The Odessa File – Nazis Gone Wild! week

Mostly as an excuse so I can review a film I have waited a year to see (no not this one), this is Nazis Gone Wild! week. We will be featuring Nazis not in their usual setting – mainly post-World War II. The Odessa File is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Odessa File

PASS: The Odessa File (1974) – Rated PG.

“After finding the diary of a Holocaust survivor who had recently committed suicide, journalist Peter Miller (Jon Voight) begins following the trail of an SS officer who commanded a concentration camp during World War II. Miller soon finds himself involved with an organization of former SS members called Odessa as well as with the Israeli secret service. Further probing reveals a link between the officer, Odessa and Millers own family.”

“You are a parasite. You live off other peoples troubles.”

Director Ronald Neame and writers Kenneth Ross & George Markstein do a good job of squeezing as much of The Odessa File book plot as possible into the movie. This should please readers of the book.

Unfortunately if you have not read the book, many portions are just touched upon and dropped. The film opens with worries about Weapons of Mass Destruction being used on Israel. This subplot consists of one scene in the beginning, a brief mention in the middle, and a brief mention at the end and could easily have been jettisoned. It has almost nothing to do with the rest of the film.

The bulk of the film is the hunt for Eduard Roschmann that is undertaken by Miller. Eduard Roschmann is played by second-billed Maximilian Schell who is only briefly in the film. The vast bulk of the film is carried by Jon Voight as Miller and he does a very good job here.

Sadly that does not translate into a good movie. There are the all-too-common plotholes. Many of the ODESSA operatives know Miller by sight so that makes him the ideal candidate to go undercover. What?!?

It is quite clear that at least some of the authorities are in collusion with (or are members of) ODESSA so at an absolutely crucial moment of secrecy, I will call my girlfriend and tell her where I am. What?!?

Interestingly Eduard Roschmann, The Butcher of Riga, was not only real but was in hiding in Argentina at the time this film came out. Within the next few years, possibly due to publicity from the book and movie, he faced extradition and was forced to flee to Paraguay. He turned up dead there on August 8, 1977, presumably murdered though Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal was doubtful that it was him.

Netflix presents this movie in HD for those of you with the appropriate equipment.

I am afraid that I have to give this movie a pass. There is nothing overtly wrong with it – the acting is fine if unexceptional, the script is fine apart from a few huge plotholes, direction is fine but uninvolved.

The movie just seems flat – as if it has to hit certain plot points from the novel and string them into a whole. It is very reminiscent of the last Forsyth adaptation I reviewed, The Fourth Protocol.

People Watch: The always wonderful Derek (I, Claudius) Jacobi plays Klaus Wenzer.

The Fourth Protocol – Weapons of Mass Destruction week

This is Weapons of Mass Destruction week. The Fourth Protocol is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Fourth Protocol

PASS: The Fourth Protocol (1987) – Rated R.

“In an effort to shatter NATO alliances, Russian spy Valeri Petrofsky (Pierce Brosnan) plots to explode a nuclear bomb in Britain and blame the act on America. It is up to British agent John Preston (Michael Caine) to foil the plan, despite the skepticism of his superiors. Based on the book by best-selling author Frederick Forsyth, this well-crafted espionage thriller also stars Joanna Cassidy as a second Russian agent.”

“He is armed with a bomb.” – “How big a bomb?” – “Atomic bomb.”

Director John MacKenzie does a capable job here. Unfortunately that is the best that can be said. This is a typical by-the-numbers Cold War spy thriller. There is no particular flair or artistry involved.

Author Frederick Forsyth helped write the screenplay from his novel. The script is very literate but there is very little life or passion in it. It is strange that with so much attention to detail, the antagonists assemble the atomic bomb with their bare hands, including handling the radioactive material.

Gasp! John Preston (Michael Caine) is a rogue agent who does not play by the rules! In one scene he notably stares at a countdown timer as it reaches 007. He is a little past his prime here but always enjoyable.

Pierce Brosnan (post-Remington Steele, pre-James Bond) is our primary antagonist. He drives a  motorcycle with the tag C700 OBL (yet another 007 reference). Joanna Cassidy is his cover “wife”.

Ian Richardson is the only standout in a good cast. He is simply superb in his brief screen-time as Sir Nigel Irvine. While I have not reviewed them yet, his starring role in The House of Cards trilogy is extremely highly recommended.

The rest of the cast is quite good as well though they seem somewhat wasted. Julian Glover is the priggish boss, Brian Harcourt-Smith, who refuses to believe any evidence simply because he hates John Preston. Michael Gough plays outgoing boss, Sir Bernard Hemmings (so we have both of the recent Alfreds, faithful butler to Batman). Ned Beatty plays Borisov.

None of the action is exciting. A car does a 180 degree screech to a halt so Preston can grab a train. A van hits two other cars to pull out of a traffic jam. Ho hum.

There is nothing wrong with this thriller (well other than that it is not very thrilling) but there is nothing special about it either. In spite of the good cast, I cannot really recommend this.

People Watch: Matt (Max Headroom) Frewer has a small part here as Tom McWhirter. He puts quite the twang into his voice. Frederick Forsyth cameos as a radio newsreader.