Thursday, 5 July 2007

Funeral in Berlin (1966)

Funeral in Berlin, directed by Guy Hamilton, and released in 1966, is the second of the Harry Palmer movies, with Michael Caine as the reluctant spy who’s been blackmailed into working for the British secret service. Although made at about the same time the Harry Palmer movies lack the spectacular action sequences and the gimmicks of the early James Bond movies, but they more than make up for this with intelligent scripting, noirish atmosphere, and great acting (especially by Caine in what is perhaps the finest role of his career). The mood is cynical in the extreme, and they have a delightful quirkiness and subtly tongue-in-cheek quality. The plot of Funeral in Berlin is fiendishly complicated, but it doesn’t really matter if you start to lose the thread – what matters is the feeling of double-crossers being double-crossed and then double-crossed again. If you start to feel really paranoid then the film is working exactly as it’s supposed to! The story involves a top Russian spy who claims he wants to defect, and a scramble for money belonging to victims of the Nazis. If you’ve never seen a Harry Palmer movie you really should see The Ipcress File (one of the all-time great spy movies) first. Funeral in Berlin has a slightly different tone, but in its own way it’s just as good.

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