A welcome screening of the classic British spy thriller, The Ipcress File, starring Michael Caine as the roguish spook, Harry Palmer, can be seen tonight on BBC4 at 9pm (Wednesday 7 December 2016).
This was the first of three films featuring Len Deighton’s counter-espionage, anti-hero with Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain making up the set.
Shot in London in the Sixties, which in itself makes the film worth watching, the plot revolves around the disappearance of a number of Western scientists – who later turn up brainwashed and useless.
Caine’s Palmer offered the perfect counter to the glamour of the UK’s other great 60s spy export James Bond (Sean Connery); his cockiness, lack of respect for authority and rakish charm marked him as an identifiable everyman – who just happened to be good at busting spy rings.
This a film of its time, though, and some of the tech is primitive; it’s fair to say the torture techniques have moved on somewhat – the brainwashing sequences might produce a mild headache but won’t scramble a top scientist’s mind. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by post-‘War on Terror’ revelations of the enhanced interrogation techniques used by modern-day spymasters, but don’t let that get in the way of enjoying the film. Dated or not, The Ipcress File remains an excellent thriller and if you haven’t yet seen it, catch it tonight.
The Ipcress File – Wednesday at 9pm on BBC4