THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL and the Plot to Raise the Fourth Reich [Two Cents]

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Please note it’s basically impossible to meaningfully discuss this film without giving away a relatively interesting spoiler. This spoiler is rather common knowledge about the film for those who’ve heard of it, freely offered in synopses and the like, but is in fact a late revelation that seems intended to surprise the audience. Proceed with caution if you’d rather go in blind.

The Boys From Brazil may sound like the title of a documentary about a pop group, or maybe the global sex trade, but is in fact a science fiction thriller about an aging Nazi hunter (Laurence Olivier) who stumbles onto the most incredible find of his career. Having escaped to South America and lain low for three decades, prominent Nazi war criminals including the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) attempt to enact a daring plan which began some years ago: to reinstate the Third Reich by way of an army of clones of Adolf Hitler which he created and hid throughout the world. The film also features supporting turns from James Mason and Steve Guttenberg, plus lots of recognizable actors in smaller roles, including Lilli Palmer, Denholm Elliott, Rosemary Harris, Michael Gough, and Bruno Ganz (who, on a related note, would notably go on to play Adolf Hitler in Downfall.

With its incredible cast, serious tone and mix of action and intrigue, The Boys From Brazil made for an interesting but surprisingly divisive subject for this week’s review roundup.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick:

Director William Wyler had already worked with Audrey Hepburn twice (in Roman Holiday and The Children’s Hour) when he paired her with Peter O’Toole in How To Steal A Million, a romantic caper set in the world of high art and its forgery. Charade was a big hit with our crew so we’re hoping to replicate that fun outing with another Hepburn classic that seems to be along the same lines. Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

Our Guests

Trey Lawson:

The Boys from Brazil is a weird dose of 1970s pop culture. Based on a novel by the author of Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, and from the director of Planet of the Apes, The Boys from Brazil blends fact and science fiction in its tale of Nazi hunting and genetic experimentation. I actually really enjoy the cast in this: Sir Laurence Olivier is entertaining as the Nazi hunter, and both James Mason and (especially) Gregory Peck play mustache-twirling war criminals with villainous (if a bit one-dimensional) enthusiasm. What works against the film is its muddled tone; there are touches of humor and silliness scattered sporadically throughout — especially in the first half. Yet for most of the film the subject matter is treated incredibly seriously. I can imagine a different, more engaging version of the film which more fully embraced the camp potential of its premise, as in something like the film version of Rosemary’s Baby ten years earlier. Unfortunately, that isn’t what we get here, and The Boys From Brazil‘s tonal problems are exacerbated by its fairly dreadful pacing, which might generously be described as sluggish. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch, and the strength of its leads takes it a long way, but it feels pretty dated. The Boys from Brazil is the sort of quirky conspiracy/sci-fi(ish) drama that could only have happened in the mid-to-late 1970s, and if you dig that sort of thing you could do a lot worse. But that said (and don’t say I didn’t warn you), 1970s child actors were the worst. (@T_Lawson)

The Team


A great concept and great actors can only take you so far. Despite Hitler clones and a high caliber cast featuring a young Steve Guttenberg, this is about as dull as reading one of Brendon’s (Editor’s note: Not my name) reviews. At least Brendon’s (Editor’s Note: That’s not how my name is spelled) reviews can sometimes be inadvertently entertaining.

I kid, I kid. The film is far less interesting and, on the real, Brendon’s (Editor’s Note: Oh for fuck’s sake) reviews are gold. Austin (who I believe chose this pick), on the other hand… (@thepaintedman)


How this film never reached the level of bona fide classic is beyond me. There’s so much about The Boys from Brazil to love, but the outrageously frightening plot is what stands out the most. The idea of literally creating an army of Nazis from scratch is both twisted and ingenious all at once. Such an outlandish plot could have come across as campy and cartoonish, but director Franklin J. Schaffner adapts Ira Levin’s novel in a manner which presents the events as chillingly real, making the final product an intelligent exercise in suspense.

Adding great heft and excitement to the proceedings is the chance to watch two distinct and powerhouse acting legends such as Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier show they still had the chops to pull off what were the final great roles of their career. Watching the pair bring their respective schools of acting to the decade of the late 70s and succeed in carrying the film with two undeniably dynamic performances is second to actually watching them act opposite each other in the film’s final moments. (@frankfilmgeek)


Years ago, I sat down to watch The Boys from Brazil and fell asleep twenty minutes in.

This time, I stayed awake for The Boys from Brazil and watched the full run time.

I was right the first time. (@TheTrueBrendanF)


I’m kind of surprised by the mixed reactions on this week’s pick, which I found incredibly solid and entertaining. This “Nazi science fiction” idea could easily have been approached with a cheesy or comedic bent, but The Boys From Brazil swings for the fences, with two of the most prolific actors of all time in Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier (not to mention their supporting cast), and a serious tone that never dips into winking or farce.

The Hitler clones collectively are embodied as a kid who is a bit of a turd… but wouldn’t you expect him to be? Most interestingly from a thematic perspective, the film considers the idea of whether a clone of Hitler — a child who hasn’t committed any atrocities… yet — should be pre-judged.

Frank’s analysis of the film very closely echoes my own, except for the bit about it being the last great roles for Peck and Olivier — both had incredible turns as famous Abarahams — Peck as Lincoln in The Blue and The Gray, and Olivier as Van Helsing in John Badham’s Dracula. (@VforVashaw)

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

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