Funeral in Berlin (film)

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Funeral in Berlin
Funeral in berlin film poster.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Charles D. Kasher
Written by Len Deighton (novel)
Evan Jones (screenplay)
Starring Michael Caine
Paul Hubschmid
Eva Renzi
Oscar Homolka
Hugh Burden
Music by Konrad Elfers
Cinematography Otto Heller
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) 22 December 1966 US release
Running time 102 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Funeral in Berlin is a 1966 British spy film directed by Guy Hamilton and based on the novel of the same name by Len Deighton. It is the second of three 1960s films starring Michael Caine as the character Harry Palmer, that followed the characters from the initial film, The Ipcress File (1965). The third film, made in 1967 was Billion Dollar Brain.

Caine would reprise the role of Harry Palmer three decades later for Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in Saint Petersburg.

Plot[edit]

Berlin in the 1960s is a city divided between Cold War lines with inhabitants of the Communist East trying to escape to the West. Even with the infamous Berlin Wall these escapes are common and successful.

Colonel Stok (Oskar Homolka), the head of intelligence in the Soviet Union's Berlin section and the one responsible for preventing escapes over the Wall, contacts British Intelligence and informs them that he wants to defect to the West. Secret agent Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) is sent to West Berlin to find out if Stok's offer is genuine and arrange his escape. Palmer was once involved in black market dealings in Berlin and was given the choice of joining British Intelligence or going to jail. Returning to the city, he is re-united with his old associate, German national Johnny Vulkan (Paul Hubschmid), who also works for Palmer's superior Colonel Ross (Guy Doleman).

Vulkan arranges for Palmer to go to East Berlin to meet Colonel Stok. In exchange for his co-operation with the British, Stok requests a meagre stipend, a house in the country and his escape must be carried out by Kreutzmann (Günter Meisner), a Berlin gangster responsible for the most successful escapes. Stok claims that Kreutzmann's escapes have led his department to be investigated and that he must get out before things turn nasty.

Returning to West Berlin, Palmer is picked up by a beautiful young woman called Samantha Steel (Eva Renzi), who invites him to a party but instead takes him to her flat for drinks, dinner and presumably more as Palmer is next seen leaving her place in the morning. Not taken in by Samantha's charms, Palmer hires a burglar to search her apartment to figure out who she really is, feigning surprise by exclaiming "You've been burgled!" as the two of them enter Steel's apartment together after a night on the town. The thief discovers a number of passports of various nationalities under different variations of her name and a little black book in her safe which lists names of men next to million-dollar figures. Returning to his hotel room, Palmer finds that it too has been ransacked.

Palmer negotiates an arrangement with Kreutzmann without revealing the details of the one whom the British want to get across the Wall. As part of his payment, Kreutzmann demands a set of travel documents but refuses to say why.

Palmer tests Stok to determine how sincere he is about defecting. The test seems conclusive and Palmer returns to London. From Hallam (Hugh Burden), the documents manager back at MI5, Palmer receives documents in the name of Paul Louis Broum. As he places the envelope in his briefcase for return to Berlin, he notices the same name on a photograph of the pages of Samantha's little black book, with next to it the figure of $2,000,000 (a very large sum at the time). Palmer asks Hallam who Broum is, but Hallam shrugs, saying "Just a name."

Palmer returns to Samantha and makes a point of letting her see the envelope with Broum's name. Dropping all pretence, she admits that she is an Israeli agent. Broum is a Nazi war criminal who stole millions from the Jews during the war and hid it in a Swiss bank account. The Israelis need the papers to reclaim the money. Although she threatens to kill him, Palmer refuses to give her the documents since he needs them to pay Kreutzmann.

Kreutzmann and his men murder an elderly East Berliner whose body is claimed by a relative in the West – actually a woman employed by Kreutzmann. A body transfer is arranged but as the hearse makes its way from the morgue to the checkpoint, it is hijacked by Kreutzmann's men and replaced with another which contains a different coffin.

Michael Caine in a still from the film.

The coffin is taken to West Berlin and delivered to an abandoned warehouse where Palmer and his associate Vulkan are waiting. But when the coffin is opened it is found to contain the dead body of Kreutzmann! Stok's whole defection was simply a bluff to lure Kreutzmann out and put an end to the escapes he so brilliantly organised. Although well informed, he and his men never knew in advance that Stok was the intended client.

Before Palmer can get away from Kreutzmann's outraged accomplices, he is knocked unconscious by Vulkan who gets hold of the Broum documents only to be held up by Samantha and two other Israeli agents who take away the papers.

