On a whimsical note I thought it would be fun to do a list on spy movies, given all the celebrity Anna Chapman got in recent months when the story broke over her alleged “spy ring.” She has since parlayed her notoriety into a revealing photo spread in Maxim. She is no Mata Hari, but she does have a certain appeal.
The infatuation with the Cold War has been a long one and spawned the whole James Bond series. One of the most memorable movies was From Russia With Love with Dainila Bianchi as the Russian beauty Tatiana Romanova.
Then there are boys’ movies like The Hunt for Red October in which Sean Connery plays Soviet Commander Marko Ramius, an oddly Baltic sounding name, with the intrepid Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) trying to figure out the renegade commander’s intentions.
One of my favorite spy movies was Ninotchka, which featured Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas as rival spies who fall in love with each other.
It doesn’t get any better than The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Martin Ritt adapted the movie from a John le Carre novel and it features Richard Burton as a wonderfully ambiguous figure penetrating the Cold War divide in Berlin. Le Carre was a former British agent himself, writing a great number of “spy novels” including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which also explored the Cold War divide. Le Carre strips away the gloss and reveals espionage as a dark, lurid business. The novel was made into a BBC television series in 1979 and recently recast into a movie featuring Gary Oldman. Hard to imagine much idealism in the Soviet Union left in the 1970s, but Bill Haydon still seemed to hold a soft spot. There was also a follow-up Smiley’s People, which was similarly made into a BBC television series, featuring the great Alec Guinness.
Even in movies like North by Northwest (1959) the Cold War lurks in the subtext of this classic Hitchcock film. He went one step further in Topaz, in which he adapts Leon Uris’ novel, Sapphire Affair, about the Cuban Missile Crisis to the screen.
On a lighter note, there was the first attempt at Casino Royale (1966) which was a mad-cap adventure, rather than the more serious-minded effort that featured Daniel Craig as Bond. For sheer audaciousness you have to love the premise of Val Guest’s multi-faced Bond trying to escape a plot to kill him, featuring many lovely ladies in the process. Will the real James Bond please stand up?
Some currently unlisted titles include two Michael Caine movies: The Fourth Protocol (1987) and Midnight in St. Petersburg (1995), although Caine is probably best known for his role as Harry Palmer in Funeral in Berlin (1966). Caine is perhaps the perfect spy, at least on screen. Apparently, Vladimir Putin thinks so as well.Read less