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on 15 November 2006
This movie is a faithful rendition of one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century. The acting is superb, the sets are suitably austere and atmospheric and the plot is simply a work of genius. Forget all the cliches about this being the real thing compared to Bond movies etc. This is quite simply a different genre. It is a story of brutality and of hopelessness.It illustrates how the exploitation of human weakness can be used as an effective weapon of war. The Cold War is in the throes of being forgotten by all but the academics who study the era, but the manner in which it was fought is fascinating, and as evidenced in later adaptations of Le Carres work by the BBC(Smileys People and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)it required minds of rare intelligence and deviousness. The charachter, Smiley, which is expanded upon in the BBC dramas mentioned above has only a small part to play in this movie. But it is a pivotal part because it is he who displays the ultimate ruthlessness which epitomises the Cold Warriors.

The plot in this movie concerns an attempt by British Intelligence to undermine a dangerous East German Abteilung officer by planting a defector, Leamass, played superbly by Richard Burton, into East Germany. But as the plot unfolds we begin to see the real subtlety and manipulation at play that is charachteristic of Le Carre at his stunning best. If you are interested in this era and this type of film it is obviously the classic of its kind.

One thing I find interesting about the Cold War is that it was largely fought without weapons, and yet, as perfectly illustrated in this movie, even stripped of their weapons, men still found a way to fight a war!!

I owned it on VHS and waited for along time for a region 2 compatible DVD. No extras, but I don't care, it's a work of art which doesn't need embellishing.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2006
Based on the novel by the acclaimed British author John Le Carre (who gave us the excellent SMILEY'S PEOPLE and the less steller CONSTANT GARDENER) this bleak look at Cold War espionage is actually compulsive viewing. I started watching the movie late one night fully expecting to stop about halfway through yet, there I was at 1 a.m. still transfixed at the unfolding drama.

Starring Richard Burton in perhaps one of his most impressive roles and co-starring Burton's one-time girlfriend the entrancing Claire Bloom, this movie is a complex, intricately woven movie that keeps one guessing. It starts in Germany and ends in Germany with stops in England and Holland inbetween. Burton plays Alec Leamas, a former head of British intelligence in Berlin who poses as a washed up agent as a means of implanting seeds of doubt about the loyalty of a communist spy in the minds of that spy's superiors. After beating up a grocer he is approached by East German intelligence and persuaded to "defect" to the East. Once there during the debriefing stage he begins to lay subtle clues in the hope that they will be picked up by the authorities, who will then p[iece together the clues and come to the conclusion that one of their star agents is a traitor. Sounds simple enough right?! Well, all is not as it seems and the real motive behind Leamas' ruse is one of those twists you don't see coming until it's too late.

Burton is ably supported by a brilliant supporting cast, from the aforementioned Bloom to Michael Horden as Ashe, a gay communist agent, Sam Wanamaker as Peters, Oskar Werner as the ambitious Fiedler and Robert Hardy as Dick Carlton to name just a few.

Released in 1965, this movie was made at a time when color was available for use, however the makers decided (wisely) to film it in black and white, a decision which really helps build atmosphere and drama.

I recommend this movie to everyone who likes complex plotting and espionage thrillers.
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on 26 November 2006
This film is a faithful adaption of the book, makes a welcome change. The two leads Burton and Bloom share a third star, that is London itself. For a feel of the greyness of London in this period, this film is tremendously evocative. It is a bleak story indeed but the two hours passes quickly, following the twists and turns but for me also following the striking filming. There is no way this should ever be in colour, it is a masterpiece and the ending, though I expected it, was as much of a shock as ever. It is a film of London when it truly was an old boy network, more so than now but also a London which was questioning and not afraid to do so. I could ramble on, but watch it. Don't expect James Bond, expect an intelligent and thought provoking story with filming that is almost art house. I kept thinking about the London of Hangover Square and Patrick Hamilton as I watched this. Unmissable.
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It's fascinating to put this film into its context - a black and white, grimy film peeling the lid off the unsavoury world of spycraft in the chill of the Cold War, with no gloss or even colour to leaven the mood. And this at the same time that the world was on a high in the 60's on Connery's glossiest Bonds, as well as spy mania proliferating in tv and books, highlighting glamour, humour and colour The highest rated TV series that year was Get Smart. Here though, Le Carre's novel as put on film is more interested in damaged people and something more like the reality of spying.
Richard Burton gives an outstanding performance as Leamas, Burton playing the part of a man playing a part. Though we are invited to question where the man ends and the part he is playing begins.. The spy who has just had a failure in Berlin, but who is not ready to come in from the cold. His bosses ask him to stay in the field for one more undercover op, all in gritty but excellent black and white photography. He does what he needs to do to seem `turnable', as part of a scheme his handler has explained will help get rid of one of the top German agents... his journey of false information dissemination becomes one of self discovery as he starts to question just who is being used. His monologue near the end when he releases his true feelings about his profession makes you realize just how great an actor he could be, especially with this sort of deeply troubled and damaged character. Oskar Werner is simply mesmerising as the contact whom Leamas intends to manipulate, and Claire Bloom has a pivotal role that is utterly believable thanks to a note perfect performance that speaks much more than her words do.
It's a simply told, unfussily shot gem full of nuances, with great performances and a compelling story.. not a moment is wasted, and each frame holds exactly what it needs to. and then it has an ending that is sure to have you talking or thinking long after the credits fade. It might not be uplifting, but it is nonetheless unmissable.
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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a 1963 Cold War espionage novel by author John le Carré. It is prominent for its representation of Western spying methods as ethically fickle with Western democracy and values. The film, of the same name, concerned a British spy who is sent to East Germany in order to sow misinformation about a prevailing East German intelligence officer. With the help of his unsuspecting English girlfriend, a principled Marxist, he allows himself to be conscripted by the communists, but soon his pretence untangles and he confesses to being a British agent—a disclosure that realises the crucial objective of the assignment. This is a film where there are no hi-tech gadgets, shoe knives and sensual female Soviet agents to seduce. There are no fanciful plots to recover microfilm or encryption machines. Moreover, our protagonist does not even carry a weapon of any sort. Instead, the mêlée is fought with pure acumen, guile, dogmatic guidance and deceit.

