THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL
Ira Levin is in a class of his own but must have been aware if not parodying these movies when he wrote The Boys From Brazil (1976). Levin always has the ability to swing plots that in the recounting hinge between the audacious and the absurd a woman comes to believe she is impregnated by The Devil (Rosemarys Baby), a housewife comes to believe that the men in her town are replacing their wives with android duplicates (The Stepford Wives). Levin always managed to swing the inherent audacity of his plots with a series of scintillatingly clever turns one can reach the end of an Ira Levin book and almost imagine Levin sitting with an irrepressible smile at his own smartness.
However, with the exception of Rosemarys Baby, filmmakers have failed to duplicate Ira Levins dazzling conceptual juggling game. The Boys From Brazil is a passable adaptation that at least conveys Levins story adequately. Part of the problem with The Boys From Brazil was that it was mounted as a 1970s A-budget thriller. It is thus unfortunately lumbered with an overacting star cast and a parade of luxurious international scenery the action takes place against the backdrop of bullfights or with figures dwarfed as they converse atop a vast dam. Director Franklin J. Schaffner had made the fine likes of Planet of the Apes (1968) and Patton (1970) but seemed to lack the same touch here. The very size of the production tends to drown out the thriller elements, and here the tightness of Ira Levins plot turns only become secondary to proceedings. [Nevertheless, re-viewing the film again and having forgotten much of the book, which seemed much superior the first time I saw the film, the plot moves with a reasonable slickness]. If nothing else, The Boys From Brazil becomes the first ever science-fictional depiction of cloning where the cloning is scientifically realistic ie. where the clone does not pop into being as an instant adult with a full set of its donors memories but where the story takes into account that the clone would grow at a normal rate and would need to replicate the social conditions in order to approximate the donors personality.
Played out with such big-budget momentousness, the insouciant lightness of Ira Levins writing cannot help but spill over into silliness. And rather silly it gets too, most notably in the acting how Laurence Olivier, all patently theatrical quavering voice and prissy mannerisms, managed to earn an Academy Award nomination for his role in the film is a big mystery. Gregory Peck, in what was announced as his first villainous role, is the opposite extreme his face is so stolid it appears to have been cast in wax. The implacability has a certain effect but when Peck tries to go berserk, the effect is so odd it is laughable.
Other Ira Levin film adaptations of genre note are Roman Polanskis classic Satanic impregnation film Rosemarys Baby (1968), the android housewife takeover film The Stepford Wives (1975), the hilarious whodunnit spoof Deathtrap (1982), the psycho-sexual thriller Sliver (1993) and the remakes of The Stepford Wives (2004) and Rosemarys Baby (2014).
Full film available online here:-