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  • I'm baffled by the dislike afforded this enjoyable sixties romp. The charge that it is less realistic than the previous films is groundless because the others weren't the real world either. The first featured some daft business with a psychedelic torture chamber and the second some far fetched romps around the Berlin wall. Of course, the events in 'Brain' are no less credible. The kremlin wouldn't allow a top Colonel to be chums with a British spy, let alone allow him to wander around Latvia taking photographs. The real purpose is to open the plot and make it more colourful, and also the opportunity to satirise entrenched positions and the madness of humanity. Recent events in Russia, especially under Yeltsin, prove that truth is definitely stranger than fiction. The score is terrific and the breath-neck direction may be enough to make it accessible to young, contemporary film fans.

    The cast is superb. Guy Doleman is brilliant again as the supercilious Colonel Ross. The scene where he spills the cereals and refuses to move his feet while Palmer sweeps them up is priceless. The Russian spy Anya gives a hilarious speech of ennui about her father on the boat with Palmer and Oskar Homolka as Colonel Stock gives a short, classic lament on the ice flow written by John McGrath who does a great job here, especially in his cutting swipes at blinkered thinking. "The air in Texas is pure. That's why I haven't set foot outside of Texas in twenty five years" yells the batty General Midwinter. But the most chilling and truthful exchange occurs between Palmer and amoral spy Leo Newbigen. "When he gets between five miles of the Latvian border, every alarm in the world is gonna blow and four minutes later no one is going to be around." - "You want your money, don't you?"

    Ken Russell began his career doing documentaries about classical composers and his experience pays off here in his use of sound with image. Anyone bored with current fair and hasn't seen this trilogy could do worse in giving them a go. This one was the best, in my opinion.
  • When ex-agent Harry Palmer recieves a mysterious request to deliver a flask to Finland in return for a fee, Col. Ross forcibly re-employs him with British Intelligence. Palmer is ordered to proceed to Finland with the flask (which contains deadly nerve gas), in an attempt to infiltrate the organisation of Texan oil billionaire Gen. Midwinter, who is believed to be behind an anti-Soviet plot of some kind.

    The third and final of the Harry Palmer films (if you don't count the two woeful straight to cable efforts of the mid-nineties) is generally considered to be the weakest. The strength of both 'The Ipcress File' and 'Funeral In Berlin' was that they were the complete antithesis of the Bond films, portraying the spying game as mundane, shadowy and unglamorous. However, with 'Billion Dollar Brain' maverick director Ken Russell presents the audience with an outlandish plot and large futuristic sets, which seem at odds with the style of its predecessors. The result is that the film appears to be aping Bond, and as such the character of Palmer is less effective.

    Despite these shortcomings there are pleasures to be had. Michael Caine once again displays wit and charm as Palmer, Guy Doleman is his usual droll self as Ross and Oskar Homolka makes a very welcome return as Col. Stok. Ed Begley gives his all as the lunatic Midwinter, Karl Malden provides reliable support as an old aquaintence of Palmer, and the tragic Francois Dorleac lends an exotic mystery to her character. The snowbound Finnish locations are beautifully filmed and the production design by Bond man Syd Cain is very stylish.

    Ultimately the film is let down by rather wild and undisciplined direction and a cartoonish finale. It's a shame that 'Billion Dollar Brain' strayed so far from the template of the previous films, but its by no means all bad, and can be reasonably entertaining if you're in the right mood.
  • Definitely an odd film, it is best to take it as a parody of the spy-film genre: as such it is enjoyable. Michael Caine is mostly sort of half bemused and half confused as the hapless Harry Palmer whose job is drawing him deeper into insanity and mayhem. And implausibility. The culminating scene is, well, pure symphony of the best (read:trash) special effects of the day. The plot is full of twists and double-crosses, and includes a Texan bent on taking over the world (how very now).

