While Hollywood scampered to make spy movies even more frivolous than the mega-popular Bond films and produced short-lived secret-agent franchises for Dean Martin (as Matt Helm) and James Coburn (as Derek Flint), the Brits hewed to the dour tradition established by The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. In the 1966 The Quiller Memorandum, directed by Michael Anderson from the novel by Adam Hall, an MI6 operative (inappropriately impersonated by the American smirker George Segal) skulks through Cold War Berlin tracking a ring of neo-Nazis run by Max von Sydow. Senta Berger was the romantic interest who may be playing both sides. In the script by Nobel Prize-winning cynic Harold Pinter, the proceedings are monitored back in London by two senior spies of the upper-class-twit species (George Sanders and Robert Flemyng), who exchange bland pleasantries about international murder while taking lunch at their club.
Britain’s premier semirealistic spy was Harry Palmer an ex-thief with a independent spirit who had been dragooned into the secret service in the three-film series from Len Deighton novels that began with The Ipcress File. Between Ipcress and Funeral in Berlin, Michael Caine had blossomed into an international star as the blithe womanizer in Alfie. He brought that luster to Palmer’s second case: a trip to East Berlin to vet the defection of General Stock (Oskar Homolka), a Soviet intelligence officer. Palmer’s terse wit may simply be truth (his reason for spying: “I get paid”), but he knows the fine points of negotiating with a blustering Russian. Stok: “For you it is a propaganda victory. My name is worth a headline.” Harry: “We get plenty of Russians. A pity you’re not Chinese.”
Directed by Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger) and scripted by Evan Jones (the spy spoof Modesty Blaise), the movie triggered its own Cold War incident on location in West Berlin. As the crew shot near Checkpoint Charlie, Russian soldiers on the other side of the Wall tried to ruin the scene by reflecting sunlight into the cameras.
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