The Odessa File (film)

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

The Odessa File
Film poster by Bill Gold
Illustration by Howard Terpning
Directed byRonald Neame
Produced byJohn Woolf
Screenplay byKenneth Ross
George Markstein
Based onThe Odessa File
by Frederick Forsyth
StarringJon Voight
Mary Tamm
Maximilian Schell
Maria Schell
Music byAndrew Lloyd Webber
CinematographyOswald Morris
Edited byRalph Kemplen
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 18 October 1974 (1974-10-18)
Running time
128 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom
West Germany
Box office$6 million (North American rentals)[1]


On 22 November 1963, the day of the John F. Kennedy assassination in Dallas, Peter Miller, a young freelance reporter in Hamburg, West Germany, pulls his car over to the curb to listen to a radio report of the event. 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 Riga Ghetto during WW II, including the name of the SS officer who ran the camp, Eduard Roschmann.

Determined to hunt Roschmann down, Miller consults with Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal who informs him about ODESSA, a secret organisation for former members of the SS. 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 and confronts him at gunpoint, revealing that the diary included a passage about Roschmann murdering a fellow German officer during the war the unique details of which confirm that it was Miller’s father. Miller intends to hand Roschmann to the authorities, but kills him when the Nazi shoots him. The detailed ODESSA files are used to arrest numerous Nazi war criminals, and Roschmann’s factory mysteriously burns to the ground before any rockets are delivered to Egypt.



Filming was done on location in Hamburg, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; Heidelberg, Germany; Munich, Germany; at Pinewood Studios, England; and the Bavaria Filmstudios in Grünwald, Bavaria, Germany. It was filmed with Panavision equipment, produced with Eastmancolor technologies.

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


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 criticises 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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