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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold(1965)
Alec Leamas is a dispirited and exhausted British secret agent. He is removed from his posting along the Berlin Wall by "Control," head of the Circus (MI6), and sent into East Germany undercover, posing as a defector to undermine Hans-Dieter Mundt, a master German spy. He later realizes there is even more to his intricate assignment than his superiors let on.
For more about The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and the The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Blu-ray release, see the The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on August 30, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Sam Wanamaker, George Voskovec, Rupert Davies
Director: Martin Ritt
» See full cast & crew
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 30, 2013
Martin Ritt's "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" (1965) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an original trailer for the film; video interview with author John le Carre; the BBC documentary film "The Secret Centre: John le Carre"; audio excerpts from an interview with director Martin Ritt; selected-scene commentary featuring director of photography Oswald Morris; gallery of set designs; and an archival interview with Richard Burton. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Sragow. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
The Cold War era. Alec Leamas (Richard Burton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) is a British secret agent who understands perfectly how the system he is a part of works. But he is unsure if he fully understands the people that control the system.
After an important British agent is killed in Berlin, Alec meets his boss, Control (Cyril Cusack, Fahrenheit 451, The Italian Connection), in London. Control informs Alec that he will be his key player in a secret plan designed to neutralize his East German counterpart, Mundt (Peter Van Eyck, The Wages of Fear, Duel at Sundown), who has been remarkably effective in intercepting Western spies. For the plan to work Alec will have to become a double agent and convince Mundt's ambitious right-hand man, Fiedler (Oskar Werner, Jules and Jim, Lola Montes), that his superior is not a man that can be trusted. And once Fiedler begins questioning Mundt's methods, it would be only a matter of time before high-ranking Party officials would do the same and consider removing him from his post.
Soon after his meeting with Control, Alec quietly leaves MI6 and gets an ordinary job in a local library. There he befriends Nan Perry (Claire Bloom, The Brothers Karamazov, The Buccaneer), an outspoken member of the British Communist Party, who falls madly in love with him. The two frequently meet, but Alec's serious drinking problem frustrates Nan. Eventually, a well groomed man approaches Alec with an unusual job offer.
The film very effectively captures the tone and atmosphere of John le Carré's famous novel. At times the tension is almost unbearable. A casual look, a phone ringing, or a passing car can all be pointing to something important, and like Alec the viewer is constantly trying to see and understand the big picture, recognize the important players and their roles.
There is also a great dose of that unique cynicism that is present in classic American noir films. When Alec begins his character transformation, the film becomes unusually dark and then very pessimistic. The viewer knows that there is some intended role playing, but the film gradually drifts away from the spy game that is underway. In this part of the film right and wrong seem completely irrelevant.
Things return back to normal when the action again moves to East Berlin. The obvious liberal propaganda here is fairly weak, but some of the film's interesting observations about the morality of those who had unlimited powers on the opposite sides of the Berlin Wall have certainly been proven right.
Le Carre explains in an interview included on this release that director Martin Ritt had a difficult time communicating with Burton during the shooting of key sequences, but the film has a terrific rhythm, and recreates the atmosphere and mentality of Cold War era espionage wonderfully well. All of Burton's character transformations are believable. Bloom is also excellent as the naive young communist who does not fully understand the man she has fallen in love with. Werner also plays the ambitious apparatchik to perfection.
Cinematographer Oswald Morris' (Lolita, The Man Who Would Be King) lensing is very effective. The tense atmosphere that existed around Checkpoint Charlie, in particular, is recreated exceptionally well. (Checkpoint Charlie was rebuilt in Dublin). Alec's final trip to the Wall is also superbly shot.
Note: In 1966, The Spy Who in from the Cold earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Richard Burton) and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Hal Pereira, Tambi Larsen, Ted Marshall, Josie MacAvin).
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release:
"The high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine from a 35mm composite fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed suing MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.
The original stereo soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated workstation.
Transfer supervisor: Maria Palazzola.
Colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern VideoFilm, Los Angeles." The film looks wonderful in high-definition. Image depth is consistently pleasing, even during the big noirish sequences where light is restricted. Contrast levels are stable. Blacks and whites are well balanced, while the wide range of grays always look healthy. There are no traces of problematic degraining corrections. Edge-enhancement is also not an issue of concern. Overall image stability is excellent. When blown through a digital projector, the film remains tight around the edges and looks pleasingly crisp. Also, there are no large damage marks, cuts, stains, debris, or warps to report in this review. All in all, Criterion's Blu-ray release of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold delivers a solid upgrade in quality, which should make fans of the film very happy. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track is very strong. There is an excellent range of nuanced dynamics and depth is very good. Despite the fact that there are only a few sequences where gunshots are heard, dynamic intensity if also excellent. The dialog is consistently crisp, stable, and very easy to follow. There are no pops, problematic background hiss, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dark and very cynical, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is arguably director Martin Ritt's best film. Criterion's technical presentation of this edgy thriller is excellent – the film unquestionably looks the best it ever has. The supplemental features on the Blu-ray are also outstanding. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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• This Week on Blu-ray: September 10-17 - September 8, 2013
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