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on June 16, 2004
The year is 1963...as the world is reeling from the assassination of President Kennedy, Egypt has missiles posed to annihilate Israel. The only thing preventing this is the lack of guidance technology to properly target the missiles, which Egypt is on the verge of obtaining with assistance from a group of Germans, once officers within the SS during World War II, now members of a group called Odessa, a clandestine organization designed to assist ex-German military personal gain new identities and lives, thereby avoiding capture, after the end of the war.
The Odessa File (1974) takes the popular Frederick Forsyth novel of the same name, which is supposedly based on actual facts and events, and presents it as a truly wonderful, tense thriller that I really enjoyed. Directed by accomplished cinematographer and director Ronald Neame, the film stars Jon Voight as freelance German journalist Peter Miller and Maximilian Schell as an ex-German officer named Eduard Roschmann, a man responsible for horrible atrocities, earning him the nickname `The Butcher', during his tenure as head of a concentration camp which housed Jewish prisoners. After the passing of an elderly Jewish survivor of a WWII concentration camp, Miller comes into possession of a diary kept by the man, one which detailed, in particular, the various crimes against humanity by Roschmann, and also seemed to indicate that the war criminal may still be alive. As Miller begins delving into the story, uncovering tidbits of information, he meets resistance in the form of various individuals, many of which turn out to be members of the secret Odessa organization, and are now actively working against Miller for fears that he may uncover their secrets.
As Miller gets closer to uncovering the truths, the resistance against him grows, and takes the form of actual attempts on his life. Around this time he comes into contact with a Jewish group, working to locate the site within Germany that's developing the guidance system for the Egyptian rockets, and Miller agrees to work with them, changing his identity in order to become an ex-German officer and enable him access to the Odessa organization. In exchange for this, Miller will supply the group with information, while he himself tries to get closer to Roschmann. As Miller infiltrates the group, his cover is eventually blown, but not before he learns of the existence of the Odessa file, documents that detail many of the members within the group, including Roschmann. The goal now is survival, and given the circumstances, his chances seem pretty slim.
I have not actually read the book, but I really liked this film. Jon Voight is wonderful and believable, German accent and all, as a reporter, seemingly driven by a determination to expose a subversive hideousness, once prominent in his country, that has now gone underground, and threatens yet again a great many peoples of the world. Listed as a thriller/drama, The Odessa File certainly doesn't disappoint. The plot, while having many twists and turns, keeps focused, and rarely falters in its' progression. The development of the characters is carefully planned, but not so to bring attention to the fact, allowing for the viewer to become drawn into the film. The exposition at the beginning was a little awkward to me, but I didn't see any other way around it, so I accepted it. Schell provides an excellent performance as an ex-German officer hiding in broad daylight, one who will resort to any means necessary to protect his secrets, along with those of the Odessa group. One point I enjoyed was near the end, as a particular revelation was made. Prior to that point, I had started to question one of the main character's motivations, and, as if the film knew what I was thinking, it answered my question in a completely satisfying manner. The film runs just over two hours, and the first half may seem slow, but I felt as if this was deliberate, allowing time for the story to develop. During the second half the film picks up speed as the tension mounts, drawing on the momentum carefully constructed in the beginning, resulting in a wholly enjoyable conclusion. Given the nature of realizing novels to film, I suspect a number of plot elements were left out, but what was left seemed to be missing very little, at least anything that left a glaring hole which would pull the viewer out of the movie with its' obviousness, which indicates a skillful adaptation of original source material, done with care to preserve the elements which made the book so very popular and well received. All in all, this is a really thrilling outing, one that requires a little patience, but provides a rewarding experience overall.
Presented on this release are really good looking prints, both in wide screen and full screen formats (it's double-sided). The audio seems a bit soft, but there are English subtitles, so I missed nothing. As far as special features, there are some well put together production notes in a four page booklet within the DVD case, an original theatrical trailer, talent biographies for actors Voight, Schell, and director Neame, and trailers for Anaconda (1997) and Oliver Stone's U-Turn (1997), neither film as good as this one, but both certainly benefiting from Voight's appearance...and that's another thing...remember when Jon Voight appeared in good films? Along with this film, I also count Midnight Cowboy (1969), Catch-22 (1970), Deliverance (1972), and Runaway Train (1985) to be some real highlights of his career...and let's look at some of his more recent films...Most Wanted (1997), The Karate Dog (2004), and Baby Geniuses 2 (2004)...not exactly the caliber of films early in his career, but who knows what the future holds?