    If you are Finnish, or have visited Finland, the experience is either heightened or or lowered: Billion Dollar Brain is one of the films where Finland stands as a location-double for the unaccessible Soviet Union. It is hard to concentrate on the plot, when first Helsinki is playing Helsinki, then Porvoo is in Russia, and Riga is again in Helsinki. The border is seemingly in Hameenlinna. One ends up wondering how Harry does not realize his train is going merely back and forth. Location-spotting can keep you amused as well, though.
  • Michael Caine's first Harry Palmer film, "The Ipcress File", seems to have been deliberately designed to present a quite different picture of life in the British Secret Service to that shown in the James Bond films. Whereas Bond is a glamorous figure who lives a life of luxury, travels to exotic locations, drives expensive cars and seduces a succession of glamorous women, Palmer earns an average wage, lives in a seedy and down-market flat, shops at his local supermarket, drives a Ford Zephyr rather than an Aston Martin and never travels outside London where he is mostly employed in dull, bureaucratic work.

    I have never seen the second Palmer film, "Funeral in Berlin", but the third, "Billion Dollar Brain", is much closer to the Bond-type spy movie than is "The Ipcress File". Palmer travels to exotic foreign destinations (Finland and Latvia) and meets (and beds) a beautiful young woman who might just be a double agent. (The girl, Anya, was played by Francoise Dorleac in her last film before her tragic death). The most Bond-like element in the film is the villain, General Midwinter, a Texan oil millionaire who, with his grandiose schemes and his own private army, bears a close resemblance to some of Ian Fleming's characters such as Goldfinger or Stromberg.

    When the film begins, Palmer has left MI5 and is working as a freelance private investigator. An apparently routine commission to deliver a mysterious package to Helsinki leads to his becoming embroiled with Midwinter, a far-right fanatic who dreams of overthrowing world Communism and has formed his own Crusade for Freedom, controlled by a powerful computer, the "Brain" of the title. (In 1967 it presumably looked very state-of-the-art, but today, with its reel-to-reel tapes and punch cards, it looks ludicrously dated. Strange to think that his billion dollars probably purchased Midwinter something with rather less calculating power than today's £500 laptops). The Brain has calculated (on the basis of false information fed in by a corrupt agent who has been syphoning off Midwinter's funds) that an anti-Soviet uprising is about to occur in Latvia, and Midwinter is resolved to send his private army to intervene.

    Some people have seen parallels with George W Bush, but in 1967 there was another Texan in the White House, a man who had led America into a war even bloodier and even less popular than Iraq, and the character of Midwinter was doubtless intended to reflect the view that President Johnson was a dangerous warmonger. As, by implication, were those Americans who had been stupid enough to put him into the White House. (In the 1960s the European Left made little distinction between Republicans and Democrats, who were seen as two sides of the same coin). The hero of the film, apart from Palmer, is the Soviet commander Colonel Stok, desperately trying to prevent Midwinter from setting off World War III. Stok is played by Oskar Homolka who was presumably cast because of his strong resemblance to the then Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

    This world view- Americans are mad and bad, the Soviets are decent and civilised, and anyone who opposes Communism or Russian domination of Eastern Europe must be a Neo-Nazi- was an unusual one to find in a Cold War thriller, but it was one that was fairly common in left-wing circles in Europe during the sixties, even though the Soviets had plenty of self-righteous lunatics of their own, many of them in positions of high authority. Replace the word "Communism" in Midwinter's speeches with "Capitalism" and he begins to sound like Brezhnev's ranting, shoe-banging predecessor Nikita Khrushchev. Any hopes that Brezhnev would prove to be more liberal, however, were to be dashed the year after the film was made when he ordered the Red Army to crush the pro-democracy movement in Czechoslovakia. This sort of pro-Soviet viewpoint looks very outdated today, discredited by the events of the late eighties and early nineties when the peoples of Eastern Europe proved that they did indeed prefer democracy to the Communist system. We can be thankful that at the time of these events the Soviet Union was led by the only real statesman it ever produced, Mikhail Gorbachev. Had the likes of Brezhnev and Stok still been in charge they would have turned half a continent into a bloodbath in an attempt to maintain Soviet power by force of arms.

