The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965) John le Carré, Me The Wolf Cub And Blofeld

Two things that myself and the esteemed author John le Carré have in common are, one, we both admire a good Cold War spy and espionage thriller. The other, is the fact that we lived only a 100 metres apart in the same home town of Parkstone, Poole. Yeah we were good chums back in the day. Actually there was three of us that formed a little gang and imaginatively played spy games. Our other friend was the wonderful Charles Gray. He lived not far away. Well the next town over, Bournemouth. Charles always insisted on bringing his fluffy white cat along. Man that furry thing looked right evil. John (we knew him as David at the time) and I played secret agents working for Queen and country. Whereas Charles and his cat always insisted on portraying the devious bad guy. He called himself Blofeld!

That summer was roasting hot and we’d often seek refuge in the woods of North Road. Spend hours building spy camps from logs, branches and twigs. We even created an interrogation hut. Charles loved sitting behind the makeshift desk stroking his cat in there. John would come out with all these fascinating ideas for espionage stories. Charles on the other hand kept informing us he wanted world domination and repeating some phrase about Diamonds Are Forever? Charles never failed to made us laugh. Three friends grabbing ice pops together at the shop on Constitution Hill. Cooling off on bench at the view-point over looking Poole harbor. No sooner had the ice pops gone we’d be back imagining being chased by Soviet agents. Running for our lives through the lush green woods, cutting across the road down the hill and hiding out in St Peter’s Church grave yard. It was that moment a giant hand grabbed me, “Oh no! chloroform!” I drift off as I’m thrown in the back of a rusty black Lada!

Constitution Hill Sea View Viewpoint, Poole, Dorset
St Peter’s Church, Ashley Cross, Parkstone, Dorset

A weird whiff of ammonia enters my nostrils. “Smelling salts!” I’m trapped. Starting to freak out I bash hard against the wall. Hang on a minute the wall is cushioned! It dawns on me I’m strapped in a straight jacket! “Damn it Mikey not again!“. It’s not the first time I’ve been sanctioned for film lunacy. “Look I’m only trying to be funny!” I smile at the doctor. “I’m making up stories! It’s for a movie review site I do” “Yeah as a wolf” “Of course I’m a real wolf! What are you implying?“………….. Yep I was back as a resident at St Ann’s the local psychiatric hospital!

St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital, Canford Cliffs, Poole

Ok! Ok! This is just all fantasy however we were really practically neighbours but on a very differing time scale. Lets say 40 years! But near enough to say we were good mates. Haha of course I’m larking about. We were both born in Poole, Dorset and lived at one point or another just one road apart. Yeah I know, I wasn’t even born when he wrote The Spy Who Came In from the Cold in 1963. I was still being brewed up, ready to pop out my full wolfiness eight years later. Only found out a few years a go that he was one of our town’s famous names. Spy related but yes I’m starting to go off topic. “The film Mikey, remember the film!

Tagline – Brace yourself for the greatness the book world could not lay down is now a motion picture…

John le Carré was the pen name of David Cornwell. During the 50s and the 60s he was working with both the Security Service MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service MI6. He sounded like a proper James Bond. During some of this time he’d become a writer, coming up with the fictional character George Smiley. Smiley would appear in his first two novels Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962). It would be John le Carré’s third book The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) that would become a best seller. With that books success and the betrayal and aftermath of the infamous double agent Kim Philby he would leave his post as an intelligence officer to become a full-time author. This would later lead on to the TV series having George Smiley’s most famous face, Alec Guinness, in the adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and then Smiley’s People. Two stories featured around the spymaster trying to uncover a Soviet mole deeply embedded within MI6. Based in fact and fiction around the Kim Philby and Cambridge Five betrayals.

I have a confession to make. I adore all the John le Carré Cold War spy and espionage thrillers but you might be shocked to know I’m a fraud! I’ve never read any of the books, even though I have a few! I do however have the Smiley box-set. Also loved the Gary Oldman’s take on Smiley in the 2011 film version.

Tagline – It plunges you knife-deep into actual espionage. It gives you the dirt as well as the dazzle. Here is excitement sheer and naked and unforgettable.

Which brings me, at last some will say, to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. A real masterclass in espionage thrillers. The cold is felt through the stark black and white but mostly seen plastered on Alec Leamas (Richard Burton) face. Cold as steel at times, almost lost, filled with the bleakness of cold dread. He has his assignment. He’s done many before. The missions always sit perilously balanced on a knives edge. British agent Leamas has been asked to come in from the cold. To return from the concealment as a spy, to return home. But is it safe to? Paranoia and danger flicker around every dark corner.

The opening scene of Leamas standing, waiting at the Berlin East and West passport control station known as Checkpoint Charlie is an extremely tense scene. The brutal concrete of the Berlin Wall invokes fear. Your contact is expected any moment. You know deep down it’s not just you that knows of his arrival! It’s dark, silhouettes of soldiers patrol the area with guns from either side. Tensions are through the roof. Again you can see all the years of trauma across his face. He tries hard to conceal it. When he’s back home, London, he visits Control, known as the Circus. He’s instructed to stay “in the cold“. To defect to East Germany! Traumatic stress catches up with him. He drinks heavy, he’s wildly unpredictable.

Is agent Alec Leamas breaking apart? Is he a double agent? Have they got to him? Who can he trust? Is he part of the game or lost in the cold? The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is a perfectly told thriller that shines a light on the British intelligence organisation. Are it’s motives good or bad or are they simply always juggling to keep the upper hand during such heightened Cold War times? With the likes of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Smiley’s People and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold they all have an air of realness to them. Like chess pieces moved about in a deadly game of cat and mouse. A master plan slowly executed. No rushed out guns a blazing, over the top heroics. Just perfectly paced realistic drama that grips you to the core.

