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.