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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Drama > Spy Who Came In From The Cold

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold


Picture: B     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


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