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The Ipcress File

  • Film
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Time Out says

Sandwiched between ‘Zulu’ and ‘Alfie’ on Michael Caine’s extensive and, let’s say, ‘varied’ filmography, ‘The Ipcress File’ was the first of three films of the 1960s in which the actor played Harry Palmer, a creation of popular spy-novelist Len Deighton (the franchise was later revived in 1995, with Caine but without Deighton, in the straight-to-video rehash ‘Bullet to Beijing’). This month, the film will enjoy an extended run as part of a season of the actor’s films at the NFT.

Deighton’s plot is a mild headache of deceit and double-dealing that glides stylishly and with much wit around Caine’s Sergeant Palmer, a cocky London bachelor and middle-ranking scion of the MoD’s counter-espionage department. Palmer is redeployed from the command of one stuffy chief to another in order to investigate a mysterious ‘brain drain’ of government scientists and along the way discovers a suspicious reel of 8mm film that, it turns out, has mind-wiping properties. After much dashing about the capital’s streets, Palmer soon finds himself as much victim as investigator.

Director Sidney J Furie’s indulgence of the queer manners of an army-based British spy culture remains seductive, as does Caine’s rash character, a mild flirt who is proud of his cooking skills (a superior calls him ‘insubordinate… insolent… a trickster… perhaps with criminal properties…’). More quaint is the film’s dated science. Talk of ‘proto-proton-scattering experiments’ and the use as psychological torture of what looks now like a mildly annoying multi-screen barrage of sound and light at an ICA club night is more comic than scary. ‘Intensify the treatment,’ mutters a wayward scientist. Oh no, we fear, here comes Dr Evil himself – an experimental Czech VJ!
Written by DC

Release Details

  • Release date:Friday 13 January 2006
  • Duration:109 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Sidney J Furie
  • Screenwriter:Bill Canaway, James Doran
  • Cast:
    • Michael Caine
    • Nigel Green
    • Guy Doleman
    • Sue Lloyd
    • Gordon Jackson
    • Aubrey Richards
    • Frank Gatliff
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