Cookieman108
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on May 26, 2001
This is what good espionage movies are all about; a strong basis for the story line (elements of reality), a simple objective, and an intriguing plot. Lately I've been thinking that some of the best espionage movies of all time were made in the 70's; perhaps this has something to do with the turbulent 60's when there was so much going on (i.e. assasinations, controversial issues, conspiracy theories, etc).
While the movie is not as good as "The Day of the Jackel" in my opinion, it still ranks very high on my list of films of this type. Anyone skeptical about the quality of spy films made in the 70's, just rent (or buy) this picture and rent something that was made in the nineties (something like a James Bond flick or Mission Impossible). Then see if you don't find a big difference in quality. I think the problem is that most people are too much taken by fancy gadgits and fantastic action sequences to pay too much attention to the story.
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on April 25, 2000
I first saw "The Odessa File" in the late seventies and I recall being very impressed at the time. So when I came across the DVD version at Mediaplay, I couldn't resist getting it to see if it would stand the test of time . I am glad I did because Ronald Naeme's film is as compelling and entertaining now as when I first saw it.
Jon Voight stars as journalist Peter Miller who learns that an infamous Nazi may still be alive. Miller decides to try and track down the war criminal (played by Maximillian Schell) and bring him to justice. The film is helped by solid acting throughout, outstanding cinematography, and an effective score by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The climactic scene between Voight and Schell is absolutely brilliant. The DVD transfer is excellent and of a quality not usually seen in a seventies film with both widescreen and fullscreen versions included. Do yourself a favor and rediscover this classic and underrated gem!
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on March 19, 2000
For some reason this is one of the few movies I've always been able to tolerate in its pan & scan version, no doubt because the story is so involving. It's the kind of thriller that grabs your attention from the start, and is never dull. And after watching this glorious new letterboxed DVD transfer, there's no going back to the old tape. -This is how it's supposed to look, and believe me, it's beautiful. The film is full of great scenes looking even greater now, making me a bigger fan of it than I already was to begin with. The pace and look of this movie, the way it's constructed, is the way ALL movies should generally look. Sadly they just don't make them like this anymore; a fact that will only highten your appreciation of this immaculate piece of movie-making.
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VINE VOICEon November 3, 2000
This is a very good movie that will get the viewer on the edge of their seat as the tale of a man who is out to get justice against the ODESSA who are former SS soldiers hiding out after World War II. Jon Voigt portrays a German who infiltrates the highly secretive and guarded ODESSA with help from the Israeli's, who's ultimate goal is to capture a former high ranking SS officer portrayed by Maximillian Schell and get a full list of ODESSA members.
What makes this movie a cut above the average suspense style of movie is the superior acting by the lead characters. They are believeable and draw the viewer in for more. An excellent plot adapted from a novel by Frederick Forsythe has twists and turns at every corner, and finally the reason why Voigt is on the mission to either kill or kidnap Schell for the Israeli's is answered at the end.
This is highly recommended to all movie fans who enjoy an excellent suspensful plot and great acting from all the lead characters in this movie.
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on November 12, 2007
What dvd was William T. Parnell watching when he wrote his review? I bought the dvd of "The Odessa File" based on his review that it has both widescreen and fullframe versions on it. WRONG. I was very disappointed to find that I should have saved my money and stuck with my VHS tape. I love this movie but I try to make it a practice not to buy the DVD unless it comes in a widescreen version (unless, of course, the movie is so old that it wasn't made that way to begin with). Now I have wasted precious dollars that could have been used for something else (like gas money) all because of misinformation. Please, people, if you are going to write a review, get your facts straight first!!!!!
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on May 2, 2006
fredrick forsighths "the odessa file" is one of many thrillers that came out post "watergate" that took the view that the whole world was corupted and the only people who could show us the light was reporters(after all woodword and berenstien had found out about "watergate" and let us know).