    The film was directed by Ken Russell, not a name normally associated with spy movies. This was, however, only his second feature film (in the sixties he was much better known for his work on television) and he apparently made it reluctantly, being obliged to do so for contractual reasons. It is, however, obvious that he already had ambitions to be more than the director of run-of-the-mill thrillers, because his style already shows the hallmarks of the auteur director he was to become in the following decade- unusual camera angles especially on close-ups, shots using a moving camera, moody, atmospheric photography of the wintry, snow-bound Finnish landscape. The battle on the ice is a direct Eisenstein reference. This makes the film quite attractive visually, and some of the acting is good. Caine is too downbeat- he clearly failed to realise that this style of film called for a different style of acting from "The Ipcress File"- but Karl Malden is good as the cynical, amoral Leo Newbigen, and Ed Begley makes the best Bond villain not actually found in a Bond movie. Nevertheless, the film must lose at least one star for its objectionable politics. 5/10
  • Some time has passed since Harry Palmer was in the employment of the British Government and he refuses to go back despite a 'friendly' offer from his old boss Colonel Ross. However when Harry takes a case on the basis of a mysterious call he winds up in Helsinki to meet a mysterious Dr – only to meet his old colleague Leo Newbigen who invites him to join him on his most recent area of work. Harry suspects everything is not as it seems and investigates further – only to find that he has stumbled into the middle of something big; a finding given greater validity by Ross kidnapping him and ordering him to infiltrate Newbigen's group and get to the bottom of a plot to bring down communism in Russia with the aid of a billion dollar supercomputer.

    Having watched Tommy earlier the same day, I thought I was pushing my luck by watching two Ken Russell films in the same day – surely I would hate at least one as a result of his excessive 'flair'? But no – not only did I enjoy Tommy and this film, but also I was surprised to find that Russell had actually directed this pretty much straight down the line. So great was my surprise that Oliver Reed did not get naked and beat Palmer or that we had no masturbating nuns in the mix that I almost found the plot difficult to follow as I checked the IMDb to check that it was THAT Ken Russell. Almost found it difficult but happily I was able to pull myself together and focus on a plot that almost totally throws off the admin-focused world of Ipcress File and has a plot to kick off a revolution in a manner that could easily have a few car chases added to it to make it into a Bond movie. Despite this expansion, the plot is actually pretty sharp and witty – if you remember that the communists are usually the bad guys then the film is making a very obvious point by having a ranting American seeking to destroy communism as the bad guy here! Today that is sharp but it must have been even more pointed in the mid-sixties!

    While it gradually becomes too overblown to really be appreciated on the level of a 'serious' film, it is still pretty enjoyable, although it is apparent how Palmer has become more Bond-like with this third film than he was in the first (where he was almost the anti-Bond). It still stands up as a good spy movie but it may annoy people who loved Palmer in the Ipcress File simply because he has changed so very much. I'm not sure who caused this change but Caine seems happy with less of a grey little man and more of an international spy character and plays it well. He still has plenty of snide humour but also does the spy thing with a lot more style than was allowed him in Ipcress. Madden and Homolka both give very good support as Leo and Stok respectively, but the film is stolen at times by a wonderful performance from Ed Begley who manages to be both OTT and spot on at the same time!

    Overall this is a good spy that starts in the realm of Ipcress File but ends up trying to be a sort of Bond-lite! This may annoy fans of the original Palmer but I enjoyed it and found it more than held my attention despite not doing anything too gripping. The performances are good and the film is made more enjoyable by the fact that the tables are turned on the normal situation with the communists working with Palmer while the baddie is none other than an American 'patriot' seeking to rid the world of 'the reds'!
  • This is the third of the Harry Palmer spy stories which made Caine a big name star as sympathetic crook turned int secret agent. Nowadays Harry forced into retirement works as private eye . Henry encounters himself privately recruited by the British Secret Agency and he's again hired by MI6 and his colonel Ross(Guy Doleman, usual in the trilogy). He must to deliver a thermos flask containing an estrange eggs to American(Karl Malden) resident in Finland. Harry gets a little help from a gorgeous woman(Francois Dorleac sister to Catherine Deneuve and deceased by car crash) but treachery is all around and he starts to doubt of his partners. Meanwhile a millionaire Texan(an overacting and blustering Ed Begley) prepares a military uprising in Estonia with the help of a billion dollar computer.His objective is the overthrowing communism by means a coup de'Etat in Riga. Meanwhile the Russian intelligence officer( a wickedly comic Oskar Homolka who appeared in 'Funeral in Berlin' as defector) in charge of Russian espionage tries detain it.

