The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Sound: B Extras: D Film: A-
After a handful of films in the 50’s and the success of Hud (1963) director Martin Ritt turned
in another fine film a few years later with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, starring Richard Burton, Claire
Bloom, and Oskar Werner. The look of Hud
was staggering with some of the best black and white photography filmed by
master cinematography James Wong Howe, A.S.C., but with this film Ritt used
Oswald Morris, B.S.C., to get a starker image, which was immaculately captured
and both films serve as lessons on black and white filmmaking.
The mid sixties was a time of political upheaval in the
U.S. and films like The Manchurian
Candidate, The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and even the first
few installments of the Bond series all dealt with espionage and other ‘war
games’ in a way the world had yet to see.
This was all of course after the world was introduced to nuclear
warheads, which was made infamously known in Dr. Strangelove and even Fail-Safe. Alec Learmas (Burton) plays a British spy
sent to East Germany in an attempt to defect, but the real plans are for him to
spread wrong information. The twist
however is that he may not be as useful or needed as he thought and maybe even
his own people are simply using him as a decoy. His struggle and attempt to come ‘out of the cold’ play out the
remainder of the film.
The 1.85 X 1 anamorphically enhanced print for the DVD
looks fantastic, even with some minor drawbacks here and there. One advantage with this DVD is the lower
compression that was used since it’s a movie-only disc. The payoff is a very beautiful print with
excellent contrast. Whites are never
too burned out and blacks are deep, but never muddy. The midrange is very pleasing and this stands as one of
Paramount’s better black and white titles alongside yet another fine film from
the 60’s – Seconds (1966) directed
by John Frankenheimer. The remixed 5.1
Dolby Digital audio track is a bit sparse from time to time, but offers a nice
approximation of what the film may offer with a surround feel. Most of the sound information is placed
heavily towards the front anyway and dialogue is clear for the most part.
While this DVD does not contain any extras, the film
speaks volumes for itself and with a good transfer and decent audio track it is
well worth the price of purchase. Those
who have never seen the film are in for a real treat and this is by far the
best way yet to see the film on home video.
If you are a fan of the Coen Brothers’ cameraman Roger Deakins, one of
the better cinematographers working today, then you will certainly not want to
miss this film for this is one of this all time favorites.
- Nate Goss