Friday, 26 October 2012

Billion Dollar Brain.

In the third of Len Deighton’s books Harry Palmer returns to save the future of mankind. A fanatical billionaire, a cold fish called General Midwinter (Ed Begley), devises a fail safe plan to destroy Communism and the Soviet State. For many years Midwinter has channelled his vast resources into the construction of a fantastic computer that is intended to trigger a Third World War. The very British MI5 officer Colonel Ross (Guy Doleman) discovers Midwinters devilish plan. Ross is no fool and immediately attempt's to reinstates that rouge British agent Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) back into the secret service after 'sacking' him in the previous film knowing full well that Harry's the only man that is capable of saving the day! Of course our hero comes up against the obligatory attractive female, in this case it's Signe in the barely disguised form of Franscoise Dorleac, who along with her partner the dull witted Newbegin (Karl Malden) are mixed up in the affair to satisfy their own ends.  Dorleac, the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve, died in a horrendous car crash in 1967 shortly after completing what was to be her last film.

Harry Palmer. (Michael Caine)

This is the second feature film directed by Ken Russell and the only time he directed a film as a 'gun for hire' but even so there are still plenty of Russell’s future trademarks that would become familiar over his body of work, even if there's not a Nun in sight, the flamboyant interiors and strong sexual images for example, the parody of The Battle of Ice said to have been lifted direct from Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky (1938) and one can't ignore the 'over the top' character of General Midwinter with Russell content to make the USA the villain with their Nazi style uniforms and badges with the Soviets, under the leadership of the jovial Colonel Stok, portrayed as the goodies!

Signe. (Françoise Dorléac) 

Colonel Stok. (Oscar Homolka)
Filmed in Finland and at Pinewood Studios Billion Dollar Brain (1967) is great fun and a lot different, due I believe to having Russell in the directors chair, from the previous two films The Ipcress File (1965) and Funeral in Berlin (1966) which to my mind where two of the very best British spy films of their era and certainly had a lead character that gave an over the top James Bond a run for his money. 

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