The Quiller Memorandum Michael Anderson

This is a little less special than its reputation would suggest but it’s still a reasonably good Cold War espionage thriller with the added bonus of having Harold Pinter behind the typewriter. George Segal plays Quiller, an American spy sent into Berlin to get the goods on a neo-Nazi organisation; he soon finds himself captured by their leader (Max von Sydow) and grilled mercilessly on the nature of his bosses. Quiller is pretty much on his own — aside from pretty schoolteacher Inga (Senta Berger), he’s caught between the rock of Sydow’s Nazis and the hard place of his aloof superior (Alec Guinness), neither of whom see him as anything other than a cog in the vast machinery of intelligence gathering. This was considered a bold departure from the schlocky James Bond school of spy movies and Pinter’s fat-free dialogue departs from clunky pop exposition. Still, there’s a sense that nobody’s really written beyond their immediate presence. And though Michael Anderson is a fairly proficient director, he’s not aware of the cruel ironies that Pinter buries in his screenplay and thus puts a wet blanket on anything other than a Point A to B narrative. Still, it’s got enough juice to keep you watching and has in its arsenal a fairly funny interrogation scene between the menacing Sydow and a truth serum addled Segal. Expect nothing and you may be surprised by how compelling the movie is in spite of its deficiencies and the attempts of trivialisation that are part and parcel of the genre. The DVD includes a commentary by Lee Pfeiffer and Eddie Friedfield that’s more about the Cold War than Nazis and manages to completely bastardise the achievement of Pinter’s oeuvre. (Fox)