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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1 Viewer)

Scott Kimball

May 8, 2000

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Studio: Paramount

Year: 1966

Rated: NR

Length: 112 Minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English remix, Dolby Digital English Mono (restored), French Mono

English subtitles

Special Features: None

S.R.P. $14.99 USD

Release Date: July 13, 2004

Richard Burton is Alec Leamas, a reluctant, aged spy who refuses to “come in from the cold” and take a desk job in this dark adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Instead, he goes under deep cover for one last dangerous assignment

This is a slow and bleak film from the opening scene at the Berlin checkpoint, through to the end. The stark, black and white photography adds to the ambiance, giving a cold feel to this cold war film. The story is uncompromising in its complexity, and requires the viewer to remain focused so as not to lose track of the plot.

This film is the antithesis to James Bond. The words of Alec Leamas pretty much sum up the approach to the world of spies that this film follows:

What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not. They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me. Little men. Drunkards. Queers. Hen-pecked husbands. Civil servants playing cowboys and indians to brighten their rotten little lives.

Sure-footed direction by Martin Ritt (Hud, The Molly Maguires), great performances by Richard Burton and Claire Bloom, and some great black and white photography are the highlights of this film.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is anamorphically enhanced, and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The black and white image has wonderful contrast, with good detail in both the highlights and shadows. The image is sharp and detailed, with mild grain from the original source print. With the exception of some dust and scratches on the print, which varies in frequency, this is a wonderful transfer.

There is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English remix, as well as monaural English and French tracks. The 5.1 track suffers from a hollow, processed sound in a couple of crowd scenes, but overall is okay. There is an unfortunate low volume, low frequency ambient rumble that can be heard on the .1 track. While not really noticeable at lower volume levels, it shouldn’t be there. This rumble varies in intensity - at times it fades entirely, and in some scenes (such as the courtroom scene) it is more noticeable. Given that the film is largely dialog driven, the original mono track should be sufficient - even for those who may prefer 5.1 remixes. Thankfully, the mono track is clean and accurate, delivering a good frequency range and full-sounding dialog and music.

Special Features
There are no special features.

Final Thoughts
This is a great cold-war spy film, but Bond-lovers beware - this is not 007. An admirable transfer of a great film make this a must-buy for lovers of the spy genre.


Cees Alons

Senior HTF Member
Jul 31, 1997
Real Name
Cees Alons
Thanks, Scott. I'm glad it looks so good, given it's age.

I liked the book, in fact I own all his spy books - and the film did the tone, atmosphere and message of the original book justice in a grand manner. It's only slightly "simpler" than the book can be - a few 'subplots' and complications left out, but it's still marvellous and in fact not dated at all.
Which is funny, sort of, now the Berlin wall has fallen.

I already ordered it and now I'm looking forward to the arrival of this DVD version even more!


Bill Parisho

Stunt Coordinator
Jan 16, 2004
Great review Scott! This was a ground-breaking film in many ways. It reminded audiences the espionage wasn't the fun world of 007. The spy world could be dark and sinister.
Also the movie reminded people that Richard Burton was more than Liz Taylor's main squeeze and could do a lot more acting than he did in Cleopatra. I think it's one of Burton's finest performances.
Plus, I'm such a fan of spy movies that I'm thrilled that they're starting to pop up on DVD. I don't care if it's the escapism of Bond and Matt Helm, the realism of this movie and The Ipcress File, the lightheartedness of Fathom and Our Man Flint, or even the badness of Modest Blaise or Operation Kid Brother! I love them all.
Now, how about such 60's spy films as Masquerade,Where the Spies Are, and The Venetian Affair?
Bill Parisho

John Watson

Jul 14, 2002
Sounds great!

I believe I read that COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR is coming out this year.

And perhaps Volume 2 of MI 5

John Watson

Jul 14, 2002
Thanks, even as I typed I couldn't remember if I had read a release date.:)

:) more Smileys, people?

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