This superb spy thriller is directed by Martin Ritt with screenplay dues going to Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold features a fantastic cast with Claire Bloom (The Illustrated Man) playing Nancy Perry in a truly stunning performance. Oskar Werner (Decision Before Dawn) plays the mysterious character Fiedler. Also Sam Wanamaker joins the cast as another agent called Peters. And George Smiley has a small appearance, this time portrayed by Rupert Davies. Even James Bond’s boss M shows up! Well not really though Bernard Lee plays a small part as a shopkeeper. Everyone play’s their designated parts to perfection. It’s a perfect Cold War story from beginning to end!

Thanks for popping in for a read. I’ll apologise here for the beginning crazy. Yep I go off on a tangent at times. I try to take an unorthodox route to some of my reviews. Mix it up a bit. Sometimes it’s works, other times, well mostly, it’s an indecipherable drivel of nonsense with fun and tongue firmly positioned in cheek mode.

Keep it Smiley 🙂

All the best…. Mikey


13 thoughts on “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965) John le Carré, Me The Wolf Cub And Blofeld

  1. I have read the book and I’m a big fan of the movie adaptation. The movie stays close to the book. Movie and book are anti-Fleming’s Bond, and that’s not a bad thing. I haven’t read any other le Carré books, but I’ve enjoyed many film adaptations. Love The Deadly Affair, The Little Drummer Girl, The Russia House, etc. But Spy Who Came In from the Cold is by far my favorite movie based on a le Carré story. It also contains my favorite Dick Burton performance: he deserved the Oscar! Anyhow, I think Spy Who Came In from the Cold was the kind of thing Hitchcock wanted to do in the 1960s — Torn Curtain and Topaz — but failed to deliver.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great comment EB. I’ve started the book. I’m a terrible reader. My heart wants to read, my brain says no. Loving the atmosphere. Hope to find time over xmas to get stuck into it. Haha I wonder what Fleming thought when he was asked to do a one sentence comment for the book. “A very, very fine spy story” he wrote. Leamas couldn’t be further than poles apart in their style. Of course Bond is more fun where Leamas feels as real as it gets. Yeah so true, what a fine performance from Richard Burton. You feel his every thought through his cold eyes and facial expressions. However brilliant Lee Marvin was in Cat Ballou it would of been nice to see Burton get that Oscar! Wow just looking at the Noms for 1966! Could of gone anywhere to be honest. That’s a big five…………… I haven’t seen either Torn Curtain or Topaz. I got the AH boxset. Hope to get to them one day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post 🙂 The Spy Who Came in From the Cold was good and John La Carre has written some good stuff 🙂 BTW, I watched that youtube link on that Spitting Image documentary the other day and I loved it – thank you 🙂 I can’t remember who said this and it might have been in the documentary, but somebody said or implied that those who got lampooned (or at least half of those who were targeted) by Spitting Image saw it as a badge of honor and those who did not get spoofed on there, really wanted too 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Feels such a realistic portrayal of a spy out in the cold. You can feel the cold emotion in every almost blank expression. The fear in the darkness of shadows. Superb film.

      So good to hear you watched the Spitting Image doc and enjoyed it. It’s a real insight to the working gears of the comedy satire. Haha yes I do remember that line along the way of you said. “those who did not get spoofed on there, really wanted too” LOL . Thanks for letting me know you saw it JC.
      All the best…. Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t be humble, Mikey. I know the beginning of this blog is NOT made up and I know it’s all real…especially the “locked up in the asylum again” part, lol !!
    “Look I’m only trying to be funny!” I smile at the doctor.
    Gosh, I don’t think I’ve seen this one. But since I liked Tailor Tinker Soldier Spy, it seems like I’d like this too. Of course, I’d watch Richard Burton in just about anything. Where the hell did David get the name John le Carre, though? Why didn’t he just call himself Liberace?
    BTW, I think you need a little haircut, sir. Looking a little crazy up top, hehehe
    🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe “locked up in the asylum again” I’m sure that day will really one day come. LOL. I do like to take a off kilter curve ball route to doing my reviews once in a while. I can’t do fully informed film historian that well but I can do CRAZY! 🙂
      Nice to see you saw it. Think most skim past the nonsense (rightly so) and get to the meat and potatoes. No one wants a trip inside my mind though those are real places where I live.
      I just looked up his pen name. Le Carre means The Square in French. Sure he wasn’t going for uncool but there has to be some secret meaning to it. Can’t keep him in a box or something. I just realised I haven’t seen The Constant Gardener (2005) which was penned by him. Gets pretty good reviews. Off to investigate.
      Haha I’m with you, he should of gone for Liberace. Maybe it was his double agent name!
      LOL I got lock down hair. TBH I need to it shaped into a bouffant, Liberace styleee and start playing the grand piano.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sad to hear the passing of John Le Carre this morning. A local legend to my home town and creator of some of the best and realistic cold war spy thrillers. Now off to join George Smiley in the Circus in the sky…
    Here’s two informative obituaries. One from the Guardian and one from the BBC which is very concise and very recommend.


  5. […] The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 7.6 I do loves some Cold War thrillers. John le Carre might have written the quintessential book with Richard Burton starring. I did a review. Ok the first half is a bit bonkers in the review I pre-warn you. However you will feel my love for the subject. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold review here. […]


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