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Franklin J. Schaffner
Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Steve Guttenberg, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris
Writing Credits:
Ira Levin (novel), Heywood Gould

If they survive ... will we?

Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) has been living in Brazil during the 30 years following World War II, and has been trying to clone Hitler. A Nazi hunter named Ezra Lieberman (Lawrence Olivier) tracks him down and tries to thwart his plans.

Box Office:
$12 million.
Domestic Gross
$19.000 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 127 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 12/14/1999

• Trailers
• Production Notes
• Cast and Crew Bios


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Boys From Brazil (1978)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 23, 2007)

Am I the only one around who can't watch a movie without having multiple alternate images bop around in my head? No, I'm not discussing the voices in my head; they rarely relate directly to the film in question. I'm referring to connections the current presentation may have to other media.

Take The Boys From Brazil, for example. When I think of that film, I think of one thing: a sketch on SCTV. That program featured a cooking show with a character named Angus Crock. On this particular episode, his guest was Gregory Peck as Joseph Mengele in Brazil. The part that stays with me is Peck staring at some beef and stating, "This roast is brown. It should be blue!" (It's a lot funnier when Joe Flaherty does it.)

The presence of Laurence Olivier also reminded me of a prior - and better - Nazi oriented film in which he starred. That would be 1976's Marathon Man, which presented the indelible image of Sir Larry knifing a guy in the jugular.

Despite all these competing influences, I managed to stick to the story of Brazil pretty well. Don't take my comment that Marathon Man is a better film to be a slam on this one, because it's not meant as such. Man was a fantastic piece of work, whereas Brazil is merely pretty good. There's nothing wrong with "pretty good," is there?

One thing I really liked about Brazil was the fact that it honestly starred older actors. How often do we see films in which all of the major characters are old enough for Social Security? Okay, I guess those kinds of movies do happen, but not in this kind of action/thriller setting. The old dudes are usually relegated to the more sedate settings of The Straight Story or Waking Ned Devine. It's also nice to have a break from movies that feature the elderly in which death always seems to be a predominant theme.

Of course, death is a factor in Brazil, but not due to natural causes. Without giving away too much of the story, it involves an intricate plot to eventually return Nazis to worldwide prominence. The story unfolds in a slow but suspenseful manner, and while the ultimate plot point was fairly predictable, it still packs a punch.

The story seems somewhat silly and very improbable. The Nazi plan requires environmental manipulation that would never be possible, though the film creates a surface impression that it could work. Nonetheless, it's tense and exciting enough that I didn't really care.

Again, a lot of this was due to the actors. I must admit that I didn't care for a lot of Olivier's work in the film, as he tended to make Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman too much of a Jewish stereotype. Despite that choice, Olivier still lends a fair amount of power in the role, and his overacting subsides as the film continues. Lieberman seems more real toward the end than he did during the previous parts. Maybe Olivier's acting wasn't such a bad move after all, since this subtle alteration makes Lieberman seem more substantial and threatening when he needs to be. Well, I still think he seemed too hammy for much of the film, but I can see these positives.

More consistently positive in my opinion was Peck as Mengele. He really portrays the menace and mania of Mengele, and he's a hoot to watch as well. There's something about that deadpan delivery of his that suited the character really well, and he works out terrifically. Now if only I could stop thinking about that blue roast...

While I can't claim that The Boys From Brazil is a classic, it's definitely a compelling and entertaining ride. It's worth watching just to see some fun and physical performances from some great actors. How often do you get to see personalities like Olivier and Peck go at each other?

The DVD Grades: Picture D/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

The Boys from Brazil appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That was just one of many problems that marred this transfer.

The main concern stemmed from sharpness. From start to finish, this was a soft image. Some shots fared better than others, as close-ups presented acceptable definition, but those were the exceptions. Most of the flick came across as blurry and fuzzy. This created a terrible distraction and made it tough to watch the movie.

Jagged edges weren’t an issue, but some shimmering occurred, and I noticed a fair amount of edge enhancement. Source flaws were surprisingly minor, though. Grain could be a little heavy, and I saw a smattering of specks and marks. These weren’t bad, though, as they failed to form too many problems.

Colors tended to be lackluster. Skin tones were usually pinkish, and the other hues were somewhat flat and bland. Blacks also seemed inky, while shadows seemed a bit thick and murky. All in all, this was an unappealing transfer, especially due to the problems with sharpness.

Brazil presented a monaural soundtrack that seemed perfectly acceptable for a film of its vintage. Audio quality was decent but not terribly good. Dialogue appeared fairly clear though it could be somewhat flat and lifeless and also showed occasional edginess. However, the lines remained consistently intelligible. Effects also sounded somewhat dull but were reasonably accurate, with little distortion. Music occasionally demonstrated greater life, as the score boasted reasonably lively tones. These elements weren’t terrific, but they seemed better than the rest. Overall, this was a perfectly passable mono mix.

This DVD contains a few minor supplements. Cast and Crew biographies appear for actors Gregory Peck, Sir Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer, Uta Hagen, Denholm Elliott and Rosemary Harris as well as director Franklin J. Schaffner, writer Heywood Gould, and producers Robert Fryer, Martin Richards and Stanley O’Toole. These are actually pretty good, though the quality of the entry declines as we go down the food chain of stature. As such, the listings for Olivier and Peck are much more detailed than those for the film's producers.

Some odd aspects of these entries: for one, only Denholm Elliott's death is mentioned, even though Olivier, Mason, Schaffner and some of the others are no longer with us. Also, I found it interesting that Olivier's filmography didn't mention his involvement in Sun Myung Moon's absurdly expensive 1982 disaster Inchon. The remainder of the listing seemed complete, so why this film wasn't included is unknown. Despite these curiosities, the biographies are generally good.

The DVD also features some fairly brief but informative production notes and two trailers. Those ads are kind of hidden; you need to go into the production notes section to discover them. The second trailer is quite effective, but the first one seems hamfisted and it also reveals too much of the plot, so don't watch it if you haven't seen the movie. The DVD's booklet also presents four paragraphs of informative notes that largely offer material not seen on the disc.

Ultimately, I can't really recommend The Boys From Brazil as a purchase just because it's such an unspectacular DVD. I liked the movie a lot, but this package leaves a lot to be desired. The disc presents average audio with terrible picture quality and almost no extras. Brazil needs to be re-released to make up for this poor DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4 Stars Number of Votes: 10
2 3:
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