Alec Leamas, a British spy is sent to East Germany supposedly to defect, but in fact to sow disinformation. As more plot turns appear, Leamas becomes more convinced that his own people see him as just a cog. His struggle back from dehumanization becomes the final focus of the story. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
In a 2016 article for The Guardian, John le Carré revealed fond memories of the shoot: 'The director and I got along fine. I enjoyed an amiable relationship with the screenwriter [Paul Dehn], who as a former instructor in the black arts at a British spy school during the second world war, turned out to know much more about espionage than I did. No great liberties were taken with my story - although I no longer see that as a criterion - and my only job was to provide the odd grace note to the screenplay while befriending Richard Burton and keeping a beady eye on his alcohol consumption.' Although he recalled 'open hostility' between Burton and director Martin Ritt, he believed this 'fed Burton's sense of alienation, and gave force to his performance.' See more »
In his defense speech of Mundt, the East German defense attorney (played by George Voskovec) states "Smiley was indeed Leamas's friend. He was also a planner in the section called Satellites Four, which operates behind the Iron Curtain." The term "Iron Curtain" would not have been used by officials of East Germany or other Soviet bloc countries to refer to the east-west divide. Originally created by Winston Churchill, the phrase "behind the Iron Curtain" became a disparaging characterization of the east bloc countries and their socialist systems. It was seen as serving to keep people in and information out, and people mostly throughout the West used the metaphor in that context. See more »
I have unreserved enthusiasm for this film having watched it on many occasions and yet to find a fault. Indeed it only gets better. It is so atmospheric, with Director Martin Ritt, his designers and photographers, all superb. You really feel you are either in a typical 1960's corner shop in London, a prison in East Germany or a communist safe-house in Scandanavia.
It has always been my view that once it is established the leading actor in any film is on top form, which certainly applies to Burton and the script is accepted as good, then it is the support actors who determine whether a film is going to reach excellence. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold has an absolutely first-class range of actors at the very top of their profession. The casting is magnificent and each of them has a meaningful part to play in this film, enabling them to bring their own special qualities to every role.
The list of talent is endless and includes Claire Bloom playing the naive young communist, Nan, who befriends Leamas, Michael Hordern, Robert Hardy, Sam Wanamaker, Peter Van Eyck who was very good as Hans Dieter Munt, the very sinister head of the East German Secret Police, the brilliant Cyril Cussack and Bernard Lee. My own particular favourite in the film, however, is the excellent Oskar Werner who portrays Fiedler, Deputy to Munt, who despite this and his fanatical belief in communism, is suspected and despised by his own organisation because he is Jewish.
But of course it is Burton who is the central part to the film and he plays the downbeat spy, Alec Leamas, to perfection, in what must be one of the best performances of his film career. Burton is Leamas and Leamas is Burton. He is brilliant and I cannot imagine the author of the book, John Le Carre, being anything than very impressed with Burton's interpretation of his character.
The film is well worthy of being watched either by those who have not seen it before, or by others who have to appreciate it once again. It is of course from a by-gone era when communism was an ideology followed by millions and opposed by many millions more besides. It was perceived by many as a fight to the death, hence the tension which Martin Ritt and his team magnificently captures.
It may well be a film depicting another era but I have no doubt there will be many operators just like Alec Leamas in our modern-day secret service, just as cynical about making a living in the seedy world in which they inhabit. The story comfortably defies the passing of time, while the quality of acting will be appreciated indefinitely such is the very high standard.
Michael Dixon, Sunderland, England.
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