It’s conspiracy theory January over at Shout Factory as they do back to back releases of two classic 70s thrillers and I’ve seen ‘em both behind locked doors. Even though government agents have been following me for days since receiving these Blu-rays, I will make it my mission to get you this information. If you see a flare in the sky coming from the west coast, know that I will never be heard from again.
I love films of the 70s. That said, I’m not one to look back at a decade and say, “that was the best decade of films ever” because I think every year yields some great movies. However, fictionalized conspiracy flicks like The Boys From Brazil and Capricorn One are out of style. As much fun as they are, we live in the ubiquitous (and clichéd) 24 hours news cycle. We are also all roving reporters getting scoops with iPhones and Twitter. We deal in so much reality that is mired in mistrust of our government, our businesses and our leaders that if someone was to make a conspiracy movie with the same fanciful plots as these films, I believe audiences today would find them silly and respond with the fact that there ARE lies being told to us and they aren’t science fiction. Putting that total downer sentiment aside for the moment, here are two 70s thrillers that are just plain fun and enjoyable.
First up on January 6th is The Boys From Brazil starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck and James Mason. This was a first time viewing for me and I’d always wanted to check out this Academy Award nominated film and what better way than through a superb Blu-ray.
The movie tells the story of Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Olivier) as he uncovers a completely bat poop crazy plot by Josef Mengele (Peck) to assassinate 94 innocent men around the world. Why? I would tell you, but that would spoil the fun! I honestly had no idea where the story was going. Weird, right? Statute of spoiler limitations surely has passed on this one. I did have some inkling from seeing old commercials and maybe from memory as a child, but I didn’t know what was at the heart of the film The way the jaw dropping truth is slowly revealed allows the audience to uncover the mystery as Lieberman does and it’s fun to figure it out as it goes.
The movie has a great pedigree not only in the acting credits, but the production as well. The script was based on the book of the same name by author Ira Levin, who also penned one of my favorite books turned to films, Rosemary’s Baby. Levin clearly was into doomsday stories and secret societies. The movie was directed by Franklin Schaffner, who years earlier directed Planet Of The Apes. Jerry Goldsmith wrote the music, which has this bouncy, spooky, Euro-circus meets German waltz theme song that gets stuck in your head. Overall, this was a big, Hollywood A-list production. Also, look for a pivotal role by a very young Steve Guttenberg.
Aside from some groovy 70s moments, the film holds up. The tension and humor play in all the right spots – something you rarely see in thrillers these days. I love the mixing of fact and fiction. Lieberman is based on real live Nazi Hunter Simon Wiesenthal and Olivier plays him with a nice mix of grumpy sarcasm and earnest worry – you believe that he’s been through it all. Peck’s acting is a little over the top as Mengle, who in real life was the infamous doctor of Auschwitz. It’s also not fiction that Mengle did all sorts of horrible human experiments for Hitler, so without telling you how far fetched the plot goes, it’s grounded in a dark reality.
Up next on January 13 is Capricorn One – a film I’m quite familiar with because the film’s producer Paul N. Lazurus III happen to be my film professor back at the University Of Miami. The film, written and directed by Peter Hyams, centers around a faked Mars landing. James Brolin, Sam Waterston and OJ Simpson play three astronauts about to take off on a real mission to Mars when they are informed by the mission’s director, Hal Holbrook, that NASA learned months earlier their rocket is unsafe. However, because of all the pressure surrounding this historic trip, they still have to go through with it – by completely faking the landing on Mars using Hollywood special effects. Elliot Gould plays a nosy reporter who starts snooping around when the entire operation begins to fall apart.
This is a great movie. It has a great story, great acting, tense moments, plenty of humor – all the balance that a good conspiracy thriller needs. The script also throws some clever twists that continually keep you guessing as to how it will end. Hyams maintained he was inspired to write this while working in news during the moon landing. Does he know something we don’t know? I suppose Kubrick knows, right?
Shout Factory does their normal outstanding job of delivering the best versions of both movies. I’ve never seen Capricorn One look or sound better than this. Sadly, aside from trailers and a photo gallery, both releases are devoid of any meaningful extras. As I’ve said before, I’m sure the people who crunch the numbers work out the cost of producing extras versus the demand. However, I would have loved to seen something about the making on either of the films. Doing some digging around IMDB, YouTube an Wiki did enlighten me on some of the production, so if you are fan of the films you’ll have to look there for deeper, classified information.
Regardless, these are both quality releases of the films and if you inclined to get them, this is the place to click.
BOYS FROM BRAZIL