IMDb > "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (1979)
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
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"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" (1979) More at IMDbPro »TV mini-series 1979-

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8.7/10   4,722 votes »
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Release Date:
29 September 1980 (USA) See more »
In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons. Full summary »
Nominated for Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
A stunning argument for TV drama. See more (84 total) »


 (Series Cast Summary - 17 of 18)

Alec Guinness ... George Smiley (7 episodes, 1979)

Michael Jayston ... Peter Guillam (7 episodes, 1979)
Anthony Bate ... Sir Oliver Lacon / ... (7 episodes, 1979)
George Sewell ... Mendel (7 episodes, 1979)
Bernard Hepton ... Toby Esterhase (5 episodes, 1979)

Ian Richardson ... Bill Haydon (5 episodes, 1979)
Hywel Bennett ... Ricki Tarr (5 episodes, 1979)
Terence Rigby ... Roy Bland (4 episodes, 1979)

Ian Bannen ... Jim Prideaux (4 episodes, 1979)
Michael Aldridge ... Percy Alleline (4 episodes, 1979)
Alec Sabin ... Fawn (4 episodes, 1979)

Alexander Knox ... Control (3 episodes, 1979)
Duncan Jones ... Roach (3 episodes, 1979)
Daniel Beecher ... Spikely (3 episodes, 1979)
John Wells ... Headmaster (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Compton ... Bryant (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Moorey ... Lauda Strickland (2 episodes, 1979)

Series Directed by
John Irvin (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Writing credits
Arthur Hopcraft (7 episodes, 1979)
John le Carré (7 episodes, 1979)

Series Produced by
Jonathan Powell .... producer (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Original Music by
Geoffrey Burgon (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Cinematography by
Tony Pierce-Roberts (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Film Editing by
Chris Wimble (4 episodes, 1979)
Clare Douglas (3 episodes, 1979)
Series Production Design by
Austen Spriggs (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Costume Design by
Joyce Mortlock (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Makeup Department
Elizabeth Rowell .... makeup artist (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Art Department
Douglas Burd .... graphic designer (7 episodes, 1979)
Series Sound Department
Mike Crozier .... dubbing editor (7 episodes, 1979)
Stan Morcom .... dubbing mixer (7 episodes, 1979)
Malcolm Webberley .... sound recordist (7 episodes, 1979)
Paul Ashton .... dubbing editor (3 episodes, 1979)
Series Camera and Electrical Department
Terry Manning .... chief electrician (1 episode, 1979)
Jim Monks .... chief grips (1 episode, 1979)
Series Editorial Department
Simon Holland .... assistant editor (1 episode, 1979)
Series Other crew
Frances Alcock .... assistant to director (7 episodes, 1979)
Peter Grimwade .... production assistant (7 episodes, 1979)
Jeremy Silberston .... assistant floor manager (7 episodes, 1979)
Tony Virgo .... production assistant (7 episodes, 1979)
Marcia Wheeler .... production unit manager (7 episodes, 1979)
Betty Willingale .... script editor (7 episodes, 1979)
Christabel Albery .... assistant floor manager (6 episodes, 1979)

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
290 min | UK:315 min (7 parts)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The Star Trek universe has many connections to this series. First, Patrick Stewart who played Karla, later famously went on to play Captain Jean-Luc Picard in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987). Second, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993) had a recurring character named Garak, who was a tailor and a spy and often made witty comments about his professions which resembled observations made in various John le Carré writings. Third, another Star Trek production was called "Star Trek: Voyager: Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy (#6.4)" (1999).See more »
Continuity: In episode 6, when Peter Guillam is testing the taping system at the safe house, he says the recorder is voice-activated, but it doesn't stop turning on his first silent pause, which is much longer than his second and third pauses, when it stops instantly.See more »
Bill Haydon:Got a rabbit to pull out of your hat, Percy? You've got that Britain-can-make-it look about you. Very intimidating.See more »
Movie Connections:
Nunc DimittisSee more »


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85 out of 99 people found the following review useful.
A stunning argument for TV drama., 7 December 2000
Author: Alice Liddel ( from dublin, ireland

Although not as sympathetic or achingly romantic as 'The Russia House', this stunning TV adaptation is the closest the screen has gotten to the singular world of John le Carre. Very few writers actually become so synonymous with their age that we look to their works to find out what a period of history was like. When we think of the Cold War, and, most especially, the shabby bureaucracy of British espionage, it is le Carre we think of.

