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The Quiller Memorandum (1966).

March 19, 2010

The Scoop:
The success of the new James Bond franchise kicked off a mad wave of spy movies in the 1960s, most of them trying to compete with 007’s swinging, lady-killing brand of cool.

Despite being a part of this flood of spy flicks, “The Quiller Memorandum” tries to set itself apart from the competition by ignoring the groovy vibe in favor of being a serious, realistic look at the world of international espionage. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the best choice. The result is a talky “thriller” (and I use the term loosely) that is notable mainly for being written by playwright Harold Pinter, who adapted it from the novel, “The Berlin Memorandum,” by Adam Hall (a.k.a. Elleston Trevor, a.k.a. Trevor Dudley Smith).

George Segal is unconvincing as an American secret agent working for the British who must go undercover to root out Nazis in Berlin. Senta Berger does a decent but unremarkable job as the obligatory femme fatale, and the aging George Sanders turns up as well. But the best performances come from Alec Guinness as the spy boss and Max von Sydow as the chief Nazi.

Director Michael Anderson doesn’t accomplish much with this film, but that’s not entirely his fault since he isn’t given much to work with. Besides Guinness and von Sydow, the biggest bright spot is the score by the always excellent John Barry.

With little action and almost none of the classic ’60s swinging, this is a bore for anyone but the most ardent spy movie fans. It packs all the excitement of… well, a memorandum.

Best Bit:
Quiller:
“At the end of our conversation, he ordered them to kill me.”
Pol: “And did they?”

Side Note:
“The Quiller Memorandum” was meant to be the start of a Quiller film franchise, but it’s lack of commercial success made it dead on arrival. However, the character was resurrected for a short-lived BBC TV series starring Michael Jayston. There have been 19 novels, though.

Companion Viewing:
“Torn Curtain” (1966).

Links:
IMDb.
The Unofficial Quiller Web Site.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

Some of Barry’s score (and spoilers):

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