The Boys from Brazil (1978)

R | 123 mins | Drama | 4 October 1978

Writer:

Heywood Gould

Cinematographer:

Henri Decae

Editor:

Robert E. Swink

Production Designer:

Gil Parrondo

Production Company:

ITC Entertainment
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HISTORY

       According to a 25 Jul 1978 HR article, executive producer Robert Fryer claimed that almost all the studios passed on the movie; hesitation was partly due to Laurence Olivier’s recent poor health. As mentioned in a 1 Aug 1978 LAT news item, it was decided early in the shooting schedule that due to Olivier’s delicate health, his Pennsylvania scenes were relocated to Vienna, Austria, “at a cost of $200,000.”
       The 25 Jul 1978 HR story also voiced skepticism during the casting process regarding Gregory Peck’s ability to summon up the necessary vitriol to play a villain. Fryer stated that the key to Peck’s success in playing the role was this: “…he doesn’t really play it as a villain. His attitude for the character is that ‘I’m right and they are wrong.’”
       Film production notes at the AMPAS Library stated that Dr. Derk Bromhall from Oxford University, one of Britain’s “leading biologists,” served as technical advisor on the film. Bromhall was credited as being “the first scientist” to create identical embryos by fertilizing mammal eggs without sperm. According to a Feb 1979 Films and Filming article, director Franklin J. Schaffner expressed pride that the movie was able to educate the audience about cloning without weighing down the action.
       Modern reviews of Levin’s novel reported that Levin created the persona of “Yakov Liebermann” based on real-life Nazi hunters Simon Wiesenthal and Sergei Klarsfield, who was unsuccessful in his pursuit of Mengele in South America. Additionally, film production notes corroborated that Wiesenthal was Levin’s inspiration for the character “Yakov Liebermann (named Ezra Lieberman in the screenplay). Both Olivier and ... More Less

       According to a 25 Jul 1978 HR article, executive producer Robert Fryer claimed that almost all the studios passed on the movie; hesitation was partly due to Laurence Olivier’s recent poor health. As mentioned in a 1 Aug 1978 LAT news item, it was decided early in the shooting schedule that due to Olivier’s delicate health, his Pennsylvania scenes were relocated to Vienna, Austria, “at a cost of $200,000.”
       The 25 Jul 1978 HR story also voiced skepticism during the casting process regarding Gregory Peck’s ability to summon up the necessary vitriol to play a villain. Fryer stated that the key to Peck’s success in playing the role was this: “…he doesn’t really play it as a villain. His attitude for the character is that ‘I’m right and they are wrong.’”
       Film production notes at the AMPAS Library stated that Dr. Derk Bromhall from Oxford University, one of Britain’s “leading biologists,” served as technical advisor on the film. Bromhall was credited as being “the first scientist” to create identical embryos by fertilizing mammal eggs without sperm. According to a Feb 1979 Films and Filming article, director Franklin J. Schaffner expressed pride that the movie was able to educate the audience about cloning without weighing down the action.
       Modern reviews of Levin’s novel reported that Levin created the persona of “Yakov Liebermann” based on real-life Nazi hunters Simon Wiesenthal and Sergei Klarsfield, who was unsuccessful in his pursuit of Mengele in South America. Additionally, film production notes corroborated that Wiesenthal was Levin’s inspiration for the character “Yakov Liebermann (named Ezra Lieberman in the screenplay). Both Olivier and Peck were aware of Wiesenthal’s two-year search to track down the Nazi under-officer who had arrested Anne Frank and her family to verify that Anne’s diary existed, after a contingent of German youths claimed it was “pure Jewish propaganda.” Olivier admired Wiesenthal’s tenacity and used it in his film portrayal.
       Creating authentic locations proved to be a challenge during the shoot, according to the notes. A 11 Jan 1978 Var article stated that the film’s final “$10 - $12 million budget” encompassed a wide variety of expenses but some of the more unusual costs attributed to production included “$500,000 to reproduce a Paraguayan jungle in Portugal…for twelve weeks of construction and seven weeks” of filming and “$50,000 to hire six Doberman Pinschers,” which were shipped from Los Angeles, CA, to Vienna.
In a Feb 1979 Films and Filming article, Schaffner discussed at length the extensive location scouting that went into choosing locations to substitute for Paraguay. He said that among the countries considered were Spain, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and Central America. Location research took six weeks, and the company almost committed to Panama but did not due to a rainy season that would impede construction and the pending U.S. Senate review of Panama Canal Treaty.
       A 28 Nov 1977 Box news item reported that the film began shooting 31 Oct 1977 in Portugal, and a 15 Dec 1977 DV item reported that filming had moved to “ Shepperton Studios and various locations in London.” Finally, the production moved on to Vienna.
       The Feb 1979 Films and Filming article discussed additional pre-production details including working with Doberman attack dogs, which involved a lot of planning. The dogs’ trainer used storyboards to set up the correct behavior for the scenes. During the shoot, the trainer either stood behind the camera or hidden behind a chair, depending on what was needed in the scene. The dogs filmed exterior shots in Pennsylvania and were also flown to Vienna for additional work. Peck spent rehearsal time with the dogs to develop a comfort level so that no stunt doubles were used in his scenes with the Dobermans.
       A 27 Sep 1978 press release from Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. said that a gala premiere of The Boys from Brazil , held 4 Oct 1978 at the Avco Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, would both honor Mr. Simon Wiesenthal, and celebrate his seventieth birthday. The proceeds from the premiere were donated to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies at Yeshiva University, Los Angeles.
       Laurence Olivier was nominated for an Academy Award in the category “Actor in a Leading Role.” Robert Swink was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of “Film Editing,” and Jerry Goldsmith was nominated for an Academy Award for “Music (Original Score).”

