The Odessa File


2h 8m 1974
The Odessa File

Brief Synopsis

A journalist discovers a strange link between his family and a cabal of fugitive Nazis.

Film Details

Also Known As
Akte Odessa, Die, Odessa File
MPAA Rating
Genre
Thriller
War
Political
Spy
Release Date
1974
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

After reading the diary of an eldery Jewish man who commited suicide, freelance journalist Peter Miller begins to investigate the alleged sighting of a former SS-Captain who commanded a concentration camp during World War II. Miller eventually finds himself involved with the powerful orginization of former SS members, called ODESSA, as well as with the Israli secret service. Miller probes deeper and eventually discovers a link between the SS-Captain, ODESSA, and his own family.

Videos

Movie Clip

Odessa File, The (1974) - People Burning Like Torches Jon Voight as reporter Miller, with his girlfriend (Mary Tamm) in Hamburg, 1963, visiting his German mother (Maria Schell, only 12 years Voight's senior) as he considers investigating leads left by a now-deceased Holocaust survivor, Hans Wyprächtiger his landlord, in Ronald Neame's The Odessa File, 1974.
Odessa File, The (1974) - An Old Man Gassed Himself Following a prologue of a plot to destroy Israel, and Hamburg, November 22, 1963 established in the credits, Jon Voight, narrating, appears as German reporter Miller, attention diverted by the Kennedy assassination, pursuing a maybe-routine event, in the espionage thriller The Odessa File, 1974, from the Frederick Forsyth novel.
Odessa File, The (1974) - They Can't Kill Us Off! Hamburg, 1963, Jon Voight as reporter Miller, early in his pursuit of a Nazi war criminal involved in a plot against Israel, is the uninvited guest at a reunion of a (real) Waffen SS unit, Georg Marischka, and Günter Meisner as General Greifer, among the celebrants, in The Odessa File, 1974.
Odessa File, The (1974) - Criminal At Large Jon Voight as (fictional) West German reporter Miller visiting Vienna, December, 1963 to see Shmuel Rodensky, playing the famous Jewish Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, discussing the (also real) Austrian SS war criminal Eduard Roschmann, in director Ronald Neame’s adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Odessa File, 1974.
Odessa File, The (1974) - He Liked To Destroy Human Beings Jon Voight as German reporter Miller in Hamburg, 1963, reading the diary of German jew Tauber (Towje Kleiner) following his suicide, director Ronald Neame’s black & white scenes recreating the concentration camp at Riga, Latvia, dominated by Maximilian Schell as Nazi commandant Roschmann, in The Odessa File, 1974.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Akte Odessa, Die, Odessa File
MPAA Rating
Genre
Thriller
War
Political
Spy
Release Date
1974
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

The Odessa File


The year is 1963, and Egypt has amassed an arsenal of rockets aimed toward Israel. It needs only a missile guidance system, which is in fact being developed in Germany by scientists associated with Odessa, a secret society of former SS officers from Hitler's regime. When an elderly Jewish man named Solomon Tauber commits suicide, reporter Peter Miller gets hold of his diary. It recounts Tauber's horrific experiences in the Riga concentration camp, particularly the cruelty of Eduard Roschmann, commandant and SS captain. A friend of Tauber tells Miller that Roschmann is still alive under a different name, so Miller goes on a quest to locate him. With the help of Israeli intelligence, he assumes the identity of a recently deceased ex-Nazi and attempts to infiltrate Odessa's carefully protected ranks, both to bring Roschmann to justice and to protect Israel from the impending missile threat.

The Odessa File (1974) was the second Frederick Forsyth novel to be adapted for the big screen; Fred Zinnemann's The Day of the Jackal (1973), also produced by John Woolf with a screenplay by Kenneth Ross, remains to this day one of the classic political thrillers. Initially a journalist, Forsyth (b. 1938) worked in Africa during the mid-to-late Sixties and made his book debut with the nonfiction work The Biafra Story (1969). However, his first novel, The Day of the Jackal (1971) was a massive bestseller and established him at once as a leading writer of suspense thrillers. As critic Andrew F. Macdonald points out, Forsyth's work stands out for its patiently detailed descriptions of how criminal and intelligence organizations operate, to say nothing of the mechanics of building bombs. Although his heyday was arguably during the Seventies and Eighties, in recent years Forsyth has made something of a comeback with novels like The Fist of God (1994), The Icon (1996) and The Avenger (2003).

