In the spy-crazed film world of the 1960s, Len Deighton's antihero Harry Palmer burst onto the scene as an antidote to the James Bond films. Here was a British spy who had a working-class accent and horn-rimmed glasses and... more » above all really didn't want to be a spy in the first place. As portrayed by Michael Caine, Palmer was the perfect antithesis to Sean Connery's 007. Unlike that of his globetrotting spy cousin, Palmer's beat is cold, rainy, dreary London, where he spends his days and nights in unheated flats spying on subversives. He does charm one lady, but she's no Pussy Galore, just a civil servant he works with, sent to keep an eye on him. Eventually he's assigned to get to the bottom of the kidnapping and subsequent "brain draining" of a nuclear physicist, all the while being reminded by his superiors that it's this or prison. Things begin to get pretty hairy for Harry. Produced by Harry Saltzman in his spare time between Bond movies, the film also features a haunting score by another Bond veteran, composer John Barry. --Kristian St. Clair« less
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 06/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Magnificently directed by Sidney Furie, this terrific thriller has one of Michael Caine's most memorable performances, and a sensational score by John Barry.Caine's Harry Palmer is a marvelous character...an anti-Bond...a guy in a dull job who suddenly finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. He has his quirks...he goes against authority, has his sharp wit, his gourmet food, and "that look" behind the horn rimmed glasses.The plot revolves around a "brain drain" of scientists in England, and has spies, the CIA, and all the usual suspects...which in this case are a little harder to predict.With brilliant writing (Bill Canaway/James Doran), superb cinematography (Otto Heller), and some good character actors (I love Alice the office lady...an anti-Ms. Moneypenny !) this is a film that will keep you interested for many viewings...suspenseful, amusing, and you'll just be wild about Harry."
Len Deighton's Spy with No Name = Harry Palmer
John Dziadecki | Louisville, CO USA | 09/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Len Deighton's first novel presents the micro-detail workings of a nameless espionage agent's workaday world. The protagonist is as far removed from the glamour world of James Bond as you can get -- in fact, it's the polar opposite. The film IS a departure from Deighton's novel but what is here works well.
The entire cast is very good. The story moves along at a leisurely but good pace. The cinematography takes on a persona of its own that bears well under repeated viewing. John Barry's score is one of his best and quite different in tone from his Bond scores. Production values are top notch. And it's quite surprizing when you realize this film's producer is Harry Saltzman -- one of the co-producers of the Bond series! In fact, Saltzman brought along some of the Bond crew to work on "The Ipcress File".
This is Michael Caine's first starring role in film. Saltzman tapped Caine after seeing his excellent perfomance in "Zulu". Caine does a yeoman job of portraying the novel's spy with no name as Harry Palmer, complete with deadpan, wry humor.
On DVD, the film is presented in its intended original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image looks quite good. The sound is the original clear mono. There is commentary by director Sidney J. Furie and editor Peter Hunt. Anchor Bay is to be congratulated for making this film available on disc. Which brings us to a sore subject
"The Ipcress File" is currently out of print in the US. The film is lated to be screened in Washington, DC. Maybe there's some renewed interest in the film which might lead to a remastered edition on DVD? Who knows who owns the copyright? ITM, try vising your local library or rental outlet to see this film.
IMHO, it's an excellent film -- filled with believable characters and situations and enough plot twists to keep you wondering what the heck's going on. A keeper."
BOND meets BULLITT
M. Nichols | West Chester, OH United States | 08/06/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"THE IPCRESS FILE does for espionage films what BULLITT did for police films; it provides what seems to be a realistic depiction of the trade as opposed to Hollywood glamourization. And it succeeds marvelously.
Caine turns in an excellent performance as Harry Palmer, a secret agent investigating the "brain drain" of leading government physicists who have been kidnapped only to reappear with their scientific knowledge erased. In additon to providing the audience with an alternative to James Bond, dealing daily with paperwork and beaurocracy and completely devoid of gadgets, the film gives the viewer real insight into counter-espionage techniques, portraying Plamer as more of a detective than a playboy (did James Bond ever take time away from the casino to locate Blofeld by tracking down the location of his most frequently issued parking tickets?).
