The Ipcress File (film)
|The Ipcress File|
|Directed by||Sidney J. Furie|
|Produced by||Harry Saltzman|
|Screenplay by||Bill Canaway
|Based on||The IPCRESS File
by Len Deighton
|Music by||John Barry|
|Editing by||Peter R. Hunt|
|Studio||Lowndes Productions Limited|
|Distributed by||J. Arthur Rank|
|Running time||109 minutes|
|Box office||$3,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)|
The Ipcress File is a 1965 British espionage film directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring Michael Caine, Guy Doleman, and Nigel Green. The screenplay by Bill Canaway and James Doran was based on Len Deighton's 1962 novel, The IPCRESS File. It has won critical acclaim and a BAFTA award for best British film. In 1999 it was included at number 59 on the BFI list of the 100 best British films of the 20th century.
A top scientist called Radcliffe (Aubrey Richards) is kidnapped from a train and his security escort killed. Harry Palmer (Michael Caine), a sergeant working for a Ministry of Defence organisation, is summoned from a stakeout by his boss, Colonel Ross (Guy Doleman). Ross tells Palmer that he is being transferred to a bureau headed by Major Dalby (Nigel Green).
Ross suspects that Radcliffe's disappearance is part of a brain drain; sixteen top British scientists have inexplicably ceased to function, leaving their jobs at the peak of their careers. The killing of Radcliffe's guard provides the first tangible evidence of this, and a gives them a lead to follow.
Ross tells Dalby that his position is precarious, and that "the people upstairs" will close Dalby's department down if it can't get Radcliffe back. Dalby is told not to complain since he's got a very good job for a major repeatedly passed over for promotion.
Ross introduces Palmer to Dalby as a good man but insubordinate. His file records that he had been court-martialed for black market activities, but offered a job as a spy as an alternative to jail. Dalby tells Palmer that his criminal tendencies may be of use, but that if he gives any trouble, he will go straight to prison.
At his first departmental meeting, Palmer befriends Jock Carswell (Gordon Jackson), but is ignored by a young woman, Jean Courtney (Sue Lloyd). Dalby briefs his agents on the Radcliffe kidnapping, saying that they suspect Eric Ashley Grantby, codenamed "Bluejay" (Frank Gatliff), and his chief of staff, codenamed "Housemartin" (Oliver MacGreevy). Using a Scotland Yard contact, Harry locates Grantby, who gives Harry a piece of paper with a contact number on it. Harry tries the number from a phone booth, but it doesn't work. He tries to stop Grantby leaving, but Housemartin attacks him and the two get away.
Later that day, Palmer goes home and finds that Courtney has been sent there by Dalby to check up on him. The two become friends.
Some time later, Carswell and Palmer learn that Housemartin has been arrested, but by the time they reach the police station, they find that men impersonating them have killed him. Suspecting that Radcliffe may be being held in a disused factory near where Housemartin was picked up, Palmer orders a search of the factory, but they find only a piece of audiotape marked 'IPCRESS', that produces a meaningless noise when played.
Shopping at a supermarket, Palmer is approached by Ross, who asks him to spy on Dalby's activities. Palmer refuses. Ross leaves, but threatens to have Palmer put in prison if he mentions the meeting to Dalby.
Palmer now suspects that Courtney may be spying for Ross. However, he decides to ignore it and soon they become lovers.
Contact with Grantby is re-established and a deal struck for Radcliffe's safe return. The exchange goes as planned, but as they are leaving, Palmer sees a man suddenly move towards them and shoots him. The dead man turns out to be a CIA agent who has also been following Grantby. Palmer is subsequently followed by another CIA operative, who says he will kill him if he discovers that the death was not a mistake.
Some days after his recovery, it becomes clear that while Radcliffe is physically unharmed, his mind has been affected and he can no longer function as a scientist. Carswell discovers a book titled "Induction of Psychoneuroses by Conditioned Reflex under Stress": IPCRESS, which he believes explains what has happened to Radcliffe and the other scientists. Carswell borrows Palmer's car to test his theory on Radcliffe, but is killed before he reaches him. Palmer believes that he must have been the intended target and decides to move in with Jean until the situation is resolved. When he goes home to collect his belongings, he discovers the body of the second CIA agent. He returns to the office and finds that the IPCRESS file is missing from his desk.
Believing that he is being set up he tells Dalby what has happened, and that he suspects Ross took the file, revealing to Dalby that Ross had previously asked him to microfilm the file. Dalby tells him to leave town for a while. While on a train to Paris, Palmer is apprehended and finds himself imprisoned in a cell.
After several days in the cell, having been denied sleep, food and warmth, Grantby reveals himself as Palmer's kidnapper, and tells him that he has been taken to Albania. Having read the file, Palmer realises that their treatment of him is part of the conditioning for the brainwashing procedures to come, and tells Grantby that he will resist it.
During the brainwashing procedure he uses pain to distract himself, and proves to be unusually resistant to the treatment. However, after many sessions of conditioning with electronic sounds and disorientating images, he appears to succumb to the hypnosis. Grantby instills a trigger phrase that will make Palmer act unconsciously against his will and follow any commands given to him.
Palmer eventually overcomes his guard, takes his gun and escapes. Reaching the street, he realises he is still in London. He phones Dalby, who it is revealed is actually in league with Grantby. Dalby uses the trigger phrase, making Palmer call Ross to the warehouse.
