The Boys from Brazil (1978)

UK, USA, 1977-
35mm film, colour, 1.85:1
stereo, English

A British/American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. Production began on 31 October 1977.

Plot Summary

Young Nazi hunter Barry Kohler stumbles upon a group of former SS officers, led by the notorious Dr Josef Mengele, in Paraguay. Kohler enlists the help of a more experienced Nazi hunter, Ezra Lieberman, who uncovers a horrific plot to clone and establish the Fourth Reich.


Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
ITC, Lew Grade, Producers Circle
Executive Producers: Robert Fryer
Produced by: Stanley O'Toole, Martin Richards
Written by: Heywood Gould
Novel: Ira Levin
Director of Photography: Henri Decae
Editor: Robert E. Swink
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Sound Recordist: Derek Ball
Costume Designer: Anthony Mendleson
Make-up: Bill Lodge, Christopher Tucker
Hair Stylist: Ronnie Cogan, Patrick Grant
Special Effects: Roy Whybrow
Production Designer: Gil Parrondo

Gregory Peck (Dr Josef Mengele)
Laurence Olivier (Ezra Lieberman)
James Mason (Eduard Seibert)
Lilli Palmer (Esther Lieberman)
Uta Hagen (Frieda Maloney)
Steven Guttenberg (Barry Kohler)
Denholm Elliott (Sidney Beynon)
Rosemary Harris (Mrs Doring)
John Dehner (Henry Wheelock)
John Rubinstein (David Bennett)
Anne Meara (Mrs Curry)
Jeremy Black (Jack Curry/Simon Harrington/Erich Doring/Bobby Wheelock)
Bruno Ganz (Professor Bruckner)
Walter Gotell (Mundt)
David Hurst (Strasser)

Alternative Titles

Brasilian pojat – Finnish title
Ces garçons qui venaient du Brésil – French title
Chlopcy z Brazylii – Polish title
Os Comandos da Morte – Portugese title
Los niños de Brasil – Argentinian title
Los niños del Brasil – Spanish title
Pojkarna från Brasilien – Swedish title
I ragazzi venuti dal Brasile – Italian title


The Boys from Brazil was generally well received when it was first released. Variety‘s Har called it “a gripping, suspenseful drama for nearly all of its two hours” but complained that it “lets go at the end and falls into a heap.” He praises Schaffner's direction which “builds the threatening menace well” but was less complimentary about the ending which, he claims, “loses the whole point of Levin's book.” 1Variety 27 September 1978 p.20 Schaffner was also singled out by Cinefantastique editor Frederick S. Clarke who wrote that the director made the story “not only believable, but gripping.”

Richard Combs, writing in Monthly Film Bulletin, suggested that “visually, Franklin Schaffner has probably not had a more ideal subject than The Boys from Brazil for some time” and called it “Ira Levin's most enjoyable concoction since Rosemary's Baby.” He was less convinced by the performances: “given a Mengele portrayed as a stiffly made-up, monstrous machine, Gregory Peck scarcely has to act at all; Laurence Olivier, on the other hand, employs a dismaying barrage of ‘Jewish' tics and mannerisms (this double casting against type may have been an effort to avoid confusion with Olivier's own Mengele-inspired character in Marathon Man).” 2Monthly Film Bulletin vol.46 no.543 (April 1979) pp.68-69


American Film: a Journal of the Film and Television Arts vol.3 no.9 (July/August 1978) pp.12-15, 52-54 – article (Lord Laurence Olivier as Nazi hunter by Bernard Drew)
Cinefantastique vol.8 no.1 (Winter 1978) p.22 – review (by Frederick S. Clarke)
DGA Magazine vol.22 no.4 (1997) pp.70-71 – review (Blood and guts, and action by Ted Elrick)
Film and History vol.32 no.2 (2002 pp.38-47 – illustrated article
Film Review vol.28 (July 1978) p.35 – review
Films and Filming vol.25 no.5 (February 1979) pp.9-11 – illustrated article
Films and Filming vol.25 no.7 (April 1979) pp.29-30 – review (by Gordon Gow)
Films Illustrated vol.8 no.90 (February 1979) pp.214-215 – review (by David castell)
The Hollywood Reporter vol.253 no.22 (25 September 1978) pp.3, 21 – note
The Hollywood Reporter vol.285 no.41 (19 February 1985) p.26 – credits, review
The Listener vol.101 no.2603 (22 March 1979) p.428 – review
Literature/Film Quarterly vol.7 no.4 (1979) pp.322-324 – article
Montage no.44 (1979) pp.29-30 – review
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.46 no.543 (April 1979) pp.68-69 – credits, synopsis, review (by Richard Combs)
Screen International no.112 (5 November 1977) p.12 – credits
Screen International no.119 (24 December 1977) p.15 – note
Screen International no.181 (17 March 1979) p.19 – review
Sight & Sound vol.10 no.4 (April 2000) p.65 – video review
Variety 26 October 1977 p.34 – credits (Film production)
Variety 27 September 1978 p.20 – credits, review (by Har)