The Tamarind Seed

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The Tamarind Seed
The Tamarind Seed FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBlake Edwards
Produced byKen Wales
Screenplay byBlake Edwards
Based onThe Tamarind Seed
1971 novel
by Evelyn Anthony
Music byJohn Barry
CinematographyFreddie Young
Edited byErnest Walter
Distributed by
Release date
  • June 11, 1974 (1974-06-11) (New York City)
  • 22 August 1974 (1974-08-22) (London)
  • 23 August 1974 (1974-08-23) (United Kingdom)
Running time
125 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$2.4 million[1]
Box office$8 million (US/Canada)
$5 million (rest of world)[1]

The Tamarind Seed is a 1974 American-British drama romance thriller film written and directed by Blake Edwards and starring Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif.[2] Based on the 1971 novel The Tamarind Seed by Evelyn Anthony, the film is about a British Home Office functionary and a Soviet era attaché who are lovers involved in Cold War intrigue. The Tamarind Seed was the first film produced by Lorimar Productions. The film score was composed by John Barry.[2]


An attractive British Home Office assistant named Judith Farrow is on vacation in the Caribbean after ending a failed love affair with a married man. She meets Feodor Sverdlov, a Soviet military attaché who is also on vacation. The two spend time together, and share details about their private lives. When British Intelligence learns that Feodor is spending time with the assistant of a British minister, they begin monitoring the couple's actions.

During one of their outings, Judith becomes fascinated by the story of a slave who was hanged from a tamarind tree and how that tree has since borne seeds in the shape of a human head. The skeptical Feodor thinks the story is a mere fairy tale. On her way back to London, she opens an envelope that he had given her and finds a tamarind seed with a human head shape.

British intelligence officer Jack Loder is convinced that Feodor is planning to recruit Judith as a spy. Loder is already concerned about an unknown Soviet spy within the British government with the code name "Blue." When he meets with British diplomat Fergus Stephenson, he learns that Stephenson suspects that his wife was given secret intelligence information. Loder knows that his own assistant George MacLeod has been having an affair with Stephenson's wife Margaret and is the source of the leak.

Loder visits Judith in her London apartment and interrogates her about Feodor, who is assigned in Paris to Soviet General Golitsyn. Loder instructs her that if he contacts her again, she should tell him immediately. When Feodor returns to his Paris office, he is told that his longtime secretary has been taken ill and returned to Russia, replaced by another secretary whom he suspects is a plant. He tells General Golitsyn that he has made a contact in Barbados, and that he believes he can recruit her. Soon after, Feodor meets Judith in London, and she reveals that British Intelligence knows about them, just as he suspected. He tells her that he had told the general that he intends to recruit her—a pretext for seeing her again.

Meanwhile, Stephenson's suspicious wife Margaret figures out that her husband's cigarette lighter is a miniature camera and that her husband is in fact a communist spy (code name Blue). Soon after, Judith receives an important message for Feodor, who is back in Paris. When she phones him, he asks her to deliver it to him in Paris. When she arrives, she conveys the message—that his former secretary was taken to Lubyanka for interrogation by the KGB, and that he should not return to Russia. When Feodor shows interest in seeking asylum in the West, Judith contacts her former lover Paterson, who communicates her request to Loder. The next night, Feodor is brought to Judith's apartment to meet Loder and asks for asylum. He offers to provide the identity of the secret communist spy Blue, in return for a safe new life in Canada. Loder agrees to the deal.

To help Feodor pull off the defection, Judith agrees to accompany him back to Barbados so that his cover story with the Soviets will be convincing. Meanwhile, at a party at the British ambassador's house in Paris, Paterson's wife reveals to Stephenson's wife that she overheard Judith tell her husband about a Soviet official looking to defect. Stephenson's wife reveals this news to her husband, who suspects Feodor to be the defector. The next day, Stephenson meets his Soviet contact and communicates the information. In Paris, Feodor meets with General Golitsyn and assures him that he only needs a few more days with Judith to recruit her.

At the Soviet embassy, Feodor steals part of the secret file on the communist spy known as Blue—papers he intends to offer to British Intelligence in exchange for his asylum. As he is leaving, however, he is spotted hiding the papers inside his jacket. When General Golitsyn is informed, he orders Feodor's public assassination at Heathrow Airport in London before he can fly to Barbados with Judith. At the airport, the Soviet assassins await his arrival, but Feodor avoids them with the help of Loder. General Golitsyn sends his assassins to Barbados to complete their deadly mission. Meanwhile, Loder meets with Stephenson and updates him on Feodor's defection and the secret Blue files that will reveal the identity of the Soviet spy in the British government.

