“The Odessa File” stars Oscar winner Jon Voight (Ray Donovan) as freelance journalist, Peter Miller. The film takes place in Germany, in the year 1963. Miller, by sheer happenstance, finds himself engulfed in searching for a Nazi war criminal. The man he’s looking for is Eduard Roschmann, a former SS officer and concentration camp commandant, known as the Butcher of Riga. In the film, Roschmann is portrayed by Oscar winner Maximillian Schell (Judgment at Nuremberg). (As an aside: Odessa stands for Organization of Former Members of the SS).
The catalyst for the film is when Miller follows an ambulance. What makes following this particular ambulance ride worth his while, is the person it’s carrying, or more importantly, what he leaves behind. Salomon Tauber (Towje Kleiner) an elderly Jewish man and survivor of the Holocaust has committed suicide. Tauber has no family, therefore, no one to claim his belongings, one of which is a diary. Miller gets a hold of the diary, thanks to one of his contacts in the Hamburg police department. The diary contains information about Tauber‘s life, during World War II, in the Riga ghetto. Contained within its pages is information about the aforementioned Roschmann. (As an aside: Riga is the capital of the country of Latvia, which is set on The Baltic Sea).
Miller has a reason, which will be imparted to the viewer later on in the film, for wanting to locate Roschmann. He begins his search by contacting Simon Wiesenthal. The real life Nazi hunter is played in the film by Shumuel Rodensky. Wiesenthal informs Miller about Odessa. The organization helps former SS members in a number of ways. For example, falsifying passports and providing safe travel. After consulting with Wiesenthal, Miller is approached by the Mossad (The National Intelligence Agency of Israel). The Israeli’s are interested in having Miller take on a dangerous assignment by infiltrating Odessa. The task will not be easy and Miller’s life is seemingly in danger from the start.
Helping Miller infiltrate Odessa is Klaus Wenzer, played by BAFTA and two time Emmy winner Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius). He is a forger, who helps Miller construct a new identity. Additional cast members include, but are not limited to, Frau Miller (Maria Schell), Miller’s mother and Sigi (Mary Tamm), his girlfriend. Hannes Messemer has a small role as Nazi General Glücks; and Noel Willman portrays Franz Bayer, an interrogator, who is one of many obstacles in Miller’s path to getting to Roschmann. (As an aside: Maria Schell is Maximilian Schell’s sister. In 2002, Schell made a movie about her called My Sister Maria).
“The Odessa File” premiered in the UK on October 17, 1974. The film was directed by 3 time Oscar nominee Ronald Neame (Great Expectations). Based on the novel of the same name, written by bestselling author Frederick Forsyth (The Fourth Protocol), the film was adapted for the screen by Golden Globe nominee Kenneth Ross (The Day of the Jackal) and George Markstein (Robbery). Part drama and thriller the movie has a runtime of 130 minutes. The cinematography by Oscar winner Oswald Morris (Fiddler on the Roof) helps to elevate the tension in the story. Furthermore, the musical score by Oscar winner Andrew Lloyd Webber (Evita) helps in creating the right mood for what is transpiring on screen. For those of you seeking a well paced thriller, along the lines of “Three Days of the Condor” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious,” this will more than likely hold your interest.