1963(yes i know the time frame isn't set during the "watergate" period the movies was made then the 1970's) kenededy has been killed and the world is still in shock,plus as always the middle east is ready to exploide now that egypt has missiles and as soon as it gets gudience for them,they plan to attack isreal yet again, and in germany a young german reporter(a very good jon voight) is reading the diary of a jewish man who has killed himself. the diary tells of the mans's stay at one of the "Camps" that was set aside for jews during world war II. it tells of the man and his wife and how a captain did tereible things to the man and caused the death of his wife. but after the war just weeks before the man kills himself he see's the captain walking down the street. now voight becomes the avenger for the man and really the jewish people as he goes after the s.s. funded "odessa " a group that hides and gives new lives to war criminals,like our captain in the diary.

slow moving at times, the movie is good,but don't expect "die hard" kind of action. if you give it a chance you may like this thriller>
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on June 15, 2014
This old movie from the Frederick Forsyth novel is very good and wears well considering it was made in the '70s. Having not seen it for many years before purchasing it, I was surprised to realize what a good actor the young Jon Voight actually was. He plays a German free-lance journalist who gets caught up in a story with a compelling lead. Although the dialog is in English (naturally), Voight plays him with the speech patterns and cadence he would have if he were speaking the German language.

A couple of memorable touches: The wonderful English character actor Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius) as a sniveling mama's boy complicit with Nazis, Perry Como's mellifluous voice singing a (thematic to the movie) Christmas carol on the radio broadcast interrupted to announce the Kennedy assassination.

Were it not for this being a full-screen version, the only version available in Region 1, I would have rated it 5 stars.
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on May 16, 2006
Voight is spot on in this superior suspense and intrigue film. I missed this when it was released and had only mild expectations for it, but once again, I am pleasantly surprised to find another underrated gem. Previously, I thought Deliverance to be my favorite Jon Voight appearance, but The Odessa File allows him to give a sustained excellent performance as a German journalist uncovering facts too disturbing to set aside. Don't let the unlikely Perry Como Christmas song over the opening credits put you off. You'll soon be pulled into a "hunter as hunted" mystery of convincing authenticity. Jon Voight is perfect for the role. Evidence to his terrific performance is that his character must "play" an older Nazi. At that point it becomes difficult who's doing the better acting: Jon Voight as the German journalist, or his character portraying the Nazi. Then it becomes obvious that whatever is the correct answer, Jon Voight wins! Still,I would rate it his SECOND best work, considering that not long after Odessa File was released he was producing Angelina Jolie.
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VINE VOICEon June 20, 2010
"The Odessa File" (1974) is a British-made thriller, based on a book of the same name by Sir Frederick Forsyth (The Odessa File), that gives us a good picture of life in that macho muscular port city of Hamburg, Germany, a decade earlier. It opens on November 22, 1963, as the assassination and death of American President John F. Kennedy come in over the radio, in between the playing of a catchy Christmas song: "Christmas Dream," sung by Perry Como, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who did the film's score. The film stars Jon Voigt, (Midnight Cowboy) playing journalist Peter Miller, who, after finding the diary of a Holocaust survivor who had recently committed suicide, 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, as the Odessa is apparently helping Egypt to build weapons that they hope will destroy Israel. Further probing reveals a link between the officer, Odessa and Miller's own family.

The movie was directed by Ronald Neame, who has just passed. He was made a Commander of the British Empire on the 1996 Queen's List. Neame had photographed "Blithe Spirit" (1945), "This Happy Breed," (1944), and "In Which We Serve." He directed "The Poseidon Adventure," "Scrooge," "The Prime of Miss Jean Brody," "Tunes of Glory," and "The Horse's Mouth." He had three Oscar nominations, and another three wins in his career. In this film, he is good at capturing the cold war feeling of the divided Germany, the sense of wheels within wheels. Kenneth Ross has adapted a polished screen play from Forsyth's best selling novel. The film costars the forgettable Mary Tamm as Sigi, Miller's girlfriend; and Maximilian Schell (The Phantom of the Opera (Full Screen Edition)), playing Eduard Roschmann, an unrepentant Nazi. Maria Schell (99 Women (Director's Cut)), plays Miller's mother, Frau Miller. Sir Derek Jacobi, (I, Claudius [VHS];The Cadfael Collection), who has, I think, only two scenes, contributes an unforgettable portrait of Klaus Wenzer, the Odessa's favorite forger, and gets a pretty high billing for it, too. Someone surely knew that only he could play the part.

There were, of course, many fine cold war spy books written during this period, and many fine movies made of them. This is neither the best nor the worst, but the acting is good, photography and direction are fine, and it holds its own, with Voigt ably carrying it. The plot's a bit over the top, but it reflects Forsyth's approach of taking an actual situation, and then adding a "what if," to it, which you can also see in the 1973 film The Day of the Jackal, that was itself based on a Forsyth book, adapted for the screen by Kenneth Ross. If you've never seen "The Odessa File," or haven't seen it since its theatrical release, it is thoughtful and entertaining, definitely worth a look.
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