    Michael Caine as deadpan, flabby anti-hero is phenomenal , he makes a delightful creation as the cockney secret agent, an immensely agreeable role. Packs solid scenes such as the final spectacular icebound highlights, among others . Appears uncredited Donald Sutherland as a scientist at computer. This exciting picture displays a James Bond style , in fact the producer is Harry Saltzman in charge of OO7 production. Emotive musical score including sensible leitmotif by Richard Rodney Barrett. Colorful cinematography reflecting splendidly the freeze outdoors by Billy Williams. The motion picture is well directed by Ken Rusell,who adds his peculiar style in some frames. The best adaptation based upon the bestseller by Len Deighton is ¨Ipcress file(65)¨ by Sidney J Furie, it's followed by ¨Funeral in Berlin¨ (66) by Guy Hamilton and continues the series with inferior renditions for TV, titled ¨Bullet to Beijing(95)¨ and ¨Midnight in Saint Petesburg(97)¨ by George Mihalka.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    SPOILER ALERT - Not sure if I do give much away, but to be safe, do not read until you have viewed.

    Not being a huge Ken Russell fan, it was even more of a surprise to me how much I love this film. It is a quintessentially 60s work, but in a good way. Caine puts in another understated and accomplished turn as Harry Palmer, the anti-Bond of the age (though I love Bond films too).

    Two moments I particularly liked were the crazy General and his followers burning pictures and whipping themselves up into a frenzy as the camera swirls dizzily around them and close to the end where the beautiful Russian wants to kiss Palmer as if everything is alright, just because she is so gorgeous, but he spurns her brilliantly.

    The books are excellent too, by the way; pity even more Len Deighton works have not been made into films, though in fact a reasonable number have.
  • dtoth1029 February 2008
    Just wanted to add a few foot notes concerning the vastly under rated plot line of Billion Dollar Brain. The character of Midwinter was actually based on H. L. Hunt, the Texas oil and ketchup king who ran his own international spy network (occasionally doing jobs on the side for the CIA), was insanely anti-Russian, and (according to the death bed claims of E. Howard Hunt) may have bank rolled the murder of JFK.

    When the film was first released, many critics felt that the computer system was a sill sci-fi element. In reality, the US was already involved in the creation of the internet system. Since it was suppose to be top secret, it is a little surprisingly that they didn't utter a peep.

    Virtually all American critics at the time took swipes at the film for it's intense anti-American statement. It was the Sixties, the Vietnam was still burning hot, and attacks on stupid war waging Texans seemed pretty cheap and easy. Today, after 7 years of George W. and Dick Cheney, the film almost looks like a news program.
  • You can always tell Ken Russell's arty farty and not wholly successful direction in this film. Some of the scenes are just plain eccentric, but add a certain charm, especially when coupled with the wonderful Finland scenery. Definitely not as good as the Ipcress File, but still worth a look as an interesting 1960's period piece. It's the familiar Cold War story though this time Deighton has introduced a slightly more inventive, albeit fantastic plot. In this film it revolves around a billionaire nutcase who has built a super computer that is orchestrating an anti-communist revolution. As it's the late 1960's, when sophisticated computers were becoming in vogue, expect the usual enormous mainframe with lots of flashing lights, reel to reel memory banks, clackerty-clack machines which spew paper out and electronic noises nicked from James Bond films. I'm sure I saw some of the equipment in You Only Live Twice filmed in the same year. Also, I can't decide whether the soundtrack is good or rubbish - it sounds disjointed and inappropriate in some places. However, worth a look.
  • This film hasn't much to recommend, aside from some nice location photography in Finland (standing in for Russia). It's too boring and low key to appeal to those looking for a James Bond type of film, and too goofy to appeal to those looking for a serious spy film. The goofy plot would look more at home in a Matt Helm film, except this film doesn't have the bevy of beauties that are rampant in the Helm movies to keep the eye's interest. The sole female of note in the cast is Francoise Dorleac (Catherine Deneuve's sister), who unfortunately died in a car crash not long after shooting most of her scenes. Michael Caine and Karl Malden clearly had fun playing off each other in their scenes, it's just too bad that they weren't doing a better movie.