      The end credit crawl carries the following statement: “Made on location in Portugal, The United States, England and Austria.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Nov 1977.
---
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1977.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1977.
---
Films and Filming
Feb 1979
p. 9, 12-18.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Sep 1978
p. 3, 21.
Los Angeles Times
1 Aug 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Oct 1978
Section H, p. 1.
New York Times
6 Oct 1978.
---
Newsweek
2 Jan 1978.
---
Variety
14 Dec 1977.
---
Variety
11 Jan 1978.
---
Variety
27 Sep 1978
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Sir Lew Grade Presents
A Producer Circle Production
A Frankin J. Schaffner Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir, Unit - Portugal
Prod mgr, Unit - Austria
2d asst dir, Unit - Austria
Asst dir, Unit - U.S.A.
Asst dir, Unit - U.S.A.
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Film processed at
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer
Stills
Cam op, Unit - U.S.A.
Cam asst, Unit - U.S.A.
Cam asst, Unit - U.S.A.
Still photog, Unit - U.S.A.
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir, Unit - Austria
Art dir, Unit - U.S.A.
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Ward master
Ward mistress
SOUND
Boom op
Sd asst
Supv mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Sd ed
Dial ed
Rerec at
Hollywood
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opt
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Loc mgr
Continuity
Prod's asst
Prod's asst
Prod secy
Casting
Casting [London]
Casting [Vienna]
Pub asst
Pub - U.S., Canada
Pub - foreign
Accent coach
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Public relations and loc liaisons - Portugal
Public relations and loc liaisons - Portugal
Loc mgr, Unit - Portugal
Prod asst, Unit - Portugal
Prod asst, Unit - Portugal
Loc mgr, Unit - Austria
Prod secy, Unit - Austria
Loc mgr, Unit - U.S.A.
Prod asst, Unit - U.S.A.
STAND INS
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Boys From Brazil by Ira Levin (New York, 1976).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"We're Home Again," music by Jerry Goldsmith, lyrics by Hal Shaper, sung by Elaine Paige (A Waif Production)
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Power
Release Date:
4 October 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 4 October 1978
Production Date:
began 31 October 1977 in Portugal
Copyright Claimant:
ITC Entertainment, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 March 1979
Copyright Number:
PA56652
Physical Properties:
Color
Color by DeLuxe®
Lenses
Photographic equipment by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
123
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS


