The Ipcress File (1965): hypnotic working-class Bond

1 JANUARY 2024

JBC rating: *****

James Bond Connections (6):

  • Producer Harry Saltzman (Bond Producer, 1962 – 1975).
  • Featuring actor Guy Doleman (Count Lippe in Thunderball) as Colonel Ross.
  • Production designer Ken Adam (Bond production designer, various, 1962 – 1979).
  • Composer John Barry (Bond composer, various, 1962 – 1987).
  • Editor Peter Hunt (Bond Editor / Director, 1962 – 1969).
  • Sound design Norman Wanstall (Sound designer, Goldfinger).

In October 1962, the same month Dr No was released in cinemas, English artist-turned author Len Deighton saw the publication of his debut thriller The IPCRESS File, an instant bestseller leading to a series following the adventures of a working-class English spy. Ironically, given Deighton’s creation provided a gritty tonic to the increasingly fantastical James Bond series, this and two further Deighton’s novels were brought to the screen from 1965 onwards by Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman (with IPCRESS losing its capitalisation along the way). Indeed, one of the reasons The Ipcress File remains such a terrific spy thriller is the presence of so many EON regulars involved in the production, including John Barry who provides one of his greatest-ever soundtracks. Additional interest for any James Bond fan is that despite being ostensibly an anti-Bond film with a focus on spy procedure, The Ipcress File includes themes found in Bond and other spy fantasy films of the 1960s such as brainwashing and mind control.

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Topkapi (1964): 007 connected heist movie

26 JUNE 2023

JBC rating: *****

James Bond Connections (1):

  • Assistant Director Tom Pevsner (Bond Associate / Executive Producer, various 1981 – 1995).

There are James Bond influences galore in the superb 1964 comedy thriller Topkapi, a highly successful adaptation of Eric Ambler’s excellent novel The Light of Day (1961). Both novel and film follow a criminal gang plotting to steal a fabulous emerald encrusted dagger from the eponymous museum in Istanbul. As Andrew Lycett details in his 1995 biography Ian Fleming, English thriller writer Eric Ambler was both a friend and a key influence for the author, most notably in his novel From Russia with Love (1956). Ironically, in Topkapi the Bond influence comes full circle as French director Jules Dassin’s classic film exhibits numerous elements clearly inspired by the then new EON franchise. In a further twist, the film would prove a huge cultural influence in the wider spy genre itself, not least the Topkapi-inspired Mission: Impossible television series and its later cinematic incarnation.

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Woman of Straw (1964): Sean Connery as a sadistic villain

19 MAY 2023

JBC rating: ****

James Bond Connections (4):

  • Starring Sean Connery (James Bond 1962 – 1967, 1971) as Tony Richmond.
  • Featuring Peter Madden (played Kronsteen’s chess opponent in From Russia with Love) as the Yacht Captain.
  • Production Designer Ken Adam (Bond Production Designer, various 1962 – 1979).
  • Art Director Peter Murton (Goldfinger, Thunderball, The Man with the Golden Gun).

Following the global success of Dr No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963), Sean Connery starred in two similarly themed suspense thrillers, Woman of Straw and Marnie (both 1964). Each film capitalised on Connery’s recent stardom by having the actor play characters who are essentially a darker, civilian variant on his James Bond persona. The American produced Marnie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is by far the more famous film. However, the UK-made Woman of Straw, directed by veteran English filmmaker Basil Dearden, deserves to be better known. In each film, Connery is a dangerous mix of dynamism, charm, sex appeal and menace. Like Bond, his character is on a (here, personal) mission and must use his ingenuity to prevail. However, unlike Bond he is applying his skills to questionable or, especially in Woman of Straw, malign ends.

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