In Barbados, Judith and Feodor finally make love. The next morning, the Soviet assassins arrive at the island by boat disguised as vacationing businessmen. They blow up Feodor's bungalow with napalm grenades and a fierce gunfight ensues between the killers and the British Intelligence agents protecting Feodor. Afterward, news reports indicate that Feodor was killed and that Judith was taken to the hospital with injuries. Back in London, after telling Stephenson that the Blue files were destroyed in the fire, Loder reveals to his assistant that he knows that Stephenson is Blue and will be taken care of in time. Loder then travels to Barbados to visit Judith, who is recovering from her injuries. He tells her that Feodor was not killed as reported, but was taken out of the bungalow just before the attack. He is safe in Canada and if she wants to visit him, it could be arranged. Later, Judith and Feodor are reunited in Canada.



The Tamarind Seed was partly financed by Sir Lew Grade as part of a two-movie deal to get Andrews to commit to a TV show;[3] the other film was Trilby.[4]

It was Andrews' first film in four years since Darling Lili. During that time, she had married Blake Edwards and concentrated on raising their children.

"This is a nice film," said Andrews, "It's just right for my comeback."[5]

Filming locations[edit]

The Tamarind Seed was filmed on location in Barbados, Belgravia (including Eaton Square) in London, and Paris.[6]


The film received a Royal Command Performance.[7]

Box office[edit]

Lew Grade said the film "did fairly well" at the box office but claims that he struggled to make much money from it because Edwards and Andrews took such a large percentage of the profits (Andrews 10% of the gross, Edwards 5%). This was common practice for a top-billed star and writer/director.[3]

Critical response[edit]

In a 1974 review in Movietone News, Kathleen Murphy wrote that the film was a good example of the concept of "the community of two" against the backdrop of complex international forces waging a cold war.[8] Murphy writes:

Characteristically, the last bastion of stability and decency resides in the community of two, lovers whose loyalty and commitment to each other may momentarily transcend—but is ultimately and perfunctorily done in by—Cold War games. The games themselves have grown overly familiar and predictably nihilistic: means are expended to achieve ends that possess reality only to those unknown bookkeepers who keep track of the debits and assets of international espionage. ... The system kills—by moral attrition, or violently, physically—but always the abstraction of international security is best preserved by a terrible and wasteful expenditure of human resources. By debasing the moral coinage that allows men and women to deal with one another with even minimal trust or affection, the world is made safe for ... well, not people, but ... something.[8]

Murphy concluded that The Tamarind Seed turns this genre of "the community of two" into the genuine article that "shifts and reshapes our thinking and feeling and seeing."[8] In its place, a "new perception of reality" transcends the confines of the movie theater and makes its way into the "larger, less defined, and thus less understandable, territory of our lives."[8]

Cultural references[edit]

The film was spoofed in Mad magazine in 1975 as The Tommy-Red Seed.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Champlin, Charles. (Apr 18, 1975). "CRITIC AT LARGE: Tide Turns for Blake Edwards". Los Angeles Times. p. 26a.
  2. ^ a b c Brenner, Paul. "The Tamarind Seed". AllMovie. Retrieved March 8, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b Lew Grade, Still Dancing: My Story, William Collins & Sons 1987 p 227
  4. ^ NORMA LEE BROWNING. (Oct 8, 1972). "Energetic Julie Andrews Takes on TV". Chicago Tribune. p. n1.
  5. ^ Hall, William. (July 1, 1973). "A Gee Rating for Julie in 'The Tamarind Seed': Gee Rating for Julie in 'Tamarind Seed'". Los Angeles Times. p. n1.
  6. ^ "Locations for The Tamarind Seed". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 8, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Norma Lee Browning. (Dec 6, 1973). "Richard Harris is 99 44/100% recovered". Chicago Tribune. p. c17.
  8. ^ a b c d Murphy, Kathleen (September 1974). "A Community of Two: Blake Edwards's 'The Tamarind Seed'". Movietone News 35. Retrieved March 9, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  • Anthony, Evelyn (1971). The Tamarind Seed. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 978-0091080402.
  • Wasson, Sam (2009). A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies of Blake Edwards. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0819569158.

External links[edit]