What le Carre shares with Graham Greene, making him a million miles from the priapic fantasies of James Bond, is in showing how the Cold War literally degraded everyone. Fils like 'Ninotchka' like to show the massive disparity between the dour, repressive, monotonous Soviet Union and the glitteringly superficial, gaily materialist West. Le Carre suggests that both sides of the Iron Curtain are merely of the same coin, at the executive level at least. You expect to see 1980 Czechoslovakia as a run-down, provincial dump; but this film's England reminded me of Svankmajer's 'Alice', as it details a society, a system, an ethic, a code grinding towards inertia, a world becoming increasingly closed in that it can only be jabbed into life by shocks of betrayal.

This England is a pure mirror image of our stereotypes of the East - a system run by chilling, amoral men with perfect manners (the most frightening thing about the narrative is that any one of the suspects could have done it, each one has so lost any kind of basic humanity, never mind idealism, that it is almost irrelevant who the traitor is) gathering together in anonymous meeting rooms, or an endless rondelay of joyless dinners; a world of cramped, impersonal decor, generally sucked in by shadows, so that we can't even be sure it's men we see, or the flickering grin of the Cheshire Cat; a world of men, where one of the three female characters is an absent joke until the last five minutes, another is tortured and murdered by her superiors, and the third is sacked for competence, reduced to scraping money from grinds, a paralysed, blubbing outcast; a drab world where all colour and life has been seeped out, or goes by unnoticed, where jokes are bitter and grim, where the (very Soviet) elevator disrepair signals a wider, fundamental malaise.

If it's fun you want, get 'You Only Live Twice' - the action here is generated from its milieu - dank, meticulous, pedantic, slow, inexorable, unsensational. This is where a 6 hour TV adaptation has the edge on a feature film - cramming a le Carre plot into the latter can make it seem rushed and exciting; this film brings out all its civil-service ingloriousness superbly (although the figure of Karla is a little too SMERSHy for my tastes).

Bill Hayden says you can tell the soul of a nation from its intelligence service, and this film, despite the go-getting yuppie 80s or the success of heritage TV ('Jewel in the Crown', 'Brideshead Revisited') is perhaps the closest representation of a kind of soul, public school, Oxbridge, Whitehall, male. In equating this world with impotence and sterility (Smiley is childless), the material errs in equating homosexuality as the ultimate, literal inversion, a closing in, of minds, spirit etc.

But the metaphor of the betrayed friendship as representative of a wider betrayal is less a corny contrivance than an indication of how fundamentally incestuous this world is. These men slipping in and out of shadows are ghosts, fighting a war that doesn't exist, nitpicking over irrelevant ideological puzzles that have lost all meaning. The 'good' guys are no better than the bad - Peter Guillam, though dogged and loyal, is little more than a thug; Ricky Tarr is new yuppie incarnate in all his cocky repulsiveness.

Smiley, marvellously essayed by Alec Guinness - more obviously sharper than in the book, Hercules cleaning out the Aegean stables - loses even the barest traces of humanity, with vast reserves of calculated sadism and bureaucratic immorality, his thick glasses seeing all the detail and none of the big picture. Smiley needs the rules of the game more than anyone; without them he is left adrift in life, and the stupendous final shot shows how deeply that defeats him.

Unusually for TV, this is a film of rare visual imagination, not in the mistakenly flashy, spuriously 'cinematic' sense beloved of ambitious tyros, but in its exploration of the medium's claustrophobia, as it traps its protagonists, in particular the way the camera's point of view chillingly suggests somebody else looking on, spying on the spies, making everything we see provisional, especially the flashbacks, which elide as much as they reveal.

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Who would play Smiley now? rleather
Scenes in Brno l_grds
This series v movie bazt-93964
Prideaux storyline question SPOILER paradesend
anti-americanism NewtonFigg
Its 'The Little Things' that keeps me watching it over and over.... Don-91
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