Friday, January 27, 2017

The Odessa File - Movie Review

I read the Frederick Forsyth novel when in school and still remember much of the story and the impact it had on me about the SS, its horrific methods. As with all his novels the research astounds you. So to watch the 1974 movie was a privilege - and it did not let me down one bit.

Peter Miller (a young Jon Voight) is a freelance journalist and a footloose and happy bachelor. He is heading home in Hamburg when news of John F Kennedy's assassination is confirmed on the radio. He pulls by to the side of the road, sees an ambulance flash by and follows it on instinct. It leads him to a suicide case - an old Jew who gassed himself. The police officer who is his friend calls him later and gives him the old man's writings - he survived the concentration camp at Riga while his wife did not and he is unhappy that the SS Officers who were in charge of the termination of many Jews at Riga were going about scotfree. In fact the Butcher of Riga, one SS Commandant called Roschmann was alive and spotted by him in Hamburg just a few days ago. The old man complains to the police but they tell him that there is no evidence and he kills himself - dejected.

Miller takes up the case, little realising that the old Nazi SS structure was still alive and the SS officers were meeting in secret in a group called the Odessa that was trying to keep the Nazi spirit alive. In fact they had a plan to exterminate Israel through rocket bombings - chemical, bacterial and nuclear - in collusion with Egypt. Israel is aware of the plan and sends a team to Germany to find the Odessa and stop them. They find Miller by mistake and realise they could join forces and help one another. Meanwhile the Odessa and its sympathisers in the government try to eliminate Miller and his girlfriend. Miller uses the Israeli agents help, disguises himself as a Nazi soldier, enters the Odessa and tracks down Roschmann. It's another story that Roschmann has also killed his father so justice is done finally.

Taut and full of action, the movie has some other names that make you sit up. Andrew Lloyd Webber for instance provided the movie score. Am glad I watched it. I could pretty much imagine myself watching it in Sterling or Sangeet in the 80s.  

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