    This was Ken Russell's first theatrical film. At the time he was more known as a TV director. Some of his usual trademarks are already present, such as an overabundance of odd characters and experimental editing techniques.

    With a title sequence at the beginning by Maurice Binder, who was also behind the vast majority of the James Bond title sequences, they give you reason to believe that you're in for something on the level of James Bond. But alas, it wasn't to be. Billion Dollar Brain was the last of the Harry Palmer franchise at the time. Michael Caine returned to the role however, for two USA Network TV movies which i haven't seen (yet).
  • The BBC have been showing this film for years and recently in the widescreen format. Any film that gets the widescreen treatment at the moment is usually one held in high regard and BDB is certainly worthy.

    The third in the Harry Palmer trio of spy movies, BDB is a "tour do force" of imagery, sound and acting talent. Directed by Ken Russell, this is one of the few examples of art film combined with commercial film production. The cinematography is superb with atmospheric footage shot in Finland (expensive), stunning studio sets including the computer room belong to megalomaniac General Midwinter and an end sequence which is both very graphic and impressive.

    This is a fast moving film and is very Kaleidoscopic. I am sure this is a black comedy with all the leading players providing moments of hilarity, none more so than Karl Malden as Leo Newbiggin, as he attempts to con Harry Palmer and his employer out of millions. Michael Caine is equally funny with his quips and femme fatal Francois Dorleac is both stunningly gorgeous and amusingly funny as the temptress with a killer touch. To my complete and utter shock, I learned on this database that Francois Dorleac sadly died in a car crash at Nice in France the same year the film was released in 1967. She was only 25.

    This is a film which I never tire of watching due to all of the above and is one of Michael Caine's best in an illustrious career. Watch out for Donald Sutherland playing a bit part as a scientist in the computer room. Blink and you will miss him. 10/10
  • gridoon13 September 1999
    "Billion Dollar Brain" is an unbelievably, inexplicably bad movie. It's so bad that the Harry Palmer series didn't survive it. I can't realize (after two viewings) what exactly is wrong with it, but it seems to fail on every level: plot, action, satire. Even Caine looks passive and unable to save it. A real curiosity.
  • For roughly the first twenty five minutes of it's running time, "Billion Dollar Brain" looks like it's shaping up to be something very good indeed. And then, slowly but surely, the whole thing unravels. By the time a further hour or so has elapsed, neither you nor Harry Palmer know nor particularly care what the hell is going on. The blame for this lies firmly at the door of director Ken Russell.

    When we first reacquaint ourselves with Caine's coolly amused hero, he is operating as a private eye from a seedy, rundown office in Central London. And living almost exclusively on corn flakes. His superior, Colonel Ross (played once more by the wonderful Guy Doleman), wants him back in the service. Harry's not interested, but a little persuasion and blackmail ensures that he's soon off to Finland to deliver a thermosflask to a mysterious professor. Here he encounters the spectacularly sexy Francoise Dorleac and her highly unlikely lover, a lucky old sod played by Karl Malden.

    People turn up dead, and triple-cross follows double-cross. But after a while it becomes pretty obvious that all of the complex subterfuge is merely an attempt to mask a rather run-of-the-mill 'madman takes over the world' plot.

    Such is the stuff of every Bond picture, and it's a big disappointment after the relatively believable milieus of the first two Palmer flicks. The major problem, though, is that the director's hand is so uncertain, and his pacing so uneven, that we are never sure exactly what kind of film we are watching. Russell mixes the starkly beautiful mise en scene and ready cynicism of a 'realistic' cold war drama with the pop-art excesses of a Broccoli fantasy, but the cake doesn't rise. Heavy-handed attempts at political satire just make the warmed-over fare even more inedible.

