Film: The Ipcress File

The Ipcress File is a 1965 British film, adapted from the Len Deighton novel, and starring Michael Caine as spy Harry Palmer. It was directed by Sidney Furie and produced by Harry Saltzman, co-producer of the James Bond film series, who brought a lot of his Bond Production Posse over to the film, including designer Ken Adams, composer John Barry and editor Peter Hunt. Despite these links, The Ipcress File was a very different beast to the Bond films. Characters were less concerned with fighting villains in volcanoes than they were in ensuring that the correct paperwork was filled out. Its main hero was a bespectacled working-class former black marketeer who bought his groceries in supermarkets.

The Ipcress File proved an enormous success. The character of Harry Palmer was revived for two sequels based on Deighton novels, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain, as well as two further sequels not based on any of the novels, Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in St. Petersburg.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bald of Evil: Grantby's mute henchman, codenamed Housemartin.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Palmer. During the opening credits we see the room from Palmer's viewpoint, it's hopelessly blurred until he puts his specs on.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Dalby's intelligence unit poses as an employment agency, and several other front companies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Palmer incessantly. Ross and Dalby quite often.
  • Friend on the Force: Palmer uses one to track down Grantby aka Bluejay, via parking tickets.
  • The Ludovico Technique: Similar in premise to A Clockwork Orange, the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques' used on Palmer is pretty close to this. He is subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded by bright lights and loud noises as part of a procedure also used to give kidnapped scientists complete amnesia of any scientific knowledge.
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The film opens with Palmer calmly getting out of bed and going through his morning rituals of getting dressed and having breakfast - all to the tune of John Barry's insanely cool theme music.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Palmer's bosses Colonel Ross and Major Dalby. One of them is a traitor.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Palmer and Dalby meet with shady agents at a bandstand in a park to seal a deal regarding the proto-proton scattering device. The loud marching music indeed drowns out their talk.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The original novel was set in a number of countries. The film was set solely in Britain, which cut down on costs and gave the film an identity of its own away from the Bond Films.
  • Real Men Cook: It could be argued that this was the film that made it all right for men to cook for their women. Note: When Palmer goes to make his date a meal; the hands doing the cooking and cracking the eggs are those of the original novel writer, Len Deighton.
  • Specs of Awesome: Harry Palmer wears them.
  • Spy Fiction: One of the first deconstructions of the genre in film. It also counts as a deconstruction of the Bond films. Harry Palmer is often considered the anti-007.
  • The Trickster: Palmer is explicitly described as this in his personnel file.
  • Trigger Phrase: Now listen to me. Listen to me.
  • Trope Maker: For the Stale Beer approach to Spy Fiction.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Palmer wakes up in a cold and nasty prison cell, apparently in Albania.