Vulkan tells Palmer that he was knocked out by another of Kreutzmann's men. They then go to a safe house where they report on the fiasco surrounding Stok's so-called defection. Palmer tells his boss, Colonel Ross, about the Broum documents. Ross is caught by surprise at their mention, exclaiming, "The Broum documents?!" Palmer becomes agitated, saying "There's that name again. You know it, too. There's things you're not telling me." Ross then reveals to Palmer that towards the end of World War II, Paul Louis Broum, a guard at a concentration camp, murdered a resistance fighter called Johnny Vulkan and assumed his identity. Ross got hold of the documents and used them to blackmail Broum into working for him. Palmer expresses disdain, saying, "I didn't know Her Majesty employed ex-Nazis," to which Ross replies dryly, "And thieves, Palmer."

Now that the documents are missing, Ross has nothing with which to keep a hold on Broum/Vulkan and cannot risk him defecting. "You've bungled everything else, Palmer," Ross says. "Go ahead and kill him (Broum)." Palmer retorts angrily, "I'm not killing anyone in cold blood!" Seated at his desk as Palmer stands before him, Ross acidly intones, "Then provoke him, if that will satisfy your scruples."

Back in West Berlin, Palmer has a chance street encounter with Stok, who is over for a routine meeting with his Western counterparts. The affable Russian confirms that his supposed defection was just a trap to get rid of Kreutzmann. He and Palmer even joke about the latter himself defecting to the East, Stok laughing, "I like you, English (his nickname for Palmer); if your Colonel Ross doesn't want you anymore, you come work for me!" Palmer, clearly angry at having been a pawn in so many games he was unaware of, shoots back "I didn't like Kreutzmann any more than you," but makes cynical note of Stok's offer, saying "I may have to." Laughing as he climbs back into his chauffered car, Stok advises, "If you need to get out in a hurry, ask Vulkan. He knows the way."

Meanwhile, Broum/Vulkan goes to Samantha's flat, murders an Israeli agent and gets the documents back. He then meets Hallam, the Intelligence official who gave Palmer the Broum documents in London. However, Hallam takes a quick look at the documents that they now have and determines that they are forgeries made by one of Palmer's underworld Berlin contacts. Hallam goes to Palmer, saying that he has been sent by Ross to get the real documents back. Palmer never believed Hallam's claim that he selected the Broum documents at random and forces him to admit that he is in league with Broum: with Kreutzmann's co-operation, they took advantage of the situation to get the documents out of London and now intend to use them to claim the Nazi loot that Broum deposited in the Swiss banks.

Palmer and Hallam go to a quiet part of the Berlin wall through which Broum and Hallam intend to slip into the East and thus to Switzerland, but Broum kills Hallam and makes away with the documents. As Broum holds Palmer at gunpoint, Palmer reminds Broum of the Israelis, even though Broum has secured co-operation from the checkpoint border guards to open a secret hole in the wall for his attempt to escape to the Eastern sector. Broum orders Palmer to give him his light-coloured overcoat and hornrimmed spectacles so he might resemble Palmer from a distance, saying "They won't shoot at you." He then makes a dash across a short expanse of exposed territory before getting to the wall. Steel sees the figure that appears to be Palmer, and orders a fellow Israeli agent armed with a machine gun, "Shoot!" Steel and her accomplice run to the body lying face down on the ground as Palmer emerges from the shadows without his glasses and wearing Broum's dark, fur-collared overcoat. "Paul Louis Broum" he intones in a deadpan tone as he stands over the body wearing his own coat. "You'll find the documents in the coat pocket." Palmer and Steel then have an extended glance at each other whilst the dramatic music score increases. Palmer puts on his trade mark glasses and gives us his brilliant 60's classic look.

Back in Ross's London office, Ross reads with satisfaction a newspaper account of the incident based on Palmer's report that spins the event to be that of another martyr shot while escaping to the West. Palmer accepts Ross's compliment on that twist, saying "Yes, I thought Colonel Stok would appreciate that." Ross is pleased saying, "That new car you've been wanting, Palmer; I believe you've earned it." Standing before Ross's desk, Palmer replies, "No thank you, sir; I'll walk," and as Ross swivels in his chair to look out his window, Palmer is seen from behind, making his way across a crowded Trafalgar square as the closing credits roll.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

In a short documentary film entitled "Man at the Wall: The Making of Funeral in Berlin" produced by Paramount Pictures about the production of the movie, Michael Caine says that director Guy Hamilton – who directed Goldfinger and three later James Bond features – would make on-set improvisations to the script based on his own personal experiences working for British military intelligence during World War II.video

DVD release[edit]

Funeral in Berlin was released as a Region 1 DVD on 14 August 2001.

External links[edit]