The Quiller Memorandum (1966) DVDRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
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The Quiller Memorandum (1966)
Two British agents are murdered by a mysterious Neonazi organization in West Berlin. The British Secret Service sends agent Quiller to investigate. Soon Quiller is confronted with Neonazi chief "Oktober" and involved in a dangerous game where each side tries to find out the enemy's headquarters at any price...
George Segal ... Quiller
Alec Guinness ... Pol
Max von Sydow ... Oktober
Senta Berger ... Inge Lindt
George Sanders ... Gibbs
Robert Helpmann ... Weng
Robert Flemyng ... Rushington
Peter Carsten ... Hengel
Ernst Walder ... Grauber
Edith Schneider ... Headmistress
Philip Madoc ... Oktober's Man (Man with brown trousers)
Günter Meisner ... Hassler (as Gunter Meisner)
John Rees ... Oktober's Man (Man with black-rimmed glasses)
This isn't your average James Bond knockoff spy thriller; the fact that the screenplay is by playwright Harold Pinter is the first clue. It's a bit strange to see such exquisitely Pinter-esque dialogue (the laconic, seemingly innocuous sentences; the profound silences; the syntax that isn't quite how real people actually talk) in a spy movie, but it really works.
Quiller isn't your average spy. He's played by George Segal with a cool superficiality that works very nicely; he doesn't go charging in with guns blazing -- he doesn't even carry a gun -- and the one time he does try to fight his way out of a sticky spot, he gets pounded. The other standouts in the cast are Alec Guinness as Quiller's controller, and Max von Sydow as the leader of the neo-Nazi cell that Quiller is attempting to crack.
At first glance, the movie is deeply frustrating, and the script appears full of holes, but in fact, it's so smart that it assumes the audience is bright enough to pick up on the breadcrumb trail of clues that it's actually leaving. All in all, I recommend it, but with reservations. If you like tidy conclusions and have limited patience with extreme subtlety, this may not be to your taste.
How did I miss this film until just recently? What a difference to the ludicrous James Helm/Matt Bond (or is it the other way round?) movies.
The Cold War atmosphere in Germany at the time was perfectly captured. I was there with the British Armed Forces from Jan 1961 until Sept 1964, and remember it well, and old memories came flooding back.
Not that I was a spy, but the first thing we were told on our arrival in Germany was that we were only there to give the Yanks an extra six minutes to prepare for, and retaliate to, a nuclear attack. Just how we were supposed to do that no one knew. Then we were told (as people tell their kids today) not to talk to strange men. Presumably they meant Communists.
In the British Section of West Germany, everything appeared normal, but the claustrophobic atmosphere of Berlin with the Wall and checkpoints ever present, was different. There was always the feeling of paranoia, of someone watching you. This movie brought it all back.
I'm well aware that "The Quiller Memorandum" was not a perfect representation of reality, but it's a damn sight closer to it than "Goldfinger" and all other similar types of pap. Spying is mostly a secretive, lonely occupation in which James Bond and Matt Helm wouldn't last a minute.
I don't know what it is exactly but I have a sweet spot for late 1960's cold war films and The Quiller Memorandum is a particularly good tale of this type. I'm drawn to it's stark story line and the open yet unanswered questions of morality, duty and love. It might have something to do with the 'Absurdist playwright' Harold Pinters screen play. While the plot deals with Neo-Fascism and is strictly speaking not about the Capitalists war with Socialism. It somehow fits easily into the canon.
It has a very close similarity with the second Harry Palmer film Funeral in Berlin (1966) - the same dirty unglamourous espionage, post war Berlin and of course Caine and Segal's very laid back and world weary performances. Both have the enemy use sex as a weapon against them and walk a seemingly dangerous alien world where no one can be trusted and all have their own hidden agendas whether monetary or philosophical.
All the acting is understated, I am not a fan of Segal's later work but he fits this well ( he had a good year in '66 - he also appeared in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ). Max Von Sydows 'I'm not a barmen Mr.Quiller I'm a German gentleman' is menacing without being overly dramatic or cartoony. The asinine old world attitudes as portrayed by Alec Guinness and a small cameo by George Sanders are slight but add to the flavour of the period.
Maybe slightly too dark and pessimistic for an optimist to enjoy but as a portrait of the period and the uneven boundaries of right and wrong and the duplicitous nature of nationalism - it is an unsung classic.