The Film: The House on Garibaldi Street (1979)
The Principals: Topol, Nick Mancuso, Janet Suzman, Leo McKern, Alfred Burke
The Premise: Based on a tip from a German representative that Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann is alive and living in Argentina, Israeli agents plot to kidnap and take him back to Israel for trial.
Is it Good?: Recently I had caught this made for TV movie on Netflix Instant (it is still available) and having not seen it in over 15 years I am pleased to say that this movie still holds up exceptionally well today. Based on the book by Isser Harel, The House on Garibaldi Street makes for a good old fashioned spy thriller with the Israeli agents playing a game of cat and mouse trying to figure out where Eichmann (using the name Ricardo Clemens) lives, not an easy feat considering the government of Argentina turned a blind eye to all the Nazi criminals who escaped and fled to that country using new identities.
The House on Garibaldi Street‘s strength is in the storytelling. Don’t go into this movie expecting car chases or big shoot outs on the streets. It is a low key film that simply tells a story of how a group of dedicated and determined people want to bring a war criminal to justice. Another aspect that kept my interest was watching the mossad agents use simple tactics to locate and eventually capture Eichmann.
From the beginning the odds were stacked against the mossad agents with one wrong move ending the operation, and this is where their genius of using undercover tactics served them well. Their task was a three step operation – They had to avoid bringing attention to themselves by blending in as tourists and businessmen with a couple of them pretending to be Germans seeking to rent a house. They had to locate and positively identify Eichmann. Then they had to capture, hold him until the right time and then get him out of the country. What elevates this movie above other spy dramas from that era is the fact this is based on a true story.
I would be negligent if I did not mention the cast. Topol (Fiddler on The Roof) is outstanding in the lead role as Michael and his character is subtly fleshed out at various times in the movie with Michael telling stories of his encounter with Eichmann at the concentration camp. It is times like this that makes one understand a bit more of exactly why these agents put their lives on the line to capture Eichmann. Nick Mancuso (Under Siege 2: Dark Territory) portrays the young mossad agent who, unlike the others, was a first generation Jew who was born after the Holocaust. His opinion at first is in contrast to others as he feels going after “old war criminals” is a waste of time. I should note that Nick’s character was a good representation of young Jews at the time who had the same sentiment.
The House on Garabildi Street is definitely worth your time to check out. It is a compelling story that is elevated by a superb cast.
Random Anecdotes: Since I am a fan of post-WWII movies I was instantly drawn to this movie years ago which subsequently led me to learn more about Eichmann. See, sometimes movies do help broaden ones education.
Cinematic Soulmates: The Boys from Brazil, Marathon Man, The Evil that Men Do