As Dalby and Ross arrive, Palmer is suspicious of both of them and holds them at gunpoint, attempting to reveal who is the double agent. Dalby accuses Ross of killing Carswell, but Ross tells Palmer that he had been investigating Dalby, whom he already suspected. Dalby uses the trigger phrase again, to try to convince Palmer that Ross is the traitor. Palmer narrowly breaks the spell by smacking his hand against metal, inflicting pain on himself as he did while being subject to conditioning. Seeing this, Dalby goes for his gun, but Palmer reacts quickly and shoots Dalby, killing him. Ross tells Palmer that he had been counting on Palmer's insubordinate nature, admitting that he had used Palmer to get to Dalby.
- Michael Caine as Harry Palmer
- Guy Doleman as Colonel Ross
- Nigel Green as Major Dalby
- Sue Lloyd as Jean Courtney
- Gordon Jackson as Carswell
- Aubrey Richards as Dr. Radcliffe
- Frank Gatliff as Bluejay
- Thomas Baptiste as Barney
- Oliver MacGreevy as Housemartin
- Freda Bamford as Alice
- Pauline Winter as Charlady
- Anthony Blackshaw as Edwards
- Barry Raymond as Gray
- David Glover as Chilcott-Oakes
- Stanley Meadows as Inspector Keightley
- Peter Ashmore as Sir Robert
- Michael Murray as Raid Inspector
- Anthony Baird as Raid Sergeant
- Tony Caunter as O.N.I. man
- Douglas Blackwell as Murray
- Glynn Edwards as Police Station Sergeant
Production and contrast with Bond franchise 
The film was intended as an ironically downbeat alternative portrait of the world of spies portrayed in the successful and popular James Bond films - even though one of the producers and others in the production team were in fact also responsible for the latter franchise. In contrast to Bond's public school background and playboy lifestyle, Palmer is a Cockney who lives in a Notting Hill flat and has to put up with red tape and inter-departmental rivalries. When appointed to a new post, one of his first questions is whether he will get a pay rise. (Bond's salary is hardly mentioned and he only goes to the best hotels, often using the Presidential suite.) The action is set entirely in London with humdrum locations. And although Palmer is, like Bond, a gourmet, he shops in a supermarket.
In this respect, it is a tribute to the complexity and flexibility of the mind of Harry Saltzman, who was an acknowledged master of proposing "bigger and more extravagant ideas" for Bond films according to the MGM Home Entertainment documentary Harry Saltzman: Showman. Five prominent members of the production team - producer Harry Saltzman, executive producer- Charles Kasher (who also produced the sequel-"Funeral In Berlin", film editor Peter R. Hunt, composer John Barry (who produced a distinctive and innovative score) and production designer Ken Adam - also worked on the James Bond film series, and projects like this ultimately led to Saltzman's departure from Eon Productions and his sale of Danjaq, LLC to United Artists in 1975.
Harry Saltzman gave Jimmy Sangster a copy of the novel to read. Sangster enjoyed the book and was eager to adapt the novel, and suggested Michael Caine play the role and Sidney J. Furie direct. However, Saltzman would not commit to a timeframe which Sangster insisted upon. Ken Hughes wrote a script which Saltzman rejected.
Ipcress had two immediate sequels: Funeral in Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967). Decades later Michael Caine returned to his Harry Palmer character in Harry Alan Towers' Bullet to Beijing (1995) and Midnight in Saint Petersburg (1996).
The only major main line railway route to be closed by Dr Beeching is referenced. The soon to be abducted scientist is seen boarding a train at Marylebone Station and the station announcer calls for passengers for the train to "Rugby, Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield", the doomed route of the Great Central Main Line.
Harry Palmer character 
The protagonist of Deighton's novel was nameless, but in Chapter 5 he remarks, "My name isn't Harry, but in this business it's hard to remember whether it ever had been." In the opening scenes of the film, Palmer is shown to care little for authority, to indulge in quick repartee and to have an interest in good food. Newspaper cuttings shown in Palmer's kitchen are actually cookery articles written for The Observer by Deighton, an accomplished cook and cookery writer. In a scene where Palmer prepares a meal, the hands in close-up are Deighton's.
IPCRESS procedure 
The brainwashing shown is similar to a shock technique called Psychic driving pioneered by Dr. D. Ewen Cameron, originally on unwitting mental hospital patients, and utilised and funded by the U.S. CIA's MKULTRA program in Canada.
- This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
- Sangster, Jimmy (1997). Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?: From Hammer Films to Hollywood! : A Life in the Movies : An Autobiography. Midnight Marquee Press. p. 78. ISBN 9781887664134.
- Sheffy, Pearl (29 January 1966). "The Man who got the Bond Going". Calgary Herald. pp. unnumbered.
- Action Cook Book by Len Deighton
- Amazon.com: Cookstrip cook book: Books: Len Deighton
- The BFI 100 – A selection of the favourite British films of the 20th century.
- The British Film Designers Guild :: Helpful Information
- "Festival de Cannes: The Ipcress File". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-03-04.
- The Ipcress File at the Internet Movie Database
- The Ipcress File at the TCM Movie Database
- The Ipcress File at AllRovi
- The Ipcress File at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Ipcress File - Photos
- Kees Stam's Harry Palmer movie site and filming locations
- The Deighton Dossier