London-born director Ronald Neame (b. 1911) has mastered numerous aspects of film production. He initially worked as a cinematographer, including major British productions such as Major Barbara (1941) and the David Lean films In Which We Serve (1942), This Happy Breed (1944) and Blithe Spirit (1945); the latter two in particular are notable for their use of Technicolor. Remarkably, during this period Neame also served as co-screenwriter and co-producer on some of Lean¿s films. As a director, Neame is best known for two Alec Guinness vehicles--The Horse's Mouth (1958) and Tunes of Glory (1960)--and his adaptation of the classic Muriel Spark novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). During the Seventies, Neame directed large-scale productions such as the musical Scrooge (1970) and the thrillers The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Odessa File and Meteor (1979). His most recent film is the 40-minute children's adventure The Magic Balloon (1990), filmed in the Showscan process developed by Douglas Trumbull.

Surely among the most memorable elements of The Odessa File is Maximilian Schell's chillingly effective performance as the unapologetic Roschmann. The Vienna-born Schell (b. 1930) is the brother of Maria Schell, who plays Peter Miller's mother in the film. The exceptionally intelligent, multi-lingual Schell has made a career out of playing Nazis, autocrats and other domineering figures: he won the Academy Award® for his supporting role as the defense attorney in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and played German officers or ex-Nazis in The Young Lions (1958), The Pedestrian (1973), The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), and Julia (1977). He received further Academy Award® nominations for Best Actor in The Man in the Glass Booth and for Best Supporting Actor in Julia. In recent years, Schell has tended to star in TV films and miniseries, among them: the title role in Peter the Great (1986); Frederick the Great in the TV movie Young Catherine (1991); and, perhaps inevitably given his career trajectory, Vladimir Lenin in Stalin (1992). Schell is also a noted producer, director and screenwriter; standout directorial efforts include the underrated First Love (1970), The Pedestrian, and the documentary Marlene (1984).

Simon Wiesenthal, the real-life figure whose Jewish Documentation Center built cases against numerous Nazi war criminals (most famously, Adolf Eichmann) served as a consultant and appears as a character, played in the film by Shmuel Rodensky. Wiesenthal later served as a consultant for The Boys from Brazil (1978). Andrew Lloyd Webber has done only two film scores of note: The Odessa File and Gumshoe (1971). Webber's peculiar combination of Seventies synth-rock and symphonic music undoubtedly adds to the cult appeal of this film. The bilingual pop song "Christmas Dream," composed by Webber and sung by master of Christmas cheer Perry Como, was released as a single and placed (just barely) in the Billboard Top 100 chart, reaching 92 in December 1974.

The reviewer for Variety strongly praised The Odessa File in all respects, particularly the performances and Neame's direction: "The 'action' is all the more powerful for being largely mental and restrained, and not formula rough and tumble. This is one of Neame's finest directorial accomplishments." In particular, the reviewer described the print-shop sequence as "a masterpiece of quiet yet shattering tension which leaves an audience breathless." On the other hand, Nora Sayre, the reviewer for the New York Times, wrote: "The movie is so dependent on Jon Voight's presence that he's hardly allowed off the screen. So the threats to his life are no more exciting than watching a shopper being elbowed at a January white sale." She did, however, praise Maximilian Schell's performance. Jay Cocks, the reviewer for Time, was likewise dismissive: "Director Ronald Neame has his Nazis parading about like villains in old World War II propaganda melodrama, with delicatessen accents and eyes like hooked fish. Anyone could blow the whistle on Nazis like this." During its initial release the film grossed 3.4 million dollars, a respectable sum for the period but hardly a match for contemporary blockbusters like The Sting (1973), The Exorcist (1973), American Graffiti (1973) and Herbie Rides Again (1974).

