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The Russia House (1990)

1:50 | Trailer
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 »





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


A Spy Story . . . A Love Story . . . A Story to Cross all Boundaries. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


This movie is one of the few adaptations where John le Carré does not have a cameo appearance. 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 »


Bartholomew "Barley" Scott Blair: I love you. All my failings were preparation for me to you. It's like nothing I have ever known: it's unselfish love, grown up love. You know it is. It's mature, absolute, thrilling love.
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Referenced in MI-5: Legitimate Targets (2003) See more »


Ain't Misbehavin'
Written by Fats Waller (as Thomas "Fats" Waller), Harry Brooks & Andy Razaf
Published by Bienstock Publishing Co. & Filmtrax
See more »

User Reviews

Fine Performances, Ordinary Film!
10 November 2013 | by namashi_1See all my reviews

Based on John le Carré's novel of the same name, 'The Russia House' offers Fine Performances, but as a film, its plain ordinary. It does have some captivating moments, but overall, the slow pace & a half-baked Adapted Screenplay, act as a disadvantage.

'The Russia House' Synopsis: An expatriate British publisher unexpectedly finds himself working for British intelligence to investigate people in Russia.

'The Russia House' begins nicely, but loses momentum after 45-minutes into the film. Sure, the second-hour has some interesting moments, but the Writing isn't striking. The Climax, however, works. Tom Stoppard's Adapted Screenplay isn't without merit, but is flawed as well. Also, the slow-pace left me restless at times. Fred Schepisi's Direction is skilled & well-done. Cinematography is excellent. Editing is fair.

Performance-Wise: Sir Sean Connery, with a flawless Russian accent, is in good form. Michelle Pfeiffer, also with a superbly picked-up Russian accent, is natural to the core. Roy Scheider is flawless. He stands out. James Fox is effective. Klaus Maria Brandauer is terrific in a small, but significant role.

On the whole, 'The Russia House' could've been so much more.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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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

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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