Reading the Screen: More Boys from Brazil?

Apparently, if you believe reports on the internet, Brett Ratner, director of the Rush Hour movies, is working on a remake of The Boys from Brazil (1978). But don’t panic: it could only be a rumor — although the project is listed as “in development” on The Internet Movie Database — and, anyway, Rattner also directed a suitably atmospheric and unfairly maligned adaptation of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, the first Hannibal Lecter book.   

The Boys from Brazil was, for the six of you who don’t know this already, based on the 1976 Ira Levin novel of the same name.  It is not a perfect film adaptation: it follows Levin’s plot and pacing perhaps too closely. But it is an awful lot of fun. Here’s the original trailer:

And here, to give you a real feel for the movie, is an excerpt from Jerry Goldsmith’s magnificent score. It’s one of his best scores, majestic and operatic and playful.


I’m not sure there’s any need for another version of the movie. The Big Surprise isn’t so big anymore, and even the science behind the Big Surprise isn’t especially new or mind-bending. Wait for the new movie, if you want, but do me a favor while you’re waiting? Read the novel. It’s a beautiful thriller: brilliantly constructed, compellingly written, and suspenseful from start to finish.

Levin, by the way also wrote Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, two first-class thrillers that were also turned into movies. The first is a Roman Polanski classic, the second an interesting misfire. (There was a recent remake of Stepford, which turned Levin’s social-commentary thriller into a satire, but I think we can all safely ignore that one.)

Before starting this series of blog posts, I wrote a few articles called Reading the Screen. One of them talked about The Boys from Brazil some other classic thrillers that were made, with mixed results, into movies. You should check it out.

If you have a favorite thriller book-to-movie translation, let me know. You can leave a comment down there, just below this sentence.



About the Author:

David Pitt lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In addition to reviewing for Booklist, he writes a monthly column about paperback fiction and nonfiction for the Winnipeg Free Press. He has contributed to The Booklist Reader since 2010.

2 Comments on "Reading the Screen: More Boys from Brazil?"

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  1. Dear David:

    Pegasus Books is reissuing The Boys from Brazil in November. We hope to reintroduce this classic thriller to a new audience.

    Rattner’s adaptation will be intriguing, to say the least, if it gets made.

    With best wishes,

    Claiborne Hancock, Publisher

  2. David Pitt says:


    Thanks for the heads-up. I hope a new edition of the book will encourage some of the people who’ve seen the movie, and assume they know the book, to actually read it.

    I suspect Brazil is one of those books that many people have heard of, but far fewer have read. There are too many books that fall into that category, I fear.

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