American Barry Kohler calls Ezra Lieberman, a Nazi hunter in Austria, to report some unusual meetings between former Nazis living in Paraguay, but Lieberman is skeptical and tells him to leave the country. Later, at a meeting in the Paraguayan mansion of Herr Gunther, Dr. Joseph Mengele, a former SS physician at the Auschwitz extermination camp, conveys his plan to Capt. Mundt, Maj. Trausteiner, an officer from Dachau, Capt. Farnbach, a Gestapo agent, and three Neo-Nazis, Hessen, Kleist, and Schwimmer. Kohler listens to the discussion through a microphone he planted to record the meeting. When house security informs Mengele he is being watched, the men tear up the room until they find an electronic bug. After conversation stops, Kohler, in hiding on the mansion grounds, realizes that his device has been found and escapes, while Mengele learns Kohler’s identity from a servant boy. At his hotel, Kohler calls Lieberman, and relays Mengele’s plot, to kill ninety-four men who are sixty-five years of age over a two-and-a-half-year period. When Mengele and his men find Kohler, he is killed and his tape is destroyed. Even though Mengele suspects Lieberman may have heard something about Mengele’s plan, Mengele says the mission will continue. Meanwhile, the phone company in Paraguay tells Lieberman there is no record of Kohler’s call. Later, Lieberman’s sister, Esther, gives her brother envelopes that Kohler sent to their office, containing photographs of various officers of the Third Reich, many of whom were involved in the extermination of Jewish people. Lieberman admits to Esther that when Kohler’s phone went dead, he felt something evil. He asks Sydney Beynon, a Reuters reporter, to send him all news clippings ... +