    There are compensations: Russell knows how to frame a shot, and Billy Williams' cinematography is often extremely beautiful (especially when shooting the ill-fated Dorleac). All of the main performers are charismatic and Richard Rodney Bennett turns in an atmospheric score. The spookily evocative theremin-like sound is created using an ancient French keyboard instrument, the ondes martinot.

    In the draggy latter-half, a couple of sequences manage to pique the interest, especially the superbly staged 'Alexander Nevsky' parody, framed by the surreal contrasts of blinding white ice and pitch black sky. There is also an eerie, darkly comic sequence in which Harry awakes in a bathtub full of dead bodies, unsure of what exactly is happening. Unfortunately, all of the surrounding guff only serves to dull their impact.

    Amuse yourself in the tedious stretches by looking out for blink-and-you'll-miss-em spots by Susan George and Donald Sutherland. Caine's brother Stanley also appears as the postman in the opening scene.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When I tuned in, I had misgivings. On the one hand I love the two earlier Harry Palmer movies...on the other hand I couldn't imagine that if this were in their league how I could've missed it this long.

    It's not.

    First, Ken Russell. I don't care for his artsy-fartsy stuff, but that didn't prepare me for the technical ineptitude he displays here. The cataclysmic finale is set up horribly and put together in a way that leaches whatever punch an ice battle might've had. There are plenty of other scenes in which his direction and editing work directly against the narrative flow. Two of the general's minions shot at a train station: clumsier than what you would've seen in a TV western from the same period. To me it was outright embarrassing.

    Speaking of embarrassing, the casting of Ed Begley and Karl Malden was appalling, compounded by the over-the-top direction given them. Now I am aware Begley's character is supposed to be a kook, but that would've come out even with a nuanced performance had the director had any faith in the narrative.

    Last but certainly not least, Richard Rodney Bennet's score is positively jarring and one of the least sympathetic to the action it accompanies of any movie I can remember. (If you can top it, please e-mail your selection.) Oh, an afterthought: let me add that the ONLY redeeming quality of this movie is the opportunity it provides to bask one's eyes on the lovely Françoise Dorleac. It was her last role. She died in '67 in a car crash...and she happened to be Catherine Deneuve's sister. How gorgeous she was!
  • A mad Texas general wants to start to overthrow parts of the satellite Eastern Block using his own private army and super computer. Reluctant secret agent - and former crooked army sergeant - Harry Palmer is given the job of trying to stop him before it is too late.

    Last of the three HP films made for the cinema.

    What a silly idea this film is based on. For a start the plot is far too James Bond for a series whose raison d'etre is to be anti James Bond and besides how can a basic Honeywell Computer (with punch cards) be worth a billion dollars? The thing had about as much power as a Sinclair Spectrum!

    Star Caine looks bored to death with all this nonsense and chases around Finland looking like he would rather have been anywhere else but here - and I don't think it is all skilled acting. Director Ken Russell has his supporters and fans, although every passing years his supporters seemed less-and-less inclined to put their hands in their pocket for his product. He became a clapped out old duffer very early in life.

    Danger, tension and silly are not easy bedfellows and even solid pros like Malden, Begley and Caine cannot breath much life in to this race-and-chase nonsense. Although Ed Begley chews up the set as a red-baiting Texan general gone mad in a bunker. Part Hitler, part Sterling Hayden in Doctor Strangelove.

    Russian general Colonel Stock (Oskar Homolka) turns up again to reprise his role from Funeral in Berlin, even though it makes no sense to the plot - why would the enemy (in the cold war) help a British agent? Last thing on earth he would do unless he had gone stark raving mad or liked Gulag food.

    Despite the series coming back much later as a made-for-TV double (made back-to-back) the show had clearly had its day. I could have lived without seeing this and you could too.
  • When this film was shown on television sometime during the 1970s, at my workplace the next day, someone came in, said in a Michael Caine voice: "My name is 'Arry Palmer...Oooofff!!!" and then collapsed on the floor. We all knew what this guy meant. In the film, 'Arry Palmer is hit over the head and knocked unconscious so many times that Michael Caine must have suffered brain damage as a result.

