The Fourth Protocol is an unwritten agreement between nuclear powers that nuclear weapons will only be delivered to their target by conventional means, e.g. dropped from aircraft or on missiles. It effectively prevents them being left in luggage lockers or delivered by postal companies (and in the case of this film, being assembled and left in a house close to the target)
The film starred actor Michael Caine and featured actor Michael Gough. Both actors, both have played Bruce Wayner's butler Alfred Pennyworth in a number of Batman / Dark Knight movies. Both actors are also first named Michael. The Fourth Protocol (1987) was the only ever filmed production in which they both appeared.
The key spy film that actor Pierce Brosnan made before becoming James Bond in GoldenEye (1995). Ironically, it was this 1987 year that this film was released which was the same year that the Bond movie The Living Daylights (1987) also launched. That was the Bond film Brosnan was originally cast for but in the end could not do due to his contract being picked up for further episodes of Remington Steele (1982).
Michael Caine once said of this film in his autobiography "What's It All About?" (1992): "We wound up with a wordy action movie which, although it was quite a good picture and did fair business, never had the speed and and pace of the best American action movies... So for long sequences in the film we not only had a talking picture, but a lot of talk, and even worse, most of it unintelligible. I went there as the star and associate producer and one might have thought this would give me sufficient authority to put my own strongly-held opinions into practice, but no chance. Even I in my exalted position wound up making a talking picture when it should have been a moving one".
A video game of 'The Fourth Protocol' was developed and released in 1985 two years before this film was made. As such, the video game has the distinction of being made before and not at the same time or after the movie version. The computer game was made for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum home computer platforms.
'The Fourth Protocol' title is a reference to the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The meaning and relevance is as defined on the Australian video-cassette sleeve: "The Fourth Protocol is a secret agreement between the Soviet powers and the Western allies forbidding the importation of component parts of a nuclear bomb into the territory of any nation". As such, one of the movie's taglines declares, "If the Fourth Protocol is ever breached, there would be no warning, just a nuclear explosion from a bedsitter..."
Actor Michael Caine and author Frederick Forsyth had been friends for around a decade prior to this picture. In the three earlier filmed adaptations of Forsyth novels, Caine was never selected to be in them. So the two decided raise the finance themselves so as to make sure they could work on a movie together. The two are billed as executive producers on this movie.
The movie featured Matryoshka dolls which are also known as Russian nesting dolls or Russian nested dolls. These had become popularized and well-known from appearing in the opening title sequence of the earlier television spy series production of 'John Le Carre''s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979).
The film's opening prologue states: "1963 - top British agent Kim Philby defected to Moscow. 1968 - America, Britain, Russia signed an agreement to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. This treaty continued four secret protocols. Today - only one remains.....".