The Spy Who Came In from the Cold


The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

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Reviews Counted: 15

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Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Movie Info

Based on the novel by John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold stars Richard Burton as a dispirited, end-of-tether British secret agent. He comes in from "the cold" (meaning he is pulled out of field operations) to act as a undercover man behind the Iron Curtain. To make his staged defection seem genuine, Burton goes on an alcoholic toot and is imprisoned and publicly humiliated. Once he has been accepted into East German espionage circles, Burton discovers that what he thought was his mission was a mere subterfuge--and that he's been set up as a pawn for an entirely different operation. Though Ireland and England "stand in" for East Berlin, Spy Who Came In From the Cold has the air of authenticity throughout, thanks in great part to the bleak black and white photography by Oswald Morris. The film was condemned as incomprehensible by those filmgoers accustomed to the simplistic melodramatics of James Bond; seen today, the double-crosses and double-double crosses seem all too clear and credible.

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Richard Burton
as Alec Leamas
Claire Bloom
as Nan Perry
Oskar Werner
as Fiedler
Cyril Cusack
as Control
Peter van Eyck
as Hans-Dieter Mundt
George Voskovec
as East German Defense Attorney
Robert Hardy
as Carlton
Bernard Lee
as Patmore
Beatrix Lehmann
as President of Tribunal
Esmond Knight
as Old Judge
Tom Stern
as CIA Agent
Niall MacGinnis
as German Checkpoint Guard
George Mikell
as German Checkpoint Guard
Scot Finch
as German Guide
Marianne Deeming
as Frau Floerdke
Michael Ripper
as Lofthouse
Henk Mobenberg
as Passport Officer
Richard Marner
as Vopo Captain
David Bauer
as Young Judge
Steve Plytas
as East German Judge
Anne Blake
as Miss Crail
Michael Ritterman
as Security Officer
Edward Harvey
as Man in the Shop
Nancy Nevinson
as Mrs. Zanfrello
Warren Mitchell
as Mr. Zanfrello
Philip Badoc
as Young German Officer
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Critic Reviews for The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (4)

  • An excellent contemporary espionage drama of the Cold War which achieves solid impact via emphasis on human values, total absence of mechanical spy gimmickry, and perfectly controlled underplaying.

    Dec 26, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • What finally impresses, however, is the sheer seediness of so much of the film, with characters, buildings, and landscapes lent convincingly grubby life by Oswald Morris' excellent monochrome camera-work.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The film makes you believe it could have happened. And that's the remarkable thing.

    May 9, 2005 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Grim, monotonous, and rather facile, though Richard Burton's aging agent has some honest poignancy.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • A brilliant screenplay crisp, muted, funny, never pushing its points, and acting of the unobtrusively perfect sort you aren't asked to notice. Goes a long way towards bolstering this excitement.

    Jul 20, 2018 | Full Review…
  • This pitch-perfect adaptation of John le Carré's best-seller captures the Cold War in all its chilly complexity ... Burton delivers a towering performance that's second only to his turn in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as the finest of his career.

    Sep 21, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Spy Who Came In from the Cold


This film's entire existence is merely as an real world answer to the James Bond craze prevalent in its day and then simply to say: "that's not true." Well what is the truth then? Sad little men sulking in shadows, lying to everyone, especially themselves. Burton is really good as one of the men, a guy who hates himself playing a guy who hates himself playing a guy who hates himself. Its really grim but good.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Stunning and rich visuals, but the storyline really drags in many parts of the film.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer


decent thriller, full of espionage and counter-espionage. Richard Burton is the ingredient that makes this film work.

Stefanie C
Stefanie C

Super Reviewer


Directed by Martin Ritt,"the Spy Who Came In From The Cold" is an adaption of John Le Carre's best selling novel about a reluctant British double agent,offers effectively restrained performance by Richard Burton in the title role;Claire Bloom,as an idealistic British communist who becomes the spy's lover during his undercover operation;and Oskar Werner as an East German interrogator. The drab cold war atmosphere is deftly evoked by Oswald Morris's elemental black-and-white photography and the cramped sets designed by Tambi Larsen and Hal Pereira. But Martin Ritt's film means less without its popular foil. Released in 1965,as the same year "The Ipcress File",and the 007 thriller "Thunderball",the fourth of the phenomenally successful James Bond films starring Sean Connery,"the Spy Who Came In The Cold" consistently positions itself as a rebuke to the glamourous,action movie ethos of the Bond films:no fancy gadgets or bikini-clad beauties here,only a pinched and dingy universe in which the moral compass spins without direction. If Ritt has a limtation as a director,it is his tendency to use drama to demonstrate,to turn his characters into masterpieces for the moral and political values he wants to compare and contrast. For a film about ambiguity-do the actions of Burton's character make him a hero or a dupe or a man who just froze up during his mission. Of one of the most interesting films of the mid-1960's,"The Man Who Came In From The Cold" ultimately seems pat and predictable but well done.

Mister Caple
Mister Caple

Super Reviewer

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