The Odessa File (film)

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The Odessa File
Odessa file movieposter.jpg
Film poster by Bill Gold
Illustration by Howard Terpning
Directed by Ronald Neame
Produced by John Woolf
Written by Kenneth Ross
George Markstein
Based on The Odessa File
1972 novel
by Frederick Forsyth
Starring Jon Voight
Maximilian Schell
Maria Schell
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Edited by Ralph Kemplen
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • 18 October 1974 (1974-10-18)
Running time
130 minutes
Country United Kingdom
West Germany
Language English
Box office $6 million (North American rentals)[1]

The Odessa File is an Anglo-German 1974 espionage thriller film adaptation of the novel The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth, about a reporter's investigation of a neo-Nazi political-industrial network in post-World War 2 West Germany. The film stars Jon Voight, Maximilian Schell and Maria Schell and was directed by Ronald Neame, with a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was the only film which the Schell siblings made together.


On 22 November 1963, the day that President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Peter Miller, a young freelance reporter, pulls over to the curb to listen to a radio report of the event in a district in Hamburg, West Germany. As a result, he happens to be stopped at a traffic signal as an ambulance passes by on a highway.

He follows the ambulance and discovers it is en route to pick up the body of an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor who had committed suicide, leaving behind no family. The reporter obtains the diary of the man, which contains information on his life in the Second World War Riga Ghetto, and the name of the SS officer who ran the camp, Eduard Roschmann. Miller is startled to find that in one passage the diarist mentioned seeing Roschmann shoot and kill an SS officer who was wearing an unusual military decoration. Miller realizes from these details that the officer mentioned was his own father.

Determined to hunt Roschmann down, Miller consults with Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal who informs him about ODESSA, a secret organization of SS veterans. With this information, Miller then dares to go undercover, using an assumed name and forged papers showing him as an SS veteran. He joins and infiltrates the ODESSA and finds Roschmann, who now runs a high-tech company which plans to send radio gyroscopes and biochemical warheads to Egypt to use against Israel. Miller eventually finds Roschmann, confronts him at gunpoint with his knowledge about his father's murder, has a chance to shoot him in revenge, but does not.

ODESSA is an acronym for the German phrase "Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen", which translates as "Organisation of Former Members of the SS".

The film's title song, "Christmas Dream", is sung by Perry Como and the London Boy Singers.



The movie was filmed on location in Hamburg, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; Heidelberg, Germany; Munich, Germany; at Pinewood Studios, England; and the Bavaria Filmstudios in Grünwald, Germany.


Nora Sayre of The New York Times said, "The film makes its points methodically, almost academically. It also drags because there are many unnecessary transitional passages, devoted to moving the characters from one situation to another. Almost every occurrence is predictable."[2]

Groggy Dundee in Nothing is Written praised the actors, "Jon Voight does well, making Miller a credible and compelling protagonist. Maximilian Schell is excellent in what amounts to an extended cameo." However, he criticizes the filmmakers for simplifying Forsyth's novel and dulling its anti-Nazi message.[3]


  1. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 46
  2. ^ Sayre, Nora (19 October 1974). "Neame's 'Odessa File': Thriller About Secret SS". 
  3. ^ Dundee, Groggy (17 July 2010). "The Odessa File". 

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