Called out of retirement to settle the affairs of a friend, Smiley finds his old organization, the Circus, so overwhelmed by political considerations that it doesn't want to know what ... See full summary »
This is the story of Magnus Pym, from his childhood to the end of his career in middle age. As a young man, there is little doubt that his father Rick was the most influential character in ... See full summary »
Taken from the book by John le Carre, George Smiley rallies to the aid of his former intelligence colleague, Ailsa Brimley, to investigate a mysterious letter from a junion master's wife at... See full summary »
The mysterious murder of an environmental activist leads her straight-laced father, an Inspector of the local police force, through a haunting revelation of the murkiness of the British ... See full summary »
David Callan is the top agent/assassin for the Security Service (British counterintelligence), but he is an embittered man who performs his duties "for Queen and country" under duress. This... See full summary »
George Smiley has been retired for about a year when he finds a friend from the Circus, his old outfit in British Intelligence, sitting in his living room. He is taken to the home of an advisor to the Prime Minister on intelligence matters, where he finds evidence that one of the men in the senior ranks of his old agency is a Russian spy. Smiley is asked to find him, without official access to any of the files in the Circus or letting on that anyone is under suspicion. With only a few old friends, his own powers of deduction, and secrecy as weapons, Smiley must unearth the spy who turned him out of the Circus. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
John le Carré once paid an unexpected visit to the set during filming. Alec Guinness stopped acting immediately and asked that le Carré leave so he could continue. Guinness later maintained that it was disconcerting performing with le Carré watching, as he had based a lot of Smiley's performance on the writer himself. See more »
In episode 6, Bill Hayden writes a cheque for his girlfriend and tears it out of the cheque-book. He then writes her name and address on a slip of paper. In the next shot he is shown ripping a (blank) cheque from the cheque-book and handing it to Smiley along with the slip of paper. See more »
Got a rabbit to pull out of your hat, Percy? You've got that Britain-can-make-it look about you. Very intimidating.
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SPOILER: The closing credits scroll over a scene of Oxford, which is chronologically where the spy was recruited in the story. See more »
Definitely in the BBC pantheon (alongside I Claudius and Pride and Prejudice), partly for its formidable cast, but mainly for John Irvin's taut directorial grip - a model of visual economy and uncompromising narrative drive.
A double-agent or 'mole' is suspected at the top levels of the British secret service and retired spymaster Alec Guiness must narrow down the suspects amongst his former colleagues. Arthur Hopcraft's adaptation, while capturing the bureaucratic intrigue and perfidy of John Le Carre's novel, will demand viewers' utmost attention if they want to stay with the unfolding plot.
Irvin shoots Tinker, Tailor as if for widescreen - edge of the screen compositions, careful background detail - and demonstrates how a determined director can overcome the limitations of television(usually seen as a writer or producer's medium). Look at how he composes and cuts the scene where Guillam (Michael Jayston) is interrogated round the boardroom table towards the end of the first half. How Irvin provides deft little 'bookend' shots with the characters slowly walking away from camera.
Not that his sparse, pared-down style doesn't translate to action scenes with equal verve. The prologue - Ian Bannen's abortive mission into Czechoslovakia and its climatic chase through the forest - is as tense as anything you're likely to see on the big screen. Wintry settings and a fraught music score (mainly strings) add to this bleak, cynical vision.
Irvin landed the Hollywood actioner Dogs of War on the strength of Tinker, Tailor, but despite clever touches it didn't launch a notable cinema career. Look out, however, for his earlier television adaptation of Dickens' Hard Times. (For another example of very superior television direction, check out James Goldstone's handling of two first-season Star Trek episodes - 'Where No Man Has Gone Before' and 'What Are Little Made Of').
Author Le Carre may have topped Tinker,Tailor with a dazzling sequel (The Honourable Schoolboy, published 1977), but this is still far and away the best espionage suspenser ever televised. Indeed, it's hard to see how anything else, post Cold War, could quite match this relentless, ruthless dissection of personal and political betrayals.
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