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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Boys From Brazil (Blu-ray)
The Boys From Brazil (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // January 6, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $24.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted January 7, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

There is quite a bit of clout behind 1978 geopolitical thriller The Boys from Brazil. It stars Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, is directed by then-hot ticket Franklin J. Schaffner (The Planet of the Apes, Patton), and is adapted by Heywood Gould (Rolling Thunder) from a novel by Ira Levin. The results are varied, though The Boys from Brazil entertains with its sci-fi undercurrent and schlocky villains. Schaffner and his leads took some flak for the cartoonish Nazi caricatures and ridiculous scheming, and the film culminates with a gory showdown not befitting such acting legends. That is not a criticism, per se, but The Boys from Brazil teeters on the edge of ridiculous before plunging off the cliff before the credits roll.

Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Olivier) learns notorious Auschwitz surgeon Josef Mengele (Peck) is hiding in Paraguay amid a group of Nazi sympathizers. He overhears Mengele order his followers to kill 94 men across the world and begins a desperate search for the targets. The frail but determined Lieberman travels the globe, seeking out former Nazi wives, imprisoned guards and anyone else with insight into Mengele's plans. What he uncovers is understood by viewers well before the film's ultimate reveal, but the whole plot is so ridiculous that it hardly matters. Levin's novel is pulp in the best way, and The Boys From Brazil uses genetic modification, brainwashing and Bond-villain chicanery to further its exploits.

This is kind of a highbrow effort to have such a lowbrow story, but that is part of the charm. Peck plays Mengele without restraint and with plenty of pasty makeup. It is hard to take his posturing seriously, and the performance is borderline satire. Olivier follows suit with some interesting mannerisms and questionable acting decisions, and the whole thing plays out like an overcooked cable thriller. The recurring "boy" (Jeremy Black) likely heard directions of "act creepy" or "do something strange" from Schaffner, and his off-putting coda was not attached to original prints of the film. The film flirts with big ideas about lineage and learned behavior, but fails to bring these to fruition. Instead, you get an entertainingly tacky story about evil Nazis.

Peck and Olivier are joined in small doses by James Mason, as Mengele's inferior; Uta Hagen, in an especially good prison scene; and Steve Guttenberg, as a doomed investigator. The men are only on screen together in the finale, along with a pack of viscous Doberman Pinschers that respond to directing commands like "Action" and "Cut." You just have to see it. The Boys From Brazil is as subtle as Hitler's agenda, but one could do worse than watching Peck and Olivier slumming it. High-class trash is often the best kind.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Shout! Factory serves up the film in high def with a solid 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image. The print is clean and free of defects like dirt and scratches, and detail is quite strong for a thirty-seven-year-old film. Colors stand out as bold and nicely saturated, and skin tones are spot-on. The weather is often dreary on screen, but the fine-object detail and sharpness are impressive. A natural layer of grain remains, and I noticed no issues with artificial sharpening or edge halos. A bit of softness pops up here and there, but nothing too terrible.

SOUND:

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mono track is sufficient, with appropriate separation of dialogue, effects and score. This mix won't blow down your door, obviously, but there is no hiss, distortion, etc. English subtitles are included.

EXTRAS:

All you get is a theatrical trailer (2:44/HD), which is a pity. A nice retrospective with film historians and the remaining cast and crew would have been nice.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

An interesting mash-up of science fiction and geopolitics, The Boys From Brazil is highbrow schlock, with over-the-top Nazi villains and a ridiculous story about genetic modification. Even so, it is fun to watch fine actors like Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier slum it, and The Boys From Brazil offers entertainment enough for those not requiring subtlety in their political thrillers. Recommended.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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