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A number of leading Western scientists have been kidnapped only to reappear a fews days later. Unfortunately, each scientist has been brainwashed and is now completely useless. The British send their agent, Harry Palmer, to investigate. Palmer is surprised to be selected for such a mission (considering his past) and believes he has been chosen because he is expendable. Written by
Dave Jenkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Palmer is the first action hero to wear glasses (Michael Caine is myopic in real life). Caine chose to wear glasses, because he expected the film to be the first of a series, similar to the Bond movies. He feared being over-identified with the character of Harry Palmer, and so he wore the glasses, so that he could remove them for other roles. See more »
When Harry Palmer is imprisoned in a cell, on two occasions, as he leans up in the bed, his left arm touches the "solid" brick scenery wall moves, showing that it is not solid. See more »
[at the armorers]
Give him your gun. Issue him with a Colt .32.
[hands Palmer a revolver]
Do you know how to use this?
Colt .32? Yes. I'd sooner have my automatic...
Use the Colt.
I'll use the Colt.
See more »
Best of the series, and one of the best British spy films.
Although this film is obviously made on something of a shoestring, there is nothing "kitchen sink about it". The scenes are shot on location in London (I came out of my house one morning, and saw them shooting the film across the road. A friend told me that Michael Caine was in the film, and this turns out to be the film.) This film was made in the wake of the Philby, McLean et al scandal, and the film enters the British class warfare with all guns blazing. You see, these bunch of traitors were not the undependable working class, these were "decent Oxbridge chaps" who had had the finest education and privilege. And it was THEY who had sided with the commies. Similarly, the Profumo affair, where a minister of the Conservative government had been sharing a mistress with a Soviet diplomat, had been a nail in the coffin for the "old British order." If the chaps at the top couldn't be relied on to stay loyal. How about the rabble beneath?
Harry Palmer represents the new kind of British hero, just as Michael Caine represents the new kind of British film actor. Whereas in British action films hitherto, the elite were shown as efficient and brave with their "OK, chaps, in you go. I'll be right behind you;" here they are displayed as duplicitous, inept, and resistant to change. (Listen to the comments made about supermarkets by Col. Ross.) The new order of things is being swept away, as evinced by Major Dalby swinging away to the military band in the park, in a sparsely filled auditorium.
Again and again this theme of "it's the upper classes that are subversive comes up - from the very beginning, when Palmer leaves his lowly flat in Maida Vale's Formosa Street to head for a stakeout in Hamilton Terrace, one of the most exclusive streets in London. When the traitor is revealed at the end, it is a member of the establishment, who apparently believes in the system - not the insubordinate Palmer who continually cocks a snook at the system.
Plenty of interesting imagery here. Notice that it is the "working class" Palmer who is living the most sophisticated life, from the moment he first appears in the memorable scene. Yes, the working class with their regional accents, and studying the racing pages of the newspapers have now got electric kettles, electric coffee grinders, and make their coffee in cafetieres. Another harbinger of the social change to come is the CIA agent, portrayed by a well-dressed Negro who smokes a pipe.
Then there is the irony. The establishment, who hold the lower orders in utter contempt are the ones who embrace communism, a system that is supposed to be on the side of the worker, while it is lower orders, as represented by Palmer, who are trying to stop them.
The spy mystery is just the tip of this iceberg, the interesting things are the changes in society that are going on underneath.
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