Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 12/05/2021


The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, a  monochrome espionage classic, came several years after James Bond had blasted across the silver screen. This adaptation of the John le Carré novel couldn’t be further from that depiction of a spy’s life, but has more than enough subtle fireworks to keep the audience engaged.

Alec Leamas (the ever-brilliant but understated Richard Burton) is a weary British agent ready for a retirement of boozing and working in a library. It’s all a cover, though, as he’s tasked with one last mission: to defect to the East and ‘give up’ some information; to go back ‘into the cold’

Throughout his novels, le Carré depicted the mundane face of espionage, the complete antithesis of Ian Fleming’s 007. Arguably his most famous creation, George Smiley, is relegated to a small but important role in this story (he’s played here by Rupert Davies). It’s this ordinary, run of the mill type of spy that makes le Carré’s stories so fascinating. Atmospherically filmed in black and white - which looks stunning on this Eureka Blu-ray - this is the spy equivalent of kitchen sink drama that’s directed with confidence by Martin Ritt, the former blacklisted filmmaker who would later make The Front (1976) with Woody Allen.

Claire Bloom (The Haunting, 1963) co-stars as the communist librarian who steals Leamas’ heart and is just one of the numerous fantastic actors who appear alongside Burton. Even the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them supporting cast is impressive: Bernard Lee (M in the Bond movies), Robert Hardy, Michael Hordern, Niall MacGinnis, Warren Mitchell, and Michael Ripper are among those who pop up at some point.

Although played in a sombre and matter-of-fact manner, you can’t fault the quality of the production and earnestness of the players. Eureka’s Blu-ray contains some newly commissioned extras, namely a commentary and a video essay, and both are informative and worth checking out for more background to the film. The limited edition booklet makes for good reading, too.

Release Date: May 17th