Director: Ronald Neame
Producers: John R. Sloan and John Woolf
Screenplay: George Markstein and Kenneth Ross, based on the book by Frederick Forsyth
Editor: Ralph Kemplen
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics for "Christmas Dream" by Tim Rice and Andre Heller
Production Designer: Rolf Zehetbauer
Costume Designer: Monika Bauert
Cast: Jon Voight (Peter Miller), Maximilian Schell (Eduard Roschmann), Maria Schell (Frau Miller), Mary Tamm (Sigi), Derek Jacobi (Klaus Wenzer), Shmuel Rodensky (Simon Wiesenthal), Martin Brandt (Marx), Cyril Shaps (voice of Tauber), Gunnar Moeller (Karl Braun), Noel Willman (Franz Bayer), Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel (Frau Wenzer).
C-129m. Letterboxed.

by James Steffen
The Odessa File

The Odessa File

The year is 1963, and Egypt has amassed an arsenal of rockets aimed toward Israel. It needs only a missile guidance system, which is in fact being developed in Germany by scientists associated with Odessa, a secret society of former SS officers from Hitler's regime. When an elderly Jewish man named Solomon Tauber commits suicide, reporter Peter Miller gets hold of his diary. It recounts Tauber's horrific experiences in the Riga concentration camp, particularly the cruelty of Eduard Roschmann, commandant and SS captain. A friend of Tauber tells Miller that Roschmann is still alive under a different name, so Miller goes on a quest to locate him. With the help of Israeli intelligence, he assumes the identity of a recently deceased ex-Nazi and attempts to infiltrate Odessa's carefully protected ranks, both to bring Roschmann to justice and to protect Israel from the impending missile threat. The Odessa File (1974) was the second Frederick Forsyth novel to be adapted for the big screen; Fred Zinnemann's The Day of the Jackal (1973), also produced by John Woolf with a screenplay by Kenneth Ross, remains to this day one of the classic political thrillers. Initially a journalist, Forsyth (b. 1938) worked in Africa during the mid-to-late Sixties and made his book debut with the nonfiction work The Biafra Story (1969). However, his first novel, The Day of the Jackal (1971) was a massive bestseller and established him at once as a leading writer of suspense thrillers. As critic Andrew F. Macdonald points out, Forsyth's work stands out for its patiently detailed descriptions of how criminal and intelligence organizations operate, to say nothing of the mechanics of building bombs. Although his heyday was arguably during the Seventies and Eighties, in recent years Forsyth has made something of a comeback with novels like The Fist of God (1994), The Icon (1996) and The Avenger (2003). London-born director Ronald Neame (b. 1911) has mastered numerous aspects of film production. He initially worked as a cinematographer, including major British productions such as Major Barbara (1941) and the David Lean films In Which We Serve (1942), This Happy Breed (1944) and Blithe Spirit (1945); the latter two in particular are notable for their use of Technicolor. Remarkably, during this period Neame also served as co-screenwriter and co-producer on some of Lean¿s films. As a director, Neame is best known for two Alec Guinness vehicles--The Horse's Mouth (1958) and Tunes of Glory (1960)--and his adaptation of the classic Muriel Spark novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). During the Seventies, Neame directed large-scale productions such as the musical Scrooge (1970) and the thrillers The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Odessa File and Meteor (1979). His most recent film is the 40-minute children's adventure The Magic Balloon (1990), filmed in the Showscan process developed by Douglas Trumbull. Surely among the most memorable elements of The Odessa File is Maximilian Schell's chillingly effective performance as the unapologetic Roschmann. The Vienna-born Schell (b. 1930) is the brother of Maria Schell, who plays Peter Miller's mother in the film. The exceptionally intelligent, multi-lingual Schell has made a career out of playing Nazis, autocrats and other domineering figures: he won the Academy Award® for his supporting role as the defense attorney in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and played German officers or ex-Nazis in The Young Lions (1958), The Pedestrian (1973), The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), and Julia (1977). He received further Academy Award® nominations for Best Actor in The Man in the Glass Booth and for Best Supporting Actor in Julia. In recent years, Schell has tended to star in TV films and miniseries, among them: the title role in Peter the Great (1986); Frederick the Great in the TV movie Young Catherine (1991); and, perhaps inevitably given his career trajectory, Vladimir Lenin in Stalin (1992). Schell is also a noted producer, director and screenwriter; standout directorial efforts include the underrated First Love (1970), The Pedestrian, and the documentary Marlene (1984). Simon Wiesenthal, the real-life figure whose Jewish Documentation Center built cases against numerous Nazi war criminals (most famously, Adolf Eichmann) served as a consultant and appears as a character, played in the film by Shmuel Rodensky. Wiesenthal later served as a consultant for The Boys from Brazil (1978). Andrew Lloyd Webber has done only two film scores of note: The Odessa File and Gumshoe (1971). Webber's peculiar combination of Seventies synth-rock and symphonic music undoubtedly adds to the cult appeal of this film. The bilingual pop song "Christmas Dream," composed by Webber and sung by master of Christmas cheer Perry Como, was released as a single and placed (just barely) in the Billboard Top 100 chart, reaching 92 in December 1974. The reviewer for Variety strongly praised The Odessa File in all respects, particularly the performances and Neame's direction: "The 'action' is all the more powerful for being largely mental and restrained, and not formula rough and tumble. This is one of Neame's finest directorial accomplishments." In particular, the reviewer described the print-shop sequence as "a masterpiece of quiet yet shattering tension which leaves an audience breathless." On the other hand, Nora Sayre, the reviewer for the New York Times, wrote: "The movie is so dependent on Jon Voight's presence that he's hardly allowed off the screen. So the threats to his life are no more exciting than watching a shopper being elbowed at a January white sale." She did, however, praise Maximilian Schell's performance. Jay Cocks, the reviewer for Time, was likewise dismissive: "Director Ronald Neame has his Nazis parading about like villains in old World War II propaganda melodrama, with delicatessen accents and eyes like hooked fish. Anyone could blow the whistle on Nazis like this." During its initial release the film grossed 3.4 million dollars, a respectable sum for the period but hardly a match for contemporary blockbusters like The Sting (1973), The Exorcist (1973), American Graffiti (1973) and Herbie Rides Again (1974). Director: Ronald Neame Producers: John R. Sloan and John Woolf Screenplay: George Markstein and Kenneth Ross, based on the book by Frederick Forsyth Editor: Ralph Kemplen Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics for "Christmas Dream" by Tim Rice and Andre Heller Production Designer: Rolf Zehetbauer Costume Designer: Monika Bauert Cast: Jon Voight (Peter Miller), Maximilian Schell (Eduard Roschmann), Maria Schell (Frau Miller), Mary Tamm (Sigi), Derek Jacobi (Klaus Wenzer), Shmuel Rodensky (Simon Wiesenthal), Martin Brandt (Marx), Cyril Shaps (voice of Tauber), Gunnar Moeller (Karl Braun), Noel Willman (Franz Bayer), Elisabeth Neumann-Viertel (Frau Wenzer). C-129m. Letterboxed. by James Steffen

Quotes

No one wants to read about Jews.
- Editor
They were GERMANS!
- Miller
They were German Jews.
- Editor

Trivia

Eduard Roschmann was a real-life wanted war criminal living in South America. He became even more wanted after the book and movie, and he turned up dead, rumoured to have been killed by Odessa to stop the search for him that the media had begun.

The character played by Hannes Messemer is not referred to by name in the dialogue but is intended to be SS-Gruppenfuhrer Richard Glucks, former SS Inspector of Concentration Camps who disappeared after World War II and is rumored to have been one of the founding members of the ODESSA.

The term ODESSA stands for "Organisation der ehemaligen SS Angehorigen", which translates to: Organization of the former SS members.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1974

Released in United States 1974