Just six months after “Goldfinger” and nine before “Thunderball,” James Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman came up with a much less exotic alternative for audiences exhausted by ejection seats and the great adventure. Harry Palmer, unnamed in Len Deighton’s novels, longs for even a low-level adventure. Freshly ground coffee is its only flaw. A good day’s work means as little interaction as possible with superiors, all animatronic parodies of British heroism, as much as possible. The Fresh Air comes with a friendly reminder that it is just the desktop drone with the most exploitable criminal record.
As Palmer, Michael Caine takes it all as paid detention, with the famous Curry & Paxton mounts turning his half-awake eyes into arrogant little security cameras. He doesn’t think he’ll get away with anything – he never has – but he knows his mission regarding the mysteriously reappearing scientists is going to get worse in ways he doesn’t even have. started to understand. Of course, nightmarish, yes.
All three of Palmer’s theatrical films are worth looking for. “Funeral in Berlin,” directed by fellow Bond fellow Guy Hamilton, is the most cunning and gritty. “Billion Dollar Brain,” a thumb-aching project for felt Ken Russell, goes unsettling gonzo. But “Ipcress”, shot alternately as staging and hypnosis by Sydney J. Furie and cinematographer Otto Heller, remains the best of the group.