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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
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Customer Reviews:

  • A Cold World of Gray in the Psychedelic Sixties
    In another review here (a good one, too), I found out that Richard Burton lost the Best Actor Oscar to Lee Marvin in CAT BALLOU, thus solidifying my opinion that the Academy Awards operate at the level of a high school popularity contest.
    (I believe Burton and fellow hellraiser Peter O'Toole share the record for most nominations without a win: 8 apiece).

    Shot in a stark black and white, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is definitely closer to the down and dirty business of Cold War spying than James Bond.
    There are no exotic locales or a parade of bikini-clad babes, but there is plenty of intrigue and double-crossing as a cynical, broken Richard Burton descends further into the spider's web of the Cold War. More thought-provoking than thrilling, SPY remains as a cold reminder that the Cold War wasn't just fodder for the swingin' Sixties culture.

    I never thought I'd live to see the Berlin War fall, such was the climate of fear that the, to quote Ronald Reagan, "empire of evil" maintained in my lifetime. It fell in 1989. This film is a reminder of what a powerful and scary symbol that wall used to be....more info
  • MARTIN RITT, OPUS 11
    **** 1965. Based on John Le Carr¨¦'s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and directed by Martin Ritt. Two Academy awards nominations (Richard Burton and Art Direction) and Golden Globe earned by Oskar Werner (Supporting Actor). The British Secret Intelligence service tries to frame the East Germans by sending Richard Burton, undercover, to them. Martin Ritt perfectly managed to recreate in this film the sinister and shady world of the cold war period. Berlin, London, the Netherlands and East Germany all look the same in the eyes of Richard Burton who journeys through a continent that seems wrapped up by an eternal fog. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • A Masterpiece of Story Telling
    I needn't repeat all the fine reviews preceding mine. Just a few salient items round them out.

    First, as Martin Ritt never made a bad film, this is among his finest, especially in his poetic understanding of LeCarre's masterpiece. How his colleague and competitor Sir Carol Reed must have smiled upon that moment when Burton, seeing his photo on the front page of The Times, listed as missing and sought by the police, looks westward from Holland's shores toward an invisible Britain, the Channel's mist symbolic of an England which he then knows he'll never see again. This must be among all of filmdom's finest moments.

    Second, the wondrous collusion between Ritt and LeCarre is masterful. To belabor the point: As 20th century prosody shakes out, the author doubtless will be considered among the top of the heap. If ever a film faithfully transferred not just plot, not just characters, but as well the ethos of the writing, Ritt's film does it.

    Third, the electricity between Burton and Bloom is ecstatic in the literal sense precisely because she is no sex-pot and he is, in fact, a burned-out sot. Her need of him is electrifying because of her need for realizing herself. This LeCarre struggled to portray in the book, and Ritt brought it out so beautifully in this splendid actress, Burton so masterfully assisting her. What a protege quality to their roles!

    Fourth, for those of us devotees of George Smiley, Rupert Davies' Smiley role is perfectly cast, well fitting LeCarre's description of him. No one would ever fault the decades-later portrayal by Sir Alec Guinness, of course, because he gave the role in impression. But Davies, for his spare moments in the film, shows us what Smiley looks like in LeCarre's ink.

    Fifth, the writing is superlative, LeCarre having had the major hand in the screenplay. The more philosophic conversations thankfully are easily summarized by Bloom, Burton, Cusack and Werner, quite to the point, sparing us any contrivances. Only the later Rohmer could have done more, but his type of talent would have destroyed this picture.

    Sixth, what a good transfer this is, for sound as well as sight. Altogether, it is fine film-making. And that this movie in its generation is a faithful representation of an early LeCarre work makes it a joy to see, so tragic as it is....more info
  • The changing fortunes of the Cold War
    The dour and disillusioned Richard Burton is superb as British espionage agent Alec Leamus former station chief in Berlin. The Martin Ritt directed adaptation of the John Le Carre novel is shot in black and white adding to the austere mood of the flick.

    Burton is pulled back in by his controller the prim and proper Cyril Cusack for another assignment. He is to play the role of an embittered, alcoholic agent willing to defect to the other side to discredit the East German station chief Mundt played by Peter Van Eyck. By his revelations he will help germinate the seeds that have been planted against Mundt endeavoring to force second in command Oskar Werner to liquidate him.

    Along the way, while creating his cover in England, Burton takes a job as a librarian. There he meets Claire Bloom playing librarian Nan Perry, a naive Communist sympathizer. They become involved and Burton now has a worthwhile relationship in the midst of all the dealings and double dealings. He tries to salvage some modicum of pride and decency as he tries to rise above his role in the dirty business that was representative of cold war espionage.

    Director Ritt and the entire cast created an very bleak yet accurate portrayal of the role of the spy in these times. "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" was the antithesis of James Bond type movies that glorified the sexy exploits of government agents. Ex-operative LeCarre with monochromatic black and white brushstrokes spawned a gritty tale of behind the scenes activities that typified the actions of both sides during this Cold War period....more info
  • Ritt's film classic shines on DVD!
    Burton, Bloom, Werner ... the entire cast here is brilliant. The direction is Best Film calliber. Every department shines in making this a top notch production from beginning to end. Burton received an Academy Award nomination and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Actor. The film also garnered BAFTA's won Best British Film, Cinematography and Art Direction. Cast and crew won awards from other organizations.

