The Ipcress File
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Product Description

In the spy-crazed film world of the 1960s, Len Deighton's antihero Harry Palmer burst onto the scene as an antidote to the James Bond films. Here was a British spy who had a working-class accent and horn-rimmed glasses and above all really didn't want to be a spy in the first place. As portrayed by Michael Caine, Palmer was the perfect antithesis to Sean Connery's 007. Unlike that of his globetrotting spy cousin, Palmer's beat is cold, rainy, dreary London, where he spends his days and nights in unheated flats spying on subversives. He does charm one lady, but she's no Pussy Galore, just a civil servant he works with, sent to keep an eye on him. Eventually he's assigned to get to the bottom of the kidnapping and subsequent "brain draining" of a nuclear physicist, all the while being reminded by his superiors that it's this or prison. Things begin to get pretty hairy for Harry. Produced by Harry Saltzman in his spare time between Bond movies, the film also features a haunting score by another Bond veteran, composer John Barry. --Kristian St. Clair

Customer Reviews:

  • The Non-Glamorous, "Gourmet" Spy
    "The Ipcress File," is first in a series of three movies made from Len Deighton books, produced by Harry Saltsman, directed by Sidney J. Furie, and with a sound track by John Barry, all of them apparently taking breaks from their other, more famous spy series, the James Bond 007s. As one of Michael Caine's earlier films, it undoubtedly helped make him a star. However, as most people would say, he's the anti-Bond in this series, cockney accented before it was cool, wearing glasses and ill-fitting suits, living in a humdrum flat, and taking busses where he needs to go. Harry Palmer, Caine's character, further differs from 007 in that he's not a spy by choice; he just prefers it to going to jail for wartime fiddles in the not particularly glamorous, nor applauded, Quartermasters' Corps. And poor Harry, at least in this movie, never goes anywhere glamorous. No Caribbean island for him: it's all damp, cold England.

    This movie finds Palmer seconded to a new, secret, domestic spying bureacracy, assigned to a puzzling case: important British scientists are disappearing, and coming back useless. His supervisors hope his rebellious streak, his non-organization man personality-- his sheer rudeness to his betters--may help him prevail where several others have failed.

    It's a tightly plotted, entertaining movie, and takes a lot of flavor from its London setting. It's a particular favorite of mine, since I always thought the young Michael Caine to be quite a tasty dish. Supporting players are well-cast; however, not much has been seen of Sue Lloyd, Palmer's love interest before or since. (Not that many Bond girls have had outstanding careers, either.) Finally, for reasons unknown, the two CIA men important to the plot are made to virtually wear flashing red "Notice Me" signs: one, already noticeably black, also wears broken glasses mended with cellophane tape.

    The movie is also remarkable as a snapshot of the mid 1960's, a time when England was still very much as it had always been, but was about to change, and London was about to start swinging. The smoke in the spies' office is so thick that, considering they also work in a dangerous trade, Her Majesty's Government is unlikely ever to have to give any of them pensions. Supervisors wear fine Savile Row suits, drive elite cars, and enjoy their private clubs. Military bands play in the parks. And yet, the Ipcress File, when we do actually see it, is a psychedelic light show that might accompany any of the new rock and roll bands.

