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The Russia House (1990)

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An expatriate British publisher unexpectedly finds himself working for British intelligence to investigate people in Russia.


Fred Schepisi


John le Carré (novel), Tom Stoppard (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sean Connery ... Barley
Michelle Pfeiffer ... Katya
Roy Scheider ... Russell
James Fox ... Ned
John Mahoney ... Brady
Michael Kitchen ... Clive
J.T. Walsh ... Quinn
Ken Russell ... Walter
David Threlfall ... Wicklow
Klaus Maria Brandauer ... Dante
Mac McDonald ... Bob
Nicholas Woodeson ... Niki Landau
Martin Clunes ... Brock
Ian McNeice ... Merrydew (as Ian McNiece)
Colin Stinton ... Henziger


Three notebooks supposedly containing Russian military secrets are handed to a British publisher during a Russian book conference. The British secret service are naturally keen to learn if these notebooks are the genuine article. To this end, they enlist the help of the scruffy British publisher Barley Blair, who has plenty of experience with Russia and Russians. Barley, an unconventional character who doesn't respond well to authority, finds himself in a game more complex than he first thought when he digs into the origin of the notebooks. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Their love was as dangerous as the secrets they kept. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:





English | Russian

Release Date:

21 December 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John le Carré's The Russia House See more »


Box Office


$21,800,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,435,650, 25 December 1990, Wide Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Michelle Pfeiffer held up filming in Moscow, when she discovered a rule forbidding Western film companies from feeding the Soviet extras they hire, so she stomped off and refused to come back unless they were fed. To resolve the crisis, officials from the Soviet film commission had to be called in. Begging her to return to work, they explained that this was just the way things were done. In an interview with Esquire Magazine at the time of the film's release, Pfeiffer commented on the incident. "In a country where you can't get food, where you can't get soap, here they were watching us shoveling down these platefuls of hot, steamy spaghetti. I didn't sleep that night. It was very traumatic. Then I realized, You know, this is so typically American of you. This is what, as a country, we're accused of all the time. Now, whether I was right or wrong isn't the issue. The issue was, Do I have the right, as an outsider, to come in and force my sensibilities on this culture? At a certain point, I decided to leave my identity at the border. I thought to myself, Okay, you have no identity. And at that point I was able to experience the country as it was, on a purer level, and finally to even embrace it." See more »


When Barley first meets Katya, they're in the big square and he tells her that 3 years ago he was nearly arrested in the same place for suspicion of being a spy. Katya asks "were you?", and Barley replies "of course not" .. He then goes on to explain "a soldier and his girl friend..." followed by a short pause during which Katya smiled satisfactorily, but then Barley continues to explain "..asked me to take a photo of them."! Katya should have waited until Barley finished the whole sentence before smiling (laughing) with satisfaction. See more »


Russell: Mr. Blair, we are buying a Picasso, ok? You don't mind an occasional metaphor now and then, do you?
Bartholomew "Barley" Scott Blair: Not at all.
Russell: Good. Some people don't like my metaphors; I don't know why, but... Anyway, everyone in this room is buying the same Picasso. It's very rare... medium rare... well done, what the fuck! The bottom line question is: did Picasso paint it? And you're the man who is selling it to us?
Bartholomew "Barley" Scott Blair: It is not my Picasso, Russell, it is not my Picasso. And I'm not saying it is a Picasso. And, furthermore, ...
See more »


Referenced in MI-5: Episode #2.1 (2003) See more »


What Is This Thing Called Love?
Written by Cole Porter
Published by Warner/Chappell Music
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User Reviews

This is great stuff
13 January 2002 | by konoverSee all my reviews

Admittedly, The Russia House may not be for all tastes, but I saw this when I was 15 when it came out in the theaters and I loved it then and I love it now.

If you go in expecting this to be a James Bond/Simon Templar/North By Northwest type movie, you'll be GRAVELY disappointed. Needless to say, the movie is dialogue driven and the performances are great. Sean Connery (my all-time favorite) gives a nice performance in a role that isn't typical Connery. Michelle Pfeiffer (my favorite actress) is equally excellent. I kept looking for her to flub her Russian accent, but she's on target from start to finish.

The supporting players: Roy Scheider, who I also love, is awesome. There's a lot of witty dialogue in this film, but Scheider has some of the film's most memorable ones. Ken Russell, the controversial director, has an equally memorable, witty role as "Walter". I own this movie, but between the time I saw it in the theaters and the time I bought it a year and half ago, Russell was one of the things about the movie that really stood out in my memory of the film. And of course, James Fox who's always great.

Not really a supporting player but it might as well be is the LOCATIONS. Wow, really breathtaking stuff. Fred Schepsi did a wondrous job with the locations, and the CAMERA. The cinematography and locations were first-rate. And if that wasn't enough, I was equally enthralled with the jazzy musical score. If it isn't already apparent, I love this movie, and I absolutely recommend it.

It has a nice blend of dialogue, plot, romance and humor. I reiterate: Not for all tastes given that many may find it slow, but definitely worth a look. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

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