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Favorite Films: The IPCRESS File

Michael Caine in The IPCRESS File (1965)

Michael Caine in The IPCRESS File (1965)

Michael Caine co-starred with a pair of glasses (curiously similar to the ones that Rick Perry sported while he was still running for President) in a spy film that was most un-James-Bond-like, despite the fact that Harry Saltzman produced both The IPCRESS File and many of the classic Bonds.

(By the way, if you’re wondering why IPCRESS is in all caps, it’s because it’s an acronym for Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex with Stress, the brainwashing scheme used by Commie spies to “turn” British scientists.)

The IPCRESS File was Michael Caine’s first big shot at stardom. His spy is unnamed in Len Deighton’s novels, but you couldn’t very well have an unnamed character in a film who is constantly being directly addressed by his friends and co-workers. It was Caine who came up with the moniker Harry Palmer, and it stuck.

Palmer’s world of spies is much dirtier than Bond’s. You wouldn’t suspect M or Q or Miss Moneypenny for being a Russian plant; but in Harry Palmer’s WOOC(P) [SIC] organization no one is near as squeaky clean.

In the film, Harry accidentally kills one CIA operative in an underground garage who was tailing him too closely and is suspected of killing another whose bullet-riddled body is found in his flat.

Kidnapped from a train, Harry finds himself in an Albanian prison being brainwashed to forget everything he knew about the IPCRESS project. Some people, and Harry is one of them, just can’t succumb to brainwashing; and he comes out ahead.

Sidney J. Furie’s film direction is edgy and effective. I had not seen the film since my college days when I saw that it was being screened on Turner Classic Movies. Coincidentally, I had read Deighton’s novel just a couple of weeks ago.