TOA/V: The Ipcress File


Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Writing Credits: W.H. Canaway (screenplay) (as Bill Canaway) & James Doran (screenplay)
Len Deighton (novel)
Starring: Michael Caine, Nigel Greene, Sue Lloyd, and Gordon Jackson

Harry Palmer, the anti-Bond, offers a grittier version of the spy world in 1965. Rather than the exotic locales and tony wardrobes, we have Caine in a fairly hep look which includes those iconic glasses (which now seem to be de rigeur for serious actors acting in the past as most Matt Damon films demonstrate). This film doesn’t get the love lately that Get Carter does, but it stands up well and offers a great time capsule of mid-60s London. I love the scene where Caine and Guy Dolman push trolleys through the supermarket, complaining about this new American way of shopping.

It’s those extra touches which stand out all the more now, like Caine seducing Lloyd with his cooking skills long before the metrosexual era, mirroring Len Deighton’s own expertise, which took in history and travel writing as well as cookery in addition to novel writing (his columns for The Observer appear as clippings on a corkboard in Harry’s flat). There’s beautiful footage of London, especially Hyde Park, around the Albert Memorial and in the gorgeous Science Museum Library.

“Chim-chim-inee, old chap!”

There are a lot of twists and turns in the narrative in the now familiar espionage tropes: who can you trust? who’s a double agent? And when will those interfering Americans foul everything up again? Of course the CIA manages to fit into the British milieu seamlessly –>

It won a BAFTA for best film and was nominated for a Palm d’Or at Cannes. I can’t think why it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I remembered almost nothing about it. I was struck by the torture scenes and how ‘new’ they must have appeared at the time —


Yet now they would fit in the mainstream of noise bands and you could see people paying good money for that level of distortion and visual cacophony. So I think in addition to my Fall tribute band, Me & Your Granny on Bongos, I’ll have to start an industrial noise band called The Ipcress File.

Check out other overlooked films & radio plays at Todd’s blog.

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