    Others have commented on the film's superlatives. I'll only add here that the DVD transfer is excellent. The B&W cinematography is crisp and the sound is clear. A fine score by Sol Kaplan.

    This is a gritty, taunt depiction of the cold war from the ground level. A great story with great performances. Filmmaking at its best. A film classic....more info
  • Superb adaptation
    Having read the novel by LeCarre, I can't imagine anyone but Richard Burton as the burnt-out false defector Alec Leamas. The black-and-white of this film underscores the shades of gray in the moral no-man's-land in which Leamas takes on the most difficult, most insidious assignment of his trying career as a spy. The jacket of this edition of the film says "forget James Bond," a very apt line for what's inside. This film is made with raw, real suspense, fine acting, and excellent cinematography. There are no "super-spies," no gadgets, no kung-fu stunts, only the subtleties of people keeping secrets upon secrets. If you want to be cheered or excited, this is not your stop. But if you want to see brilliant work in film, check this one out....more info
  • The Cold War is Chilly
    This is the classic John LeCarre thriller. I read it in college and was so moved by it, I never forgot the feel even as I forgot the story. The movie is no less important. Richard Burton plays a spy whose life is cold, unfeeling and distant. How could it be otherwise when you are trying to maintain a lifestyle that is inherently false? He falls in love with a woman and begins to loosen up and think more about a life that he has lost. The ending is a heartbreaker. A very realistic sad film by Martin Ritt and Richard Burton is perfect in his role as George Smiley. ...more info
  • Classic cold-war thriller
    Classic cold-war thriller that portrays the sacrifice of the individual for the good of the state. The Richard Burton character is involved in a mission to frame an opposite spy and in the end finds himself also expendable to that same cause. Rich undertones of the cold war chill and it's cost. Very well done and an excellent choice in Mr. Burton for this intense ambiguous role. ...more info
  • a real Cold War film
    The Spy who came in from the Cold is a superb counterpoint to the normal Cold War fare perpeuated in film. That is, James Bond and such like, though this is admittedly camp fun aimed at taking the sting out of the conflict. Out went the glitzy, gaudy world and in came one of grit and drizzle. Richard Burton was a magnificent film actor and he gave one of his greatest screen performances in this fascinating piece of work.
    There is an absurd man in the reviews here who gave this film one star and called it anti-American and pro-soviet, highlighting his own wretched bufoonery. This is a British film, so could not have been made by 'American liberals' as this man seems to think. Such useful fools highlight the political nature of the film however, as the whole Spy who came in from the Cold story refers to the sense in which there were human beings - on both sides - who fought in the Cold War. They were each as flawed as one another; that is the essence of the story. Here in Britain we were allies of America during this period, but the Burton character illustrates the in-between sense of many Britons, who did not wish to participate in anti-leftwing hysteria as Cold Warriors (such as the moron mentioned above, who should really seek out a psyciatrist). We were not pro-Soviet, but we were not mentally unbalanced or racist either. This is a film of our own, and should be seen as such - a British film impenetrable from Russian or American propaganda. ...more info
  • A classic film gets the Criterion treatment
    This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.

    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, is based on the novel of the same name by John le Carr¨¦. It is about a spy in Berlin who goes into 'forced' retirement and works in a library. He becomes a drunkard but it is later revealed his 'retirement' was only cover to become a double agent for the East Germans. He then falsely defects to East Germany so he can do one last mission.

    I liked the film a lot and enjoyed the dialogue too. The Criterion edition is a two disc set with great bonus material.

    Disc one contains the film with the theatrical trailer, Disc two contains audio commentary by Oswald Morris of selected scenes, a 2000 BBC special about le Carr¨¦, a gallery of set designs, and a 1985 conversation between between director Martin Ritt and film historian Patrick McGilligan....more info
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Boredom
    This for me was titled,the Spy Who Came in from the Boredom. This was not my kind of movie, I couldn't get into it. Too talky,dull, and I don't find Richard Burton's character interesting or appealing. I just didn't find any of the characters interesting. My favorite spy thriller is still Day of the Jackal followed by Eye of the Needle. I can recommend this to Richard Burton fans as this probably will not disappoint. Fans of spy movies may or may not get into this one depending on taste. I was really disappointed. The story was dull and slow for me. If you love this film get the Criterion DVD as the transfer is HD and there is a 2nd disc full of bonus materials. The DVD is great,the movie isnt (at least to me).. This one really depends on ones taste - Id rent it first if you are unsure about this one...more info
  • The Best Spy Film Ever Made
    The film plays like a chapter from the cold war. It is a classic black and white entry in the spy lore and gets my vote for the best spy film ever made. The acting is super as is the casting. Highly recommended....more info