I very much enjoy the direction of this film, which made impressive use of the widescreen format. Low, angled shots add to the drama immensely. My one complaint is that, while performances are all top-notch, the plot fizzles upon resolution and it seems as if apprehension of the key villain is as unimportant as reversing the "brain drain." The entire experience of THE IPCRESS FILE is good enough, however, that this does little to hamper the viewer's enjoyment of this film."
One Of The Best Espionage Films. And It's No Spoof.
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Let's see," says Major Dalby, head of the Counter-Intelligence Bureau, as he reads Sergeant Harry Palmer's personnel file. "'Insubordinate. Insolent. A trickster. Perhaps with criminal tendencies.' Well, that last one may just be put to good use."
Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) has been sent to Dalby (Nigel Green) by Col. H. L. Ross (Guy Doleman) of Britain's Ministry of Defense. Scientists have gone missing, and the few who have shown up later seem to have been brain washed. They are no longer useful. Dalby's unit is charged with finding out what's going on. And Harry Palmer, like it or not, who loves to cook and loves the birds, who wears glasses, who is not impressed with authority, who can be a bit unreliable when he chooses to be, and who actually is a pretty good spy, is assigned to help break the case. Eventually he does, but not without a lot of pain and a fair amount of violence. Palmer can take it, but he can dish it out as well. He also has a shrewd, analytical mind. He's willing to gamble and sometimes he's off the mark. And all the while he has to deal with the bullying, condescending Dalby, "a passed-over major," as well as Col. Ross, who drips condescension like an ice cube on a hot day. Harry Palmer doesn't have it easy.
I think this is one of the better espionage movies made. It's not a spoof, like the Bond movies. Harry Palmer, based on the Len Deighton character (to whom Deighton never gave a name), as played by Caine is immensely likable because he takes the measure of the stuffed shirts and is amused by their pretensions. The character also works because as the story proceeds you realize that Palmer knows his job. The two secondary actors, Green and Doleman, bring a lot of depth to their roles and a lot of interest to the movie. Their attitudes are so imperviously superior it would be amusing except that they both wield quite a bit of power.
This is a movie that I can watch many times and still enjoy for its style and story-telling prowess. Furie throws in some directorial flourishes common then that now seem a bit dated, but that's a minor quibble for a well made and well acted movie. The DVD transfer is just fine."
The Anti-Bond, If You Will...
Michael Weber | Atlanta | 12/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Caine's Harry Palmer -- the character is nameless in the Len Deighton novels; as he is also the first-person narrator, this works, but for this film, (third-person all the way) it was felt that he needed a name -- is just as escapist a fantasy as Connery's Bond, but in a different manner. Deliberately deglamorised and *presented* as just a relatively ordinary man, if of a somewhat dubious moral character, doing his best to keep out of trouble, Palmer nonetheless is, underneath, a bit more.Blackmailed into espionage with the threat of well-earned prison time, Palmer is a useful foot-soldier in the sordid, quiet war of espionage and counter-espionage, set to unmask a traitor -- but who *is* the traitor -- is there anyone at all that he can trust?Michael Caine (this was the first film in which i had seen him) inhabits the role of Harry Palmer and makes it totally his, a man of contradictions -- a working class man, but one who genuinely loves and appreciates the finer things, unlike Fleming's (and, to some extent, the Bond movies') Bond, an amoral thug who apes the manners and tastes of his betters.The apparently-realistic dreary grey London streets and settings add to this film's apparently-realistic approach, all the better to persuade the viewer to suspend his disbelief and accept the rather complex plot, especially when we get to the brainwashing parts...First of three films, this was a series that *could* have rivalled Bond but fizzled out in the end.All three, however, are well worth your time."