Barry Kohler, a young Nazi hunter, tracks down a group of SS officers meeting in Paraguay in the late 1970s. The Nazis, led my Dr Mengele, are planning something. Old Nazi hunter, Ezra Lieberman, is at first uninterested in Kohler's findings. But when he is told something of their plan, he is eager to find out more. Lieberman visits several homes around Europe in order to uncover the Nazi plot. It is at one of these houses he notices something strange, which turns out to be a horrible discovery.
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner
. Starring: Gregory Peck
, Laurence Olivier
, James Mason
, Lilli Palmer
, Uta Hagen
, Steve Guttenberg
, Denholm Elliott
, Rosemary Harris
, John Dehner
, John Rubinstein
, Anne Meara
, Jeremy Black
, Bruno Ganz
. Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Quite a few reviewers seem to have disparaging comments about this movie. It may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but I personally found the plot quite gripping The idea if not totally plausible at least makes a compelling film.
The story, set in the 1970's, begins with a young Nazi hunter, Barry Kohler, who is tracking down a group of SS officers meeting in Paraguay. The aging veteran Nazi hunter, Ezra Lieberman (Kohler's hero), is first uninterested in his findings, but when Kohler turns up murdered, Lieberman uncovers a plot masterminded by the evil Nazi scientist, Dr. Mengele. These modern Nazis are attempting to set up a Fourth Reich by cloning their hero & Fueher, Adolf Hitler.
The actors make this movie, which might come off as a ridiculous tale with a less inspired cast. Lawrence Olivier is masterful as always in the role of the aging German Jew, Lieberman, whose character seems loosely based on Simon Weisenthal. However, Gregory Peck gives an absolutely chilling performance in an uncharacteristically villainous role for him, that of the notorious Holocaust 'doctor', Josef Mengele. Of course this story is purely fictional, with no resemblance whatsoever to Mengele's post war life. He was still alive in South America when this film was made and died a year or so later, unfortunately never brought to justice for his monstrous crimes.
Of course the tale takes on something of a different dimension in this era, when we actually have cloning of animals. The modern Nazis in this film take care not just to duplicate Hitler's DNA, but also endeavour to provide these cloned boys with a similar childhood environment to young Hitler's as well. The civil servant father would be murdered at a suitable time in order to elicit rage and hatred in the young clones. However, I agree with comments that Hitler's rise to power had more to do with conditions in Germany following its World War I defeat than to Hitler's disturbed master race, anti Semitic ideologies, whether genetic or environmentally induced. In other words, the impact of Adolf Hitler on Germany cannot be duplicated by cloning him and replicating his childhood environment.
Personally, I found the character similarities between all the young clones unbelievable, even given the identical genes & similar family environments. At least four of these boys are portrayed as arrogant, rude, and nasty and the last one, Bobby, positively cruel & heartless. However, the tear flowing down young Bobby's cheeks when he learns of his father's death is touching and reminds the viewer of his humanity. The Dobermans certainly make for a dramatic finale. However, I think a more effective closing scene might have been for Bobby to be shown perhaps mourning at his father's grave or interacting normally with his mother, not developing his sadistic photos. Also, at least one of the other clones might have been shown with some shred of decency. The villainy of every single one of these boys actually made the tale less credible for me. However, the entire premise of the film is intriguing (though disturbing) and makes for a suspenseful movie.
Review by roghache from the Internet Movie Database.