American Barry Kohler calls Ezra Lieberman, a Nazi hunter in Austria, to report some unusual meetings between former Nazis living in Paraguay, but Lieberman is skeptical and tells him to leave the country. Later, at a meeting in the Paraguayan mansion of Herr Gunther, Dr. Joseph Mengele, a former SS physician at the Auschwitz extermination camp, conveys his plan to Capt. Mundt, Maj. Trausteiner, an officer from Dachau, Capt. Farnbach, a Gestapo agent, and three Neo-Nazis, Hessen, Kleist, and Schwimmer. Kohler listens to the discussion through a microphone he planted to record the meeting. When house security informs Mengele he is being watched, the men tear up the room until they find an electronic bug. After conversation stops, Kohler, in hiding on the mansion grounds, realizes that his device has been found and escapes, while Mengele learns Kohler’s identity from a servant boy. At his hotel, Kohler calls Lieberman, and relays Mengele’s plot, to kill ninety-four men who are sixty-five years of age over a two-and-a-half-year period. When Mengele and his men find Kohler, he is killed and his tape is destroyed. Even though Mengele suspects Lieberman may have heard something about Mengele’s plan, Mengele says the mission will continue. Meanwhile, the phone company in Paraguay tells Lieberman there is no record of Kohler’s call. Later, Lieberman’s sister, Esther, gives her brother envelopes that Kohler sent to their office, containing photographs of various officers of the Third Reich, many of whom were involved in the extermination of Jewish people. Lieberman admits to Esther that when Kohler’s phone went dead, he felt something evil. He asks Sydney Beynon, a Reuters reporter, to send him all news clippings from the Canadian, American and European bureaus, regarding the accidental deaths of sixty-five-year-old civil servants. At Mengele’s Paraguayan compound, Col. Eduard Seibert, head of project security, alerts Mengele that their plan is on schedule but wants to know why Mengele covered up Lieberman’s possible interference. Mengele insists that the timing of the killings is so critical that delays caused by Lieberman would cripple their project. Soon, Lieberman’s search takes him to nearby cities, based on clues found in the news clippings. He visits a German widow, Mrs. Doring, and learns that her dead husband beat their son, Erich, and verbally abused her. On Seibert’s second visit to Mengele, he alerts Mengele that Lieberman has talked to the wife of one of their victims. Mengele believes that Lieberman knows nothing and the visit was a coincidence, but Seibert suggests they exercise more caution. When Mengele says the solution is to kill Lieberman, Seibert argues that his death would arouse suspicion around the world. Mengele makes it clear that Lieberman is Seibert’s problem. When Esther meets her brother at the train station, David Bennett, Kohler’s friend, shows them Kohler’s letters and photographs, but Lieberman says he works alone. However, Bennett won’t leave until he joins Lieberman’s investigation. Esther says that Bennett can sort through a big pile of Reuter’s news clippings. When Lieberman visits Mrs. Curry, an American widow, her son, Jack Curry, strolls into the kitchen and Lieberman notices the striking resemblance of the boy to the German widow’s son. During their investigation, Bennett describes seeing Simon Harrington, another dark-haired, blue-eyed and pale-skinned boy at one of the homes he visits. Later, Mrs. Curry informs Lieberman that she and her husband adopted their son from a German woman, Frieda Maloney. When Lieberman visits the West German prison where Maloney is incarcerated, Maloney explains that her work for an adoption agency involved placing dark-haired, blue-eyed boys with families of Nordic-Christian backgrounds with civil servant fathers born between 1910 and 1914 and younger wives born between 1933 and 1937. She claims to know nothing about Mengele’s role in the adoptions and refuses to answer any more questions. After her lawyer calms her down, Maloney answers one last question about her dog Schatzi, which gives Lieberman the clue to his next interview at the Wheelock dog-breeding farm in Pennsylvania. Lieberman begins to see a pattern between the dates of the adoptions, the sons all of the same age, and the fathers targeted for assassination. Later, Seibert informs Mengele that the mission has been terminated because Lieberman visited Maloney. However, with eighteen killings completed by the recalled assassins, it would be possible to have one or two successes according to the doctor’s projections; Seibert repeats that the operation has been terminated, but Mengele ignores him. When Lieberman pays a visit to Professor Bruckner at the Institute of Biology, he tells Bruckner that the boys he saw had the same personality even though they spoke different languages. The scientist answers that twins that are raised separately develop distinct personalities, and it would be impossible for them to be the same unless they were cloned. The professor gives Lieberman a crash course on cloning, adding that in addition to cell duplication, environmental factors would have to be duplicated between subjects to develop the same personality. Next, Lieberman asks if the donor has to be alive for clones to be created. When he learns a donor can be dead, a pained look washes across Lieberman’s face as he realizes Mengele’s plan involves unleashing Adolph Hitler’s clone onto the world. Later, Mengele journeys to the Wheelock Farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where owner Henry Wheelock mistakes him for Lieberman and invites him inside the house. Mengele is nervous around the Dobermans and asks Wheelock to lock them up when he learns that the dogs will attack anyone who hurts Wheelock. Once the threat of the dogs is gone, Mengele shoots Wheelock dead in the basement. Afterward, Lieberman wanders inside Wheelock’s house, calling out his name. He strolls cautiously into the living room and Mengele shoots him. Lieberman grabs Mengeles and they wrestle on the ground. Mengele breaks free and points his gun at Lieberman, explaining that Hitler was thrilled that his genetic copy could be recreated in the future, from a liter of his blood and tissue from his ribs. While Mengeles shoots at him, Lieberman leaps up and frees the Dobermans. The dogs surround Mengele and he drops his gun in a panic. Bobby Wheelock arrives home from school, and photographs the bloody faces of Mengele and Lieberman with his camera. Mengele tries to blame the fight on Lieberman but Bobby knows the dogs are trained to respond to a threat. When Bobby calls the police, Mengele boasts that Bobby has the potential to be great, descended from Adolph Hitler, the greatest man in history. Bobby’s response is to tell Mengele he is weird. He then finds his father dead in the basement and orders the dogs to kill Mengele. Afterward, Bobby agrees to call an ambulance for Lieberman if he remains silent about Mengele’s dog-provoked death. When Bennett visits Lieberman in the hospital, he says that Mengele may be dead, but the job isn’t done until the ninety-four boys are killed. Lieberman decides he won’t be responsible for the slaughter of innocent children and burns up Mengele’s clone list with his cigarette lighter.
+

Legend
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Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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