The Quiller Memorandum

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The Quiller Memorandum
Film poster by Tom Beauvais
Directed byMichael Anderson
Produced byIvan Foxwell
Screenplay byHarold Pinter
Based onThe Berlin Memorandum
1965 novel
by Elleston Trevor
StarringGeorge Segal
Alec Guinness
Max von Sydow
Senta Berger
Music byJohn Barry
CinematographyErwin Hillier
Edited byFrederick Wilson
Distributed byRank Organisation (UK)
20th Century Fox (US)
Release date
10 November 1966 (UK)
15 December 1966 (US)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1,500,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

The Quiller Memorandum is a 1966 Anglo-American Eurospy film filmed in DeLuxe Color and Panavision, adapted from the 1965 spy novel The Berlin Memorandum, by Elleston Trevor under the name "Adam Hall", screenplay by Harold Pinter, directed by Michael Anderson, featuring George Segal, Alec Guinness, Max von Sydow and Senta Berger. The film was shot on location in West Berlin and in Pinewood Studios, England. It was nominated for 3 BAFTA Awards,[2] while Pinter was nominated for an Edgar Award for the script.

The film is a spy-thriller set in 1960s West Berlin, where agent Quiller is sent to investigate a neo-Nazi organisation.

The film had its World Premiere on 10 November 1966 at the Odeon Leicester Square in the West End of London.


British secret agent Kenneth Lindsay Jones is shot dead on a deserted Berlin street. At lunch in an exclusive club in London, close to Buckingham Palace, the directors of an unnamed agency, Gibbs and Rushington, decide to send American agent Quiller to continue the assignment, which has now killed two agents. Quiller meets his controller for this mission, Pol, at Berlin’s Olympia Stadium, and learns that he must find the headquarters of Phoenix, a neo-Nazi organization.

Quiller confronts a man who has been following him, learning that it is his minder, Hengel. Hengel gives Quiller the few items found on Jones: a bowling alley ticket, a swimming-pool ticket and a newspaper article about a Nazi war criminal found teaching at a grade school. Quiller asks after Jones at the bowling alley without success; and the swimming pool manager Hassler also sends him packing.

Pretending to be a reporter, Quiller visits the school featured in the article. The headmistress introduces him to a teacher who speaks English, Inge Lindt. After the interview, he gives her a ride to her flat and stops in for a drink.

Quiller confronts a man who seems to be following him, revealing that he (Quiller) speaks German fluently. When Quiller returns to his hotel, a porter bumps Quiller's leg with a suitcase on the steps. Quiller drives off, managing to shake Hengel, then notices men in another car following him. Quiller becomes drowsy from a drug that was injected by the porter at the entrance to the hotel. When Quiller passes out at a traffic stop, the other car pulls alongside and abducts him.

Quiller awakes in a dilapidated mansion, surrounded by many of the previous incidental characters. They are all members of Phoenix, led by the German aristocrat code named Oktober. Quiller avoids answering Oktober's questions about Quiller’s agency, until a doctor injects him with a truth serum, after which he reveals a few minor clues. In a feint to see if Quiller will reveal more by oversight, Oktober decides to spare his life.

Quiller wakes up beside Berlin’s Spree River. He steals a taxi, evades a pursuing vehicle and books himself into a squalid hotel. He calls Inge and arranges to meet. He first meets with Pol, who explains that each side is trying to discover and annihilate the other's base.

Quiller admits to Inge that he is an 'investigator' on the trail of neo-Nazis. After they have sex, she unexpectedly reveals that a friend was formerly involved with neo-Nazis and might know the location of Phoenix's HQ. The friend proves to be Hassler, who is now much more friendly. Hassler drives them to meet an old contact he says knows a lot more; who turns out to be Inge's headmistress. She claims she turned in the teacher from the article, and points out the dilapidated Phoenix mansion.

When Quiller decides to investigate the building, Inge says she will wait for him, while Hassler and the headmistress leave one of their cars for them. Inge tells him she loves him, and he tells her a phone number to call if he is not back in 20 minutes.

Quiller enters the mansion and is confronted by Phoenix thugs. Oktober reveals they are moving base the next day and shows that they have captured Inge. Oktober demands Quiller reveal the SIS base by dawn or Inge will be killed. Quiller is released, closely surrounded by Oktober's men. Quiller walks out, down the same street where Jones was shot, but finds he is always followed by Oktober's men. Finally, Quiller manages to shake them off.

Quiller then returns to his hotel. He notices the concierge is seated where he can see anyone leaving. So he slips out though a side door to the small garage where his car is kept. He finds that a bomb has been strapped underneath and sets it on the car so it will fall. He manages to get out of his garage as well as the adjoining one and then outside to the side of the building. He is shielded behind the building when the bomb explodes, with the thugs thinking him dead when they see the burning wreckage.

Quiller reaches the secret office Pol has in Berlin and gives them the location of the building where he had met Oktober. Pol dispatches a team to Phoenix's HQ, which successfully captures all of Phoenix's members. Quiller is surprised to learn that no women were found.

Quiller goes back to the school and confronts Inge in her classroom. She lies to him, stating that she "was lucky; they let me go", and claims she then called the phone number but it didn't work. Quiller tells Inge that they got most, but clearly not all, of the neo-Nazis. Quiller continues his subtle but knowing accusations, and Inge continues her subtle but knowing lies, ending with a denial of ever meeting Jones. Quiller leaves, while Inge’s neo-Nazi associate, the headmistress, is surprised to see he is alive.


Awards and critical reception[edit]

At the 1967 BAFTA Awards the film had nominations in the best Art Direction, Film Editing and Screenplay categories, but didn't win. Harold Pinter was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best Motion Picture category, but also didn't win.[3]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 67% of critics gave the film a positive rating based on 12 reviews, with an average score of 7.4/10. Variety wrote that "it relies on a straight narrative storyline, simple but holding, literate dialog and well-drawn characters." Ian Nathan of Empire Magazine described the film as "daft, dated and outright confusing most of the time, but undeniably fun" and rated it with 3/5 stars.[4]

Box Office[edit]

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $2,600,000 in rentals to break even and made $2,575,000, meaning it made a loss.[5]

Score and soundtrack[edit]

The Quiller Memorandum
Soundtrack album by
Released1966 (1966)
LabelColumbia Records

The mainly orchestral atmospheric soundtrack composed by John Barry was released by Columbia in 1966. Performed by Matt Monro, "Wednesday's Child" was released also as a single.[6][7]

  1. "Wednesday's Child" – Main Theme (Instrumental)
  2. "Quiller Caught" – The Fight
  3. "The Barrel Organ"
  4. "Oktober" – Walk from the River
  5. "Downtown" (composed by Tony Hatch)
  6. "Main Title Theme"
  7. "Wednesday's Child" – Vocal Version (Lyrics: Mack David / Vocals: Matt Monro)
  8. "The Love Scene" – The Old House
  9. "Autobahn March"
  10. "He Knows The Way Out"
  11. "Night Walk in Berlin"
  12. "Quiller and the Bomb"
  13. "Have You Heard of a Man Called Jones?" – Closing Theme


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  2. ^ – info
  3. ^ IMDb – Awards
  4. ^ "The Quiller Memorandum (1966)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
  5. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 326.
  6. ^ – soundtrack info
  7. ^ – soundtrack info

External links[edit]