The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (film)

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (film)

Infobox Film | name = The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

caption = The original film poster by Howard Terpning
director = Martin Ritt
producer = Martin Ritt
writer = John le Carré
starring = Richard Burton
Claire Bloom
Oskar Werner
George Voskovec
music = Sol Kaplan
cinematography = Oswald Morris
editing = Anthony Harvey
distributor = Paramount Pictures
released = flagicon|USA December 16, 1965
flagicon|UK 13 January, 1966 (premiere)
runtime = 112 min
language = English
country = U.K.
budget =
preceded_by =
followed_by =
imdb_id = 0059749

"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" is a 1965 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by John le Carré. It was adapted by Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper and stars Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, along with Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Peter van Eyck, Sam Wanamaker, Rupert Davies and Cyril Cusack. It was directed by Martin Ritt.

The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Richard Burton) and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White. Oskar Werner won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Fiedler. The film was awarded four BAFTA Awards, including Best British Film and Best British Actor (Burton). The screenwriters, Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper, received an Edgar Award for best movie screenplay.

The film closely follows the plot of the novel. One exception is that the name of the principal female character, "Liz Gold" in the novel, is changed to "Nan Perry," supposedly because the producers were worried about out-of-context quotes of Burton from the film being used in reference to his real-life wife, Elizabeth "Liz" Taylor.


The West Berlin office of the Circus (the British spy agency, presumably MI6) under administrator Alec Leamas (Richard Burton) has not been doing well. In fact, he is recalled to London shortly after the death of one of his operatives. From all outward appearances, Leamas is demoted to the banking section of the agency. In reality, a carefully-staged transformation of Leamas has been arranged. Now depressed and disgruntled, he is quickly spotted by the East German Intelligence Service as a potential defector.

Leamas accepts overtures from German communists to reveal British secrets for payment, and he is interviewed in Holland about what he knows. When the process is later moved to East Berlin, the interviews become less cordial. It appears Leamas has information that will implicate a powerful East German intelligence officer named Mundt as a paid informant of the British, but the information is spotty and it frustrates his interrogater, "Herr Fiedler" (Oskar Werner). When Mundt arrives at the compound and discovers the investigation, he has both Leamas and Fiedler arrested. Mundt is eventually arrested himself.

A East German tribunal ensues to determine the guilt of Mundt, or possibly Fiedler, with Leamas appearing as a star witness. Mundt's attorney (George Voskovec) uncovers several discrepancies in Leamas' transformation into an informant. Leamas' credibility is further undermined when his English girlfriend, an unassuming and idealistic socialist named Nan Perry (Claire Bloom), is brought into the hearings to confirm Leamas' character. As Leamas' charade unravels and he is forced to admit he is still working as a British agent, Fiedler is escorted from the room as a complicit dupe and Mundt's reputation is untarnished.

Leamas initially believes he has failed in his mission and he will soon be executed. But when Mundt releases him from his cell with an escape plan in tow, he learns that his mission has actually succeeded; "Fiedler" was the agent to be undermined and Mundt was "indeed" a British agent. Although this comes as a surprise to Leamas he isn't completely shocked by the revelation. As he and Perry sit in a car waiting to be escorted from communist Germany, she berates him as being involved in murder; the execution of Fiedler who was guilty of nothing. Leamas, agitated by Perry's naivete', tells her that her worldview is childish and people are murdered every day - on both sides - while she lives an insulated life: "What do you think spies are?" he asks. "They are a bunch of seedy squalid bastards, henpecked husbands, sadists, queers, drunkards..."

Leamas and Perry are soon ushered to the Berlin Wall and given accommodation to leave. But Perry has learned too much about Mundt's true identity and is not trustworthy to retain it. She becomes a victim of the Cold War and is shot down before canvassing the wall. Leamas then looks down from the top of the wall at Perry, while agents from both sides urge him to return to the west. He instead goes to Perry's lifeless body, and in doing so he joins her fate.

External links

*imdb title|id= 0059749 |title=The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
*tcmdb title|id=91176|title=The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

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