It’s quite evident that Michael Caine’s career was it’s peak in the 1960s. The actor had his first major screen appearance in the 1964 epic film Zulu, which co-starred Stanley Baker. It was then followed by The Ipcress File in 1965, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Len Deighton. It is widely considered the best screen adaptation of a Deighton novel. It is worth noting that the producer behind the film is none other than Harry Saltzman, who produced nine James Bond films along with Albert R. Broccoli. Saltzman was looking to make an anti-Bond film and he found it in The Ipcress File. He hired the relatively unknown Canadian director Sidney J.Furie to make it.
This was the same year in which another serious spy adaptation came out, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, based on the John Le Carre novel of the same name. This too, was another anti-Bond spy story but The Ipcress File was less grim compared to it. The central character in The Ipcress File is a British counterintelligence agent named Harry Palmer. Palmer is assigned to find out who is behind the kidnapping and brainwashing of some eminent British scientists working for the Ministry of Defense. Palmer comes across the kidnappers but soon loses sight of them. But a breakthrough appears when he
stumbles upon a tape that has the word IPCRESS written on it.
When you place James Bond and Harry Palmer side-by-side, you can see that Palmer is the complete opposite. He is characterized by his irreverence and sardonic wit. He is not dashing, flamboyant or a debonair gentleman. He has that every man quality to him and would easily blend in with the throng of office goers rushing to their offices in the morning.
The film’s atmosphere, suspense and intrigue makes it seem like the sibling of a Hitchcock film. But Sidney treats it as if it were a European art house film. I didn’t mean that in a bad way. There are plenty of memorable shots are framed in an unconventional manner (mostly low angles). The influence of German expressionist cinema here is quite obvious.