    Then after the billionaire's invasion force is bombed out of existence by the Soviet air force, there is just one figure left lying on the ice and it's - guess who - 'Arry Palmer. It just stretches incredulity beyond breaking point.

    OK, so it's a bit of a James Bond spoof. If you want to see a good James Bond spoof, watch Our Man Flint instead.
  • (Some Spoilers) Cold War spy movie that really heats up in the last half hour or so with WWIII almost breaking out over the icy and frozen Gulf of Finland. With the patriotic and self-righteous lunatic Gen. Midwinter, Ed Begley, leading the charge.

    Being recruited back into the MI5 British Itellengenc service former UK spy Harry Palmer, Michael Caine,is given his next assignment, via special delivery mail and a strange telephone call,to go to Helsinki Finland with a sealed thermos. Checking the thermos at an airport X-ray machine Palmer sees that it has a number of egg's in it which may, and later he's proved right, very well have deadly viruses hidden inside them.

    Meeting up in Helsinki with his old friend Leo Newbigen, Karl Malden, and his live in girlfriend Anya, Francoise Deleac, everything seems to go as planned but Palmer feels uneasy with Leo and his suspicions are borne out. Later when the person that Palmer was supposed to meet Dr. Kaarna, who Leo told him that's his secret undercover identity, is found murdered in a Helsinki hotel Plamer feels that Leo is somehow connected to it. Palmer never the less goes along with Leo's plan to sneak into communist controlled Latvia and help with the anti-government underground in starting a revolt against their Soviet oppressors.

    In Riga Palmer get's visited by his former nemesis and Soviet intelligence officer Col. Stok, Oskar Homoka, who warns him not to meet up with these revolutionaries saying that his life would be in danger if he did. Palmer should have known that the gig was up since the Soviets already know about the group of Latvian freedom fighters, who turned out to be nothing but a bunch of criminals, but he goes to meet with them anyway. This leads Plamer to get apprehended by the Latvian rebels and slated to be executed as a Soviet spy.

    Being later saved in the nick of time by Col. Stok's NKGB men put Palmer in a very strange position with him being in debt to the Soviet, and against the communist freedom fighters who just tried to murder him. It turns out that both Leo & Anya are really double, and possibly triple, agents working for the Soviet Union but infiltrating this ultra-right-wing organization called "The Crusade for Freedom". The ultra-right wing group was founded and now headed by a crazed and dangerous super-patriot billionaire Texas oilman the self-styled "General" Midwinter. Midwinter is planning to get the people of Latvia to revolt against their communist controlled government and then with an army of likewise maniacs attack Latvia from across the Balitc Sea and create a anti-communist revolution across the entire Soviet Union.

    As for the virus-filled egg's it's up to Leo & Anya to cross into the USSR and release the deadly viruses at Russian military bases and case then to inflict havoc on the Red Army. We soon find out that both Leo & Anya are really in league with the USSR with Leo feeding Gen. Midwinter's supercomputer, the Billion Dollar Brain, false information and planning to do in Midwinter & Co. by leading him into a suicidal war with the Soviet Union. On top of all that Leo also seems to have has his own agenda ,unknown to his Communist handlers, to instigate a full scale war between Midwinter and the USSR and draw the US & UK into it in order to have both "Evil Empires" destroyed even it that takes all of civilization along with it.

