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Dustin Putman

The Boys from Brazil  (1978)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3.5 Stars
(Release Date: January 6, 2015) – "The Boys from Brazil" is based on a novel by "Rosemary's Baby" author Ira Levin, and, while there is no literal embodiment of Satan in this particular story, it is every bit as devilish. Directed with purposefully horrific sophistication by Franklin J. Schaffner (1970's "Patton"), the film stars the great Laurence Olivier as veteran Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman, who learns from an ill-fated investigator (Steve Guttenberg) of a heinous plot to fulfill the fight for the Aryan race by assassinating 94 men living across the globe. The Neo-Nazi organization of war criminals responsible, led by Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck), will stop at nothing to see their plan through—a plan that Lieberman comes to discover is far more nefarious than anything he could have ever imagined.

A cutting-edge suspenser made without compromise or modesty, "The Boys from Brazil" delves into hot-button topics—Nazi experimentation, the cruel lasting legacy of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, and, most impressively, the then-revolutionary concept of cloning—while never losing sight of its tautly compelling storytelling. Lavishly photographed by Henri Decaë, masterfully scored by composer Jerry Goldsmith, and rivetingly performed by an exceptional cast—an unrecognizable Gregory Peck is unforgettable as the cutthroat, Hitler-esque Mengele—the film reverberates with its own humane yet wicked audacity. This is a terrifically chilling entertainment, one that deserves a spot alongside the best paranoid thrillers of the 1970s.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"The Boys from Brazil" was released twice on Region 1 DVD—first by Artisan in 1999 in a non-anamorphic transfer, and then reissued by Lionsgate in 2009—and both times, according to my research findings, the picture quality was so crummy and indistinct it looked like a VHS dupe. Leave it to Shout! Factory to set things right with their startling 1080p Blu-ray, which revives Henri Decaë's simultaneously disquieting and picturesque cinematography while rendering the entire visual aesthetic with such freshness it could have been lensed last week. Were it not for the youth of certain well-known actors and the occasional era-specific clothing and set decoration, there would be no way of guessing this film was made over thirty-seven years ago, in 1978. Colors are crisp and bold, the fine and even grain structure is simply beautiful, and the uptick in detail and clarity within the image is revelatory. If that weren't enough, print damage is nonexistent. There are no hairs, no mosquito noise, no specks of dirt or debris, and—to this reviewer's eyes—not even a hint of edge enhancement or artificial scrubbing. Everything looks perfectly natural and as it should, as if Shout! Factory took the original film negative directly from the camera and transferred it to high-definition disc. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is almost as superb, but there are just a few instances where dialogue sounds a little muffled and hollow. These problem areas come and go within seconds, but it is worth mentioning since the rest of the audio mix is so terrifically full for a lossless 2.0 audio track.

Blu-ray Features
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:44, HD)
Bottom Line
Full disclosure: prior to receiving Shout! Factory's exquisite new Blu-ray for review, I had never heard of, let alone seen, "The Boys from Brazil." Despite the film holding a rich and talented pedigree and being nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Editing, Best Original Score and Best Actor for Laurence Olivier), its existence somehow passed me by. It is always a special experience to discover greatness that has been out in the world for decades but that other viewers may also not be familiar, and "The Boys from Brazil" is ripe for a long-overdue rediscovery. While bonus content is very light, this is a remarkable Blu-ray release that earns its stripes based on the strength of the picture itself and the monumentally good A/V quality that only the Blu-ray format can provide. If you are a fan of "The Boys from Brazil," do not think twice about picking up a copy of Shout! Factory's supremely fine new release. And, if you have never seen it, this Blu-ray is good enough for me to strongly advise a blind purchase. Highly recommended.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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