and the hibernating Nazi bigwigs cancel Mengele's day in the sun.  But Mengele, the dedicated Nazi that he is, is not about to let a bunch of incompetent lily-livered  bureaucrats put a damper on his parade.  The men will die, even if he has to personally kill each one himself.

Lieberman finally puts all the pieces together after talking with a former Nazi he helped track down who is in prison and a doctor who clues him in on the progress science has made in the field of cloning.

Getting any ideas yet?

The plot is rather formulaic by today's standards, but this rather unique twist on the trope was pretty cutting edge when it first appeared, and it's still entertaining, even if you already know the plot.

Time to head home, folks.  Drive safely.



  1. I haven't seen this in ages, but somehow I think it plays best in my memory.

    1. Its enough that you've seen it once. Thanks for reading.

  2. I like this movie a lot, but I think it suffers at the hands of time because we have too many people who don't really understand what the Nazis were really all about. In today's political discourse, it's become so easy to slap the "Nazi" label on somebody that it's watered the term down to the point that too many people don't get what a "Fourth Reich" would really mean.

    1. The fact that the political left (in America) loves putting the Nazi appellation on the political right pretty much sums that up. Obviously those politicians never read Shier's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (or Mein Kampf, for that matter.) Thanks for reading.

  3. It's a fun thriller. The movie is ahead of its time! Peck's performance has always been a topic of discussion. Personally, I thought he was great! And Olivier proves to be a versatile actor -- he had played a Nazi in Marathon Man!

    1. I'm not so sure Olivier is all that great as a Jew. But he was better here than he was in The Jazz Singer. But then who WAS any good in The Jazz Singer...? Thanks for reading.

  4. I quite liked this film – have only seen it once, but I loved all the Big Name Stars in it. Not sure I'd make a habit of watching this film on a regular basis, but you've sure got me jonesing to see it again! :)

    1. It may be a while before I watch it again. But it is entertaining. Thanks for reading.


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