Retro Review: The Boys From Brazil (1978)

Lets not lie – we like violence in films.  We salivate at the sight of blood, and we hungrily consume stories of detriment and failure to survive.  Even a bloodthirsty and devoted horror fan will sometimes venture outside the genre, just to get a good look at a classic death scene.  With that in mind, let us now sidestep, for a moment, into the realm of the late 70’s thriller The Boys From Brazil.

This story is based on characters that really existed and plays upon the fantasy of them resurfacing here in the present – with a new plan of doom for most of mankind.  We’re talking about the Nazi’s.  One of history’s best actors Gregory Peck (The Omen) plays Dr. Josef Mengele.  According to Wikipedia, Dr. Mengele was “a Nazi German SS officer and a physician in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.  He gained notoriety chiefly for being one of the SS physicians who supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who was to be killed and who was to become a forced laborer, and for performing human experiments of dubious scientific value on camp inmates (among them, Mengele was known as the Angel of Death).”

Another legendary actor, Lawrence Olivier, plays Ezra Lieberman – a Nazi hunter who stumbles upon a conspiracy to kill tens of 65 year old fathers across the globe.  Upon closer inspection of these discovered families, Ezra realizes that all of them have identical looking sons.  As the pieces come together, Ezra comes to the horrific realization that Dr. Mengele has cloned 90 plus children in an attempt to recreate an exact duplicate of one Adolf Hitler.

The Holocaust was an occurance that can not be described by words like “horrific”, “brutal”, “terrifying” – terms which we use everyday to relate to the most evil of atrocities that can occur to a human being on film.  What happened was real, and indescribably evil – one thinking, feeling person at a time – for five million people.  Burned alive in groups in ovens, experimented upon without anesthesia, shot in the head before their family members – it was one of the most evil periods in human history.  Just the inference of trying to recreate such a leader, to bring back such a situation, is borderline horror.

Although the acting is stellar, especially in Peck’s case, Boys From Brazil plays out much of its plot in drama form, and over 2 hours long, it doesn’t offer anything to the average horror fan.  Until the ending.  If dogs make you uncomfortable – especially packs of owner-protective Doberman Pincers – the end will sufficiently unnerve.  Horror leaning viewers are rewarded in the end, as a young Adolf Hitler holds his viscious attack dogs at bay, as they drool, bloodthirsty for both Mengele’s and Ezra’s throats.  Surprisingly, young Hitler unleashes the canines, and one of them is ripped to shreds – gurgling high-pitched screams as his throat his eaten alive.

Final analysis:  This is a classic death scene played by legendary actors.  Fans of The Omen not familiar with The Boys From Brazil should give this a once-over.  Fans of extreme horror will be bored to death, but people who can appreciate a late 70’s thriller won’t go wrong.  When I was a kid, and cable was young, this film played Showtime and HBO for a while.  I hadn’t seen the film in 20 years.  I saw the title and remembered a particular ending with a lot of dogs and blood.  I’m not recommending the average horror fan go out and rent this – but if you come across it on disc – definitely check out the final chapter.


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