The nature of the film if anything is purposefully 1950s Britain, its colours are dull grey, and its weather depressing. It is worth recalling that rationing in Britain finally ended in 1954; that the Second World War was a fresh raw nerve (our main protagonist Leamas is a veteran); the action of the novel takes place half a century ago. It belongs to a wholly dissimilar world from the one we know today. This is one of those films that makes you realise that “black & white” is not an old medium of filming, neither is it just a choice of film media; rather , if used well, it can be an entire art form unto itself. Darkness and the light, shadows and contrast are used to the fullest. This is where the plot requires your full attention. Things are not spelt out for us, and it requires a bit of work to piece it together, but that makes the payoff even more stunning.

This film was a paradigm shift in the genre if compared to the James Bond franchise. An excellent production that is well worthy of five stars​.
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on 18 December 2009
Atmospheric; restrained and chilling. John Le Carre's plot is well treated here and Richard Burton gives an excellent performance. Unlike so many modern films, you can hear every crisp word delivered by a cast who know how to speak English.
This is a good story and the book too makes a very good read. Radio 4 also recently did an interesting adaptation with Brian Cox in the title role, for which he deserves commendation.
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on 11 October 2011
Just a quick word of caution regarding this dvd (PHE9101). It's stated as colour on the back of the sleeve but is infact a Black & White film. Thought i'd just share this with everyone incase anyone thinks it's a fault with the dvd.
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The opening sequence of this classic and clever 1960s Cold War spy movie is set around Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, although clearly it is not THE Checkpoint Charlie. Nevertheless it is all very well got up to like the real thing. I'll come to this aspect later in the review.

Adapted from the John le Carre novel, `The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' tells the story of the lengths the British Secret Service will go to in order to have an East German spymaster eliminated by his own side. It's very cleverly constructed and convincingly acted, especially Burton as the bait, the disaffected spook, the spy who never wanted to come in from the cold.

In his biography of Burton, Melvyn Bragg relates how director (Martin Ritt) and star did not hit it off. Ritt deliberately wanted Burton's role to be as anonymous as possible - "no oratory, no action, no charm" - and it says a lot for both that Burton played the part beautifully. Burton was with Elizabeth Taylor at the time, which made for a tense atmosphere at times, since Burton's co-star Claire Bloom was one of his old flames. (Bragg describes Taylor on set as an emotional version of the KGB to compare with the East German secret service that Burton's character was having to battle.)

Made in the 1965 (the year of my birth), the film is a product of its time, when pubs did not cook food, when people have a bottle of wine leftover from Christmas, when milk-churns are stacked in the street, and when corner shops offered credit accounts. Talking of corner shops, it was nice to see Bernard Lee as the grocer, a bit of a comedown from his role as M in the Bond movies. Compared to Bond, this film is certainly not as glamorous; instead it portrays the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty, everyday life of the spy.

The only disappointment with the film is with a few elements of the production design. I mentioned how the setting of Checkpoint Charlie that opens the movie is convincing - but it is not THAT convincing. And this is replicated in some of the other settings supposedly behind the Iron Curtain. In fact, not one second of the film was shot in Berlin; rather, many of these scenes were shot in Ireland, as is unfortunately made plain by the walls and light-fittings of the Communist courtroom being replete with hunting trophies (hardly a Communist ornament). The climax of the film at the Berlin Wall is also poor, since the buildings on the other side of the breeze blocks and barbed wire are quite plainly those one would find in small towns in Ireland, Wales, or Cornwall.

However, attention to detail in other areas of the film is superb, even down to such things as the word order a German would adopt when speaking halting English ("Here, go slowly, please"). The film is certainly enhanced by the music of Sol Kaplan, who takes his main theme and varies it according to mood and circumstance. So overall, I'm very happy to possess this DVD and watch it time and again.

My DVD comes with no extras.
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on 22 December 2011
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is a superpbly made movie. The film was made in 1965 but seems much older, partly because of it being in black and white and partly because it's style is more like The Third Man(1949) or Touch of Evil(1958). Richard Burton is on top form and had a very intense presence throughout the film. The plot is certainly one you must play close attention too as it is confusing if you don't. The script and performances are so good though that you get drawn into the film and follow it through to it's conclusion. George Smiley does feature in this film but he's not Richard Burtons character. After watching this seek out Alec Guiness as Smiley in Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy(if you haven't already seen it), another great John Le Carre adaption.
The film is in widescreen with good sound. I was happy with the picture quality but for perfectionists there are unfortunately quite alot of scratches on the film in many scenes.
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I have read a few Le Carre books, but the only one I really took to was The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. When I finished it I just had to watch the film. I have yet to see a film that is better than the book, but this came close to being as good as. This is a real gritty and raw spy thriller that was captivating and intriguing. One of those films that you need to pay attention to, which is easy to do as you will be drawn in. This is an old film, but one of those that never dates.

Very good DVD quality sound and picture. Just bear in mind that this is a region 1 DVD so you will need a region free or USA player to watch this.
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