Spy Who Came In from the Cold The (1965)

Spy Who Came In from the Cold The (1965)

Produced and directed by Martin Ritt (who inexplicably received only one Best Director Oscar nomination in his career two years earlier for Hud (1963)) this John le Carré Cold War spy novel was adapted by Paul Dehn (Seven Days to Noon (1950)) and Guy Trosper (The Pride of St. Louis (1952)) into a pretty good thriller notable for its atmospheric feel and Oscar nominated B&W Art Direction-Set Decoration. Though I found the novel difficult to follow I found this drama to be much less confusing and compelling (and I applaud Ritt for not copping out at the end). Richard Burton is perfect in the title role as Alex Leamas earning the fourth of his seven unrewarded Best Actor Academy Award nominations.

Worn out British spy Leamas who used to run his country’s espionage operations behind the wall in East Germany pretends to defect in order to discredit a key communist official Hans-Dieter Mundt (Peter Van Eyck) who had recently had one of Leamas’s agents killed while crossing the border from East to West. Or at least that’s the plan his boss George Smiley (Rupert Davies) who supplied Leamas with the bogus yet incriminating-to-Mundt information had envisioned. Claire Bloom who plays a British communist sympathizer living in London named Nan Perry and Oskar Werner who plays Mundt’s ambitious second in command Fiedler become pawns in the game. What I found particularly interesting in the story was how contemptuously each person in the communist spy hierarchy is treated by his immediate superior – there is no respect shown for one’s underling in the chain of command. In addition to Burton Werner and George Voskovec as Mundt’s defense attorney give particularly memorable performances.

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