Advertised as "The Thinking Man's Goldfinger," The Ipcress File (1965) was widely considered one of the best Cold War spy films. Based on the novel of the same name by best-selling author Len Deighton, the film's plot was a ludicrous mishmash involving psychedelic brainwashing of the U.K.'s top scientists. Just as in the long-running series of James Bond spy thrillers, however, what set The Ipcress File apart were top-notch production values (particularly director Sidney J. Furie's magnificent use of the extreme widescreen properties of Techniscope) and a riveting central character. Michael Caine became an international movie star on the basis of three performances in only three years, in Zulu (1964), The Ipcress File (1965), and Alfie (1966). It's easy to see why Caine's portrayal of reluctant sleuth Harry Palmer so captivated audiences, as Caine played him with a reserved elegance that barely masked Palmer's lower-class Cockney roots and seething anti-authority attitude. The comparisons to Bond didn't end with the marketing of The Ipcress File. The film was brought to the screen by Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman, and many long-time Bond regulars did fine work on The Ipcress File, including composer John Barry and editor Peter Hunt, who cut the first three Bond features and eventually went on to direct On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The opening sequence of The Ipcress File was an extended, tongue-in-cheek reference to Bond, setting up Palmer as an anti- 007 "common man" who woke up alone, was nearly blind as a bat, and needed coffee to wake up in the morning. The Ipcress File was quickly followed by two sequels, Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967). Caine returned to play Palmer once again in 1995 with two made-for-American-television movies, Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in St. Petersburg.
by Karl Williams review