Monday, August 31, 2009

Not Bond. Not James Bond.

One of the more cynical spy movies of the 1960s, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, is airing at 8:00 PM ET tonight on TCM as part of the final day of their Summer Under the Stars look at the films of British actress Claire Bloom.

Richard Burton stars as Alec Leamas, a British spy working in West Berlin. He's part of an operation that goes wrong, and as a result, he gets sent into retirement, trying to live a life as a library assistant. It's not much of a life for him, and he's quickly recruited for one more mission, a complicated one that appears to have him become a double agent for the East Germans, while in fact he's really working for the British, trying to figure out what's happened to one of their agents in East Germany and see if they can rescue him.

Or, maybe it's all part of a much bigger plot to use Leamas, who by now isn't of much value to the British spymasters, as a pawn for.... Well, who only knows what for? Those nasty spymasters don't care about the little people like Leamas. (Not that the little people in the spy business like Leamas care for anybody but themselves.) As for Bloom, she plays Nan, a co-worker at the library who falls in love with Alec. She's a committed socialist or, more accurately, a dupe who fell for the idiotic communist propaganda being peddled by the Eastern bloc in the first half of the Cold War era. Because of both her love for Alec and her communist leanings, she's the perfect person to become part of this whole plot.

Truth be told, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold isn't my favorite movie, in part because Richard Burton has never been one of my favorite actors. The distinct impression I've gotten on watching this movie is that the makers were trying hard to send an earnest message about the futility of the whole spy business, and this message gets in the way of the story it's trying to tell. There are worse spy movies, but there are better ones, too.

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