Director: Sidney J Furie
Starring: Michael Caine, Aubrey Richards, Guy Doleman, Nigel Green. UK 1h
After getting into trouble while serving in the army, Harry Palmer (Caine) has a choice, two years in prison or a few months in the secret service, reluctantly he chooses the service and remain the typical bad boy. While being totally loyal his cunning and total disregard for authority and procedure does earn him a reputation and he’s soon passed from one frustrated leader to another, his most recent doesn’t have a sense of humor, which is something Harry duly notes.
The cool swinging sixties world that is revolving around Harry is quite dangerous, especially if your a brilliant scientist of some sort, they seem to be quitting jobs and vanishing like it’s going out of fashion and Harry is forced onto the case, a replacement for a agent brutally killed while trying to protect a wonderfully British scientist.
I’m not a huge fan of espionage movies, I can gather quite esoteric and complex ideas but I’m useless with it comes to sleuthing but this film isn’t at all complex, it’s gripping, detailed and surprisingly fairly straight forwards. In all fairness thought it’s a bit of a mindfuck at the end as Palmer unravels the plot at his lowest point after being tortured. Unlike Bond movies he doesn’t get to fly out to lush hotels in lavish settings, he’s not issued a car filled with gadgets and he’s not even given a gun that he likes to use, instead, and in quite a British way he’s given a folder filled with forms and expense claims and a standard gun (nothing fancy) and tons of rules and regulations, which he quickly turns a finger too and is off doing this own investigation. but instead of being blinded by “Bond Opulence” the film is littered with crazy camera angles and some experimental filming techniques which make it quirky and fresh. it goes to show that you don’t need to be wowed with shiny things, but great acting, good humor and imaginative filming will give you an amazing film.
Cain had obviously tucked a lot of solid roles under his belt and has a way of enriching his characters with those little frills that make them more colorful and believable, a sign of a really great actor. There are some curious scenes that are quite brilliant, a conversation about button mushrooms has a ton of connotations, and the supermarket battle of the trolleys could easily be a sword battle.
This very British Bond is an excellent introduction to a range of alternative films, that have a very more down to earth approach, Cain plays a very sly and cocky Londoner with an unusual approach to the double dealings of the special services. It’s amusing as it is riveting, and a slightly unrecognisable view of an old London with bowler hats and a stiff upper lip.
R: James Bond Series (1963-), Get Carter (1971),
L: Secret Service Films,
5s: Michael Caine