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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | 16 December 1965 (USA)
Instead of coming in from the Cold War, British agent Alec Leamas chooses to face another mission.

Director:

Martin Ritt

Writers:

John le Carré (novel), Paul Dehn (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Burton ... Alec Leamas
Claire Bloom ... Nancy 'Nan' Perry
Oskar Werner ... Fiedler
Sam Wanamaker ... Peters
George Voskovec ... Comrade Karden - Defense Attorney
Rupert Davies ... George Smiley
Cyril Cusack ... Control
Peter van Eyck ... Hans-Dieter Mundt (as Peter Van Eyck)
Michael Hordern ... Ashe
Robert Hardy ... Dick Carlton
Bernard Lee ... Mr. Patmore - Grocer
Beatrix Lehmann ... Tribunal President
Esmond Knight ... Old Judge
Tom Stern Tom Stern ... CIA Agent
Niall MacGinnis ... Checkpoint Charlie Guard
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Storyline

Alec Leamas (Richard Burton), 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 <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

THE BOOK THE WORLD COULD NOT PUT DOWN IS NOW A GREAT FILM [UK Theatrical] See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Martin Ritt and Richard Burton didn't get along particularly well during filming. The friction actually helped inform Burton's performance, which many consider to be one of his best. Their antagonism is believed to have stemmed from Ritt's irritation with constant set visits from Elizabeth Taylor, then just into her second year of marriage to Burton. To make matters more convoluted, Claire Bloom and Burton had had an affair several years earlier, and Ritt felt the need to come to the young actress' defense. See more »

Goofs

When Leamas is taken for questioning / interrogation in East Germany, he is driven into an East German military facility. Clearly visible in the yard of the facility is a British Army Bedford "4-Tonner" lorry. See more »

Quotes

Alec Leamas: [to Nan] All right, I'll tell you. I'll tell you what you were never, never to know. Mundt is London's man. He's their agent. They bought him while he was in England. We're witnessing the lousy end to a filthy, lousy operation to save Mundt's skin... to save him from a clever little Jew in Mundt's own department who had begun to suspect the truth. London made us kill him, kill the Jew. Now you know. God help us both.
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Connections

Referenced in The Brady Bunch: Top Secret (1974) See more »

User Reviews

 
The great Richard Burton performance no one saw...
16 July 2000 | by keihanSee all my reviews

It seems to me as though no one remembers this film. In fact, I think that it would be fair to say that I wouldn't have become intrigued enough by it to finally rent if I hadn't seen just the briefest of clips of it on an ABC news broadcast. When I think about it, I realize why should anyone remember it? This was made during the Golden Age of Bond, which this film acts as a dark mirror to. More's the pity, actually, as this was one of Richard Burton's finest performances.

Burton is cast as Alex Leamas, a nerve-dead, aged secret operative operating out of West Berlin. After a routine assignment goes awry, Leamas is sent home and out of the service. He struggles to try to live a normal, average life as a librarian's assistant, but he can't make it work for him (something that is not helped by his chronic alcoholism). This fact is made forcefully clear when he winds up beating a local grocer and is sentenced to jail time. Slowly but surely, he allows himself to be pulled back into the Cold War he operated in, not suspecting or maybe not even caring that his superiors are setting him up for a fall.

One will never mistake Alex Leamas' grey, rainy world for the sunlight universe of James Bond. It offers what is probably the ugliest depiction of the Great Game on film: drunkards, ex-Nazis, Jews, and die-hard Communists swimming like sharks through a fish pond, all of them devouring any who get in their way. None have any more than lip-service loyalty to their fellow operatives, their countries, or maybe even their own ideologies. At it's center stands Burton, playing Leamas as a walking dead man, festering with hate, resentment, and cynicism at the system that eventually sends him into the gutter. His devastating parked car monologue alone is worth the price of renting this one from the local video store.

It's bitter cynic tone may have been the film's undoing; rarely have I seen a film so downbeat in it's depiction of humanity. Still, it is not one that deserves to be forgotten.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Official Sites:

Criterion Collection

Country:

UK

Language:

Dutch | English

Release Date:

16 December 1965 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$7,600,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Salem Films Limited See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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