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The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

4.3 out of 5 stars 325 customer reviews

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(Nov 25, 2008)
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Product Description

A veteran spy wants to \come in from the cold" to retirement but undertakes one last assignment in which he pretends defection and provides the enemy with sufficient evidence to label their leader a double agent.
Genre: Feature Film-Action/Adventure
Rating: NR
Release Date: 28-MAR-2006
Media Type: DVD"""

John le Carre's classic spy yarn gets a suitably brisk, unromanticized telling in this quintessential Cold War movie. A British agent (Richard Burton) sets up an elaborate cover story for being lured into defecting to the Communists, but he hardly needs to manufacture his disgust and cynicism over spying. The grim business of point-counterpoint espionage has rarely been depicted with less glamour; Burton's great climactic speech on the subject is the definitive take on sinking to the level of the enemy. Claire Bloom is an offbeat love interest, and a bearded Oskar Werner is an East German investigator on Burton's case (the pecking order in the Communist spy hierarchy is a source of black humor). Director Martin Ritt extends his unvarnished approach to the movie's stripped-down look, which means that Richard Burton is constantly in a harsh, unflattering light. He looks terrible, but it's in the service of a fine performance. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Richard Burton, Oskar Werner, Claire Bloom, Sam Wanamaker, George Voskovec
  • Directors: Martin Ritt
  • Writers: Guy Trosper, John le Carré, Paul Dehn
  • Producers: Martin Ritt
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Black & White, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: July 13, 2004
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (325 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000228EK4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,269 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
Inside a grim little room in the empty countryside somewhere east of the Berlin wall an East German agent is interrogating a defecting British spy. The defector is anxious and weary. He wants his money now. Prompting the Communist agent to say this : "You are a traitor, the lowest currency of the cold war. We buy you, we sell you, we lose you, we can even shoot you. Not a bird in the trees would stir if we did just that."
Except that Alec Leamas(Richard Burton) is not really a defector, he is only masquerading as one. On his last assignment for the British Secert Service, he is to pretend to be burnt out and jobless. Never faraway from a bottle he walks around the streets of London cynical and depressed, his "masterstroke" in this act is an ugly fight with a shopkeeper who refuses to give him credit. This ofcourse attracts the attention of the East German agants who view him as a potential defector because of his dire need for cash and his embitterment towards the British Agency for abandoning him. It is a credit to Burton's brilliant and painfully realistic performance that you are pretty sure his embitterment in not entirely an act. That he really is a drunk. That he wholeheartedly agrees with the German when he calls him "the lowest currency of the cold war", even if he is not a defector. To him, all spies, on both sides, are scum.
John Le Carre was an ex-British intelligence officer when he wrote the celebrated novel on which this film was based. It was called "the finest spy story ever written" by the writer of The Third Man, Graham Greene. And in a sense, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold starts where The Third Man left off. The lead character has already lost any faith he had in humanity.
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Format: VHS Tape
Richard Burton's brooding performance coupled with appropriately grim black and white photography from cameraman Oswald Morris provide just the proper mood as the masterpiece thriller from former British intelligence operative John Le Carre was brought to the screen in 1965 with capable fidelity.
While a British production, the film's director was American Martin Ritt, an accomplished master of providing films of compelling seriousness with a touch of the grim, as exemplified by "No Down Payment", "Hud" and "The Front." Burton plays an intelligence operative gone to seed, hence the reference to "coming out of the cold" which, in spy talk, involves being taken out of the field of operation. Burton goes to planned seed, becoming an alcoholic who ultimately is thrown into prison for pummeling a thoroughly decent London grocer who had extended him credit and ultimately had to draw the line, incurring Burton's well orchestrated rage in accordance with plans from MI5.
As soon as Burton leaves prison Michael Hordern is waiting for him. They discuss "doing articles," a cover for what is really expected, turning allegiance and going to work for the Soviets. During this period Burton is provided with a job at a small library featuring psychic works. It is here that he meets Claire Bloom, an ideologue who attends local Communist study groups as a way of making a difference in a troubled world.
Burton operates in a realm of barely contained rage. He inveighs Hordern with scorn and is not about to disagree with Oskar Werner when the East Germany Communist ideologue refers to Burton and his ilk as "the lowest currency of the Cold War.
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Format: DVD
The 2008 Criterion edition is here at Spy Who Came in from the Cold: The Criterion Collection. The less expensive and not-as-fine-tuned 2004 Paramount edition is here at The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

Criterion's is a double disk with many extras, including a 40 minute selected-scene commentary by director of photography Oswald Morris; a BBC documentary, "The Secret Center: John le Carré;" a half-hour interview with Richard Burton; and more.

The Paramount release has no extras and an image that's mostly clean and sometimes scratched.

The original was released for Christmas, 1965.
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Format: VHS Tape
Finally! A gritty, gutty portrayal of the most integral (and expendable) piece in the Cold War match: the spy. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold abandons the glitz and gadgets of the James Bond genre in favor of gray, minimalist trappings. The result is one of the best, if underrated, dramas of the 1960's. Richard Burton should have won Best Actor Oscar for his role as the burned out spy Alec Leemas, whose initial bitter denial that he's too old to work as a field agent gets him into the biggest jam of his career. The script is excellent, relying largely on metaphors and terse, but profound, arguments to define its characters instead of guns and special effects. The plot's pace is adult and intricately woven, not wasting a moment. But overall, the use of black and white film (and the minimalistic atmosphere it envokes) is perhaps the biggest asset. The viewer gets a sense that there is really little difference between the hunted and the hunter, between East and West. That in the end, as the saying goes, "we've seen the enemy and he is us."
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