(director: Sidney J Furie; screenwriter: Bill Canaway/James Doran/based on the novel The Ipcress File by Len Deighton; cinematographer: Otto Heller; editor: Peter Hunt; music: John Barry; cast: Michael Caine (Harry Palmer), Nigel Green (Dalby), Guy Doleman (Major Ross), Sue Lloyd (Jean), Gordon Jackson (Jock Carswell), Aubrey Richards (Radcliffe); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Saltzman; Rank/Universal Pictures; 1965-UK)

“Offers a far more authentic view of the morally ambivalent world of espionage than most spy thrillers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This first of Michael Caine’s three appearances as Harry Palmer (followed by “Funeral in Berlin” and “Billion Dollar Brain”) is clearly his best. Caine’s confident performance brought attention to him as an international star. Sidney J Furie shades the film with too much political symbolism but, nevertheless, he ably directs a fast-paced spy thriller adapted from Len Deighton’s novel “The Ipcress File.” Otto Heller’s cinematography is striking, featuring a flashy camera style and many shots with low camera angles that add to the realistic atmosphere. The film offers a far more authentic view of the morally ambivalent world of espionage than most spy thrillers.

Palmer is a disgraced ex-army sergeant and reluctant spy; he was caught as a thief and has the choice of being a counter-espionage agent or serving a prison term. He opts for the spy role. The film is brought to the screen by Producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, the team with the Midas touch behind the Bond films, who apparently approve of the altering of their spy hero’s persona to a more ordinary status. Harry Palmer is without any fancy gadgets and is more fallible and grittier than Bond, and without a girl on every arm–though Sue Lloyd serves as a delicious temptation. In a complex plot, Harry’s assignment is to track down an undercover gang kidnapping England’s leading scientists and then returning them brainwashed.

Palmer’s brashness and Cockney accent is an irritating distraction at times, but can be forgiven when he sparkles in some brilliant scenes such as the encounter in the reading room, the unsuccessful raid on a mysterious warehouse, and the psychedelic torture chamber.

On Palmer’s mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist hostage (Aubrey Richards) holding vital secret information he is captured and subjected to a punishing brainwashing. But Palmer eventually finds a way to escape and to save the day for the Free World.

Enjoyable hokum, that was advertised as “The Thinking Man’s Goldfinger.” The film gets its title from a tape that turns up during the course of the investigation with the word ‘Ipcress’ written on it.