    When Ross, Palmer's ultimate supervisor, finds his employee pushing a cart in an American-style supermarket, he remarks that he does not care for this new American style of grocery-shopping, surely very different from the small, full-service grocery stores that were mainstays of British life. (Although it's doubtful that any Englishman of Ross's stature bought his own groceries at that time.) And Ross echoes the widely held view that Palmer is a gourmet cook: doesn't he buy fancy French canned mushrooms, labeled "Champignons," in preference to plain old fresh English ones. What a gourmet is our Palmer....more info
  • A flesh and bone James Bond.
    Britain is suffering from a severe case of "brain drain" as its top scientists keep disappearing. Sounds like a job for James Bond? Enter Harry Palmer, a spy to be sure as we watch him watching his assignment through binoculars. A ladies man to be sure, since he definitely has an eye for bird watching. Yet, the spy world of Harry Palmer is a bureaucratic labyrinth of pencil pushers, endless paperwork, and monotony. Harry is indeed a clever spy, but was recruited into the organization because of his criminal background and the threat of being sent back into prison is dangled above his head by superiors. Harry's insubordinate and a trickster but these qualities make him unpredictable and in an organization filled with straight laced bureaucrats, he's a wild card in their favor. And so Harry's transferred from one department to another as a replacement for an agent who was found shot to death, a man who was afraid of cancer, while shadowing another of the country's latest scientists. The Brits want him back and are willing to pay top dollar. Things get complicated when his old boss requests a classified file containing a section of audio tape that Harry had recovered during an investigation, identified only by the name Ipcress. Harry's perceptive enough to realize that his own spy network might contain a double agent. When he presents his case before his new department head, he's already a marked man, too hot to touch, and so is left out in the cold. THE IPCRESS FILE is the first of three films about the exploits of Harry Palmer (the other two being Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967)) and is a deliberately slow paced, stylishly directed thriller that perfectly showcases Michael Cain's subtle blend of arrogance, humor and vulnerability that he often brings to a performance. The camera work throughout is innovative, constantly peeking from behind characters, around corners, angled shots looking up from the ground, never giving us a clear perspective of what's going on. The same can be said when we see things from Harry's perspective, slightly out of focus. It is curious that he wears glasses throughout the film to see things more clearly, but it is only when his glasses are removed that he sees things how they really are. The film is complemented by an excellent score and catchy theme composed by the great John Barry. Highly recommended....more info
  • Palmer, Harry Palmer...
    1965's "The Ipcress File" is an extremely well executed dramatization of Len Deighton's excellent spy novel of the same name. In one of his earlier roles, Michael Caine stars as British secret agent Harry Palmer, working class spy but smarter and tougher than he looks.

    Palmer is assigned to a mysterious case in which top British scientists disappear for a few days, then reappear having been brainwashed to uselessness. The only clue is a fragment of recording tape with the word "Ipcress." Whoever is kidnapping the scientists is prepared to kill to protect the process, as Palmer's colleagues discover. When Palmer gets too close to the secret, he too is kidnapped. Palmer will struggle for his freedom and his very sanity to complete his mission.

    The movie borrows the crisp, snappy dialogue of the original novel, while Michael Caine nicely captures Harry Palmer's working class, anti-James Bond personna. While the plotline is perhaps deliberately opaque, the direction is crisp and the movie uses a variety of intriguing shooting angles to add to the suspense, which builds nicely to a surprise ending.

    This movie is highly recommended to fans of Michael Caine and of Len Deighton, who will find this a dated but still very enjoyable film....more info
  • "Spy High"
    Maurice Micklewhite (Michael Caine) has always been one of my favorite actors. I saw this 007 Era movie when it was first released and watched it again more recently. It is a FAB movie. It has lost nothing over time and can even be more appreciated today. Caine is very magnetic as the oh so sexy but slightly nerdy instrument of espionage. A great, suspenseful movie that is effective without all the 007 gimmicks....more info
  • Surly Spy Harry Palmer Reels Them In With Class!
    Len Deighton's classic spy novel comes to life with Michael Caine as the insubordinate, kitchen savvy, smart-alec, Harry Palmer - every supervisor's nightmare. Yet, when he comes face-to-face with a clever enemy that is attempting to eradicate the scientific braintrust of Great Britain through mind-altering deprivation techniques, Palmer is in his element. With class character-actors like Nigel Green and Guy Doleman as competing superiors, and with Sue Lloyd as the beautiful love interest, Palmer scours wonderful London locations to the exciting beat of John Barry's magnificent score.

    I can't possibly throw enough superlatives at what I believe is the best spy movie ever made. The tedious surveillance scenes ring true with me and the classic organizational in-fighting (that's generally overlooked in similar films) brings a realism that is enhanced by Michael Caine's terrific portrayal. This is worth every moment of your time. ...more info
  • A Treat for Bond Purists
    If you're a James Bond fanatic, you'll probably enjoy THE IPCRESS FILE. Not that there's any similarities between Ian Fleming's Bond and Len Deighton's nameless spy (given the name Harry Palmer during the filming by star Michael Caine), but rather that this tense and enjoyable thriller features the talents of at least five 007 alumni. There's co-producer Harry Saltzman, music composer extrodinaire John Barry, editor Peter Hunt, art director Ken Adam and production designer Peter Murton.

    IPCRESS has all the elements of a good Hitchcock thriller, along with some of the suprise twists. John Barry delivers one of his best scores, and Michael Caine is joined by a superb supporitng cast, including Nigel Green, Gordon Jackson and Guy Doleman....more info
  • Pretty good... IPCRESS FILE
    Michael Caine plays ex-con turned spy Harry Palmer in this very cool British spy thriller from the 1960s. His understated performance and the great and stylish directing of Sidney J. Furie really lift this movie several echelons above other films in the genre. Also, a nice score by John Barry (from 007 fame) adds to make this one of the classics of the time period. highly recommended, especially for michael caine fans....more info
  • Len Deighton's Spy with No Name = Harry Palmer
    Len Deighton's first novel presents the micro-detail workings of a nameless espionage agent's workaday world. The protagonist is as far removed from the glamour world of James Bond as you can get -- in fact, it's the polar opposite. The film IS a departure from Deighton's novel but what is here works well.

    The entire cast is very good. The story moves along at a leisurely but good pace. The cinematography takes on a persona of its own that bears well under repeated viewing. John Barry's score is one of his best and quite different in tone from his Bond scores. Production values are top notch. And it's quite surprizing when you realize this film's producer is Harry Saltzman -- one of the co-producers of the Bond series! In fact, Saltzman brought along some of the Bond crew to work on "The Ipcress File".

    This is Michael Caine's first starring role in film. Saltzman tapped Caine after seeing his excellent perfomance in "Zulu". Caine does a yeoman job of portraying the novel's spy with no name as Harry Palmer, complete with deadpan, wry humor.

    On DVD, the film is presented in its intended original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image looks quite good. The sound is the original clear mono. There is commentary by director Sidney J. Furie and editor Peter Hunt. Anchor Bay is to be congratulated for making this film available on disc. Which brings us to a sore subject

    "The Ipcress File" is currently out of print in the US. The film is lated to be screened in Washington, DC. Maybe there's some renewed interest in the film which might lead to a remastered edition on DVD? Who knows who owns the copyright? ITM, try vising your local library or rental outlet to see this film.

    IMHO, it's an excellent film -- filled with believable characters and situations and enough plot twists to keep you wondering what the heck's going on. A keeper....more info
  • Outstanding British espionage thriller
    Michael Caine stars as reluctant, unregulated British secret agent Harry Palmer, a role which propelled him to stardom in "The Ipcress File". Filmed in the midst of the cold war and in competition with the popular James Bond series, this movie, the first of the Harry Palmer trilogy, has far more plausiblity.

    Palmer, an ex-thief, food and music connoisseur and still a sergeant in the British army is transfered by his superior, intelligence agent Col. Ross played by Guy Doleman. His new boss Maj. Dalby played by the excellent authoritative South African star Nigel Green, assigns him to a sensitive mission. British scientists have been abducted, only to reappear soon thereafter with all their technical knowledge brainwashed from their memory.

    Caine is put on the tail of suspected mastermind Dr. Grantby, a man with Albanian connections played by Frank Gatliff. He and his mates soon find an audio tape entitled Ipcress which seems to hold a key for the brainwashing scheme. Soon agents surrounding Caine begin getting killed and he is captured and also subjected to the Ipcress treatment. Apparently there is a double agent within the British service but who is it?

    Michael Caine's low key and minimalistic portrayal of Palmer established a cool professional air envisioned by author Len Deighton, whose novel provided the basis for this film. Producer Harry Saltzman burned the candle at both ends, having produced nine of the James Bond flicks as well as the Harry Palmer trilogy....more info
  • I'll have the Chateuneuf des Papes and the firing pin for a Beretta, please
    10 years before Sidney Pollack's extraordinary "Three Days of the Condor," "The Ipcress File" was released. We saw for the first time the master-servant relationship between the handlers and the operatives in the spy world. And it wasn't very pretty.

    Our belief then was that the Soviets were evil and tried to pass among us as if they were 'normal,' bringing their denomic philosophy.' And James, well Bond was Mr. Cool. Girls just jumping out of their bathing suits and couldn't keep their hands off him. Remember him getting out of that skin tight wet suit wearing an Austin Reed white dinner jacket? And carnation?

    But Michael Caine in his second starring role was like us. He was normal. And he was a spy!

    I think that Harry Palmer was the first movie to raise the question that maybe we did the same things as the Russians. Maybe we kept "normal" guys and forced them into a harsh life and harm's way.

    Caine of course was to go on to more and more greatness. This is his prime though, and he's brilliant. Who needed Bond? He was just 'Valley of the Dolls' with a lot of gizmos. The fact was, Caine was real. 5 stars for Caine and Len Deighton's character Harry Palmer. Larry Scantlebury...more info