    With time quickly running out as the danger of a Third World War about to break out in the Baltic Palmer has to get both the Western Powers and the Soviet Union to stop this madman Gen. Midwinter. Midwinter thinks, due to Leo's false information, that the Latvian people are about to revolt against the Soviet Union, which their not, and welcome him as a liberator. Plamer together with his now Soviet allies, he had no time to get either the USA or UK to help him, are the only one who can now stop the crazed general before he lights the fuse that touches off Armageddon.
  • Enjoyable if dated, they are still using punch cards to program their computers!, espionage thriller with a solid cast. Caine is cool as ice as the reluctant protagonist casting a jaundiced eye on all the shenanigans going on around him. Francoise Dorleac is a lovely mystery woman although her character seems to vanish at several key points in the film when it feels like she would be there. This might be because she was killed in a traffic accident while the picture was still filming necessitating a rethinking to still make her completed work usable. She's quite magnetic, her resemblance to her sister Catherine Deneuve is striking, and her death cut short a career that was already very successful in France and was starting to expand worldwide. Ed Begley also stands out, having a great time as a crazy old coot. Subtle he ain't but memorable for sure.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Thanks to a memorable musical score and some brilliant location shooting, this is a pretty top-class spy movie.

    It is also one of those rare occasions where the script writers have improved on the original novel. Well, in my humble opinion at least.

    The book has a very much more mundane conclusion. General Midwinter does not make any attempt to attack the USSR, he is simply regarded as a bit of a crank by the US intelligence agencies and was closely monitored. It is easy to see why they needed some kind of climactic ending for the film. And what they chose was excellent. Quite clever.

    I also think that the Michael Caine on-screen Harry Palmer is a more believable character than the Palmer of the novels. Again, IMHO !
  • BILLON DOLLAR BRAIN features a rabid anti communist meglomaniac in the role of villain General Midwinter and it`s up to British agent Harry Palmer to stop his lunatic scheme

    I wonder how many people at the time realised the irony of rabid right winger Midwinter being portrayed as a looney villain ? In 1967 President Johnson was spending billions of American dollars and tens of thousands of American lives to protect South East Asia from communism while plenty of main stream right wing American politicians like Ronald Reagan thought the Johnson administration weren`t going far enough to protect the free world from the red menace . So the over the top rhetoric from Midwinter feels more like biting satire than the rantings of a mad man . It`s also good to see a movie making a nod towards the sacrifice of nearly 30 million Soviet citizens lives during the second world war , many of them being murdered by nationalists from puppet regimes created by the Nazis .

    I think this is undoubtedly the best of the Harry Palmer movies , helped in no small part by Ken Russell`s not quite mainstream , not quite art house direction . Caine is in good form as are the rest of the cast , but of course the best performance award goes to Ed Begley as General Midwinter who rants about the evils of communism and preaches the virtues of the free world without pausing to draw breath . BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN also features early appearances from Susan George and Donald Sutherland in blink and you`ll miss them roles .

    Entertaining thriller and an interesting one for not making the commies the bad guys . Compare it to THE GREEN BERETS if you want to know the difference between chalk and cheese
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Whereas John le Carre's works seem to me to be conscious attempts to legitimise the spy story by dressing it up in the motley of the "serious" novel,Len Deighton pares the genre down to it's essentials.His three trilogies,"Game,set &match","Hook,line & sinker" and "Faith,hope & charity" have scarcely a superfluous line between them. His earlier stories featuring the unnamed spy later characterised as "Harry Palmer" are equally sparse. Whilst Mr Deighton may have stinted on the arty-farty he knew how to create a memorable human being on the page.In Col.Stok,Palmer's adversary/ally,we have a superb mixture of the ruthless and the compassionate,the patriot and the opportunist,far from the clichéd figure of the "Russian KGB/Military Officer" cipher so prevalent at the time. Here was a man,you felt,that if you ever got picked up for spying behind the iron curtain,you'd want to walk into your cell and say "Well,English, I think we can do business,you and I".Mr Oscar Homolka plays Stok and invests him with half a century of portraying human frailty,wisdom,cynicism and all the contradictions that go to make up a real person.His performance is my abiding memory of "The Billion Dollar Brain".It would appear that the heart of the director Mr Ken Russell wasn't really in this project,but I can't believe he didn't enjoy letting Mr Homolka have his head. The computer that took Appollo 11 to the moon was less sophisticated than a present day pocket calculator so it seems likely that Mr Deighton too has become a victim of the silicon revolution and his billion dollar brain would probably be worth less than twenty quid nowadays."The £20 brain" doesn't have quite the same ring does it? However,who knew from computers 40 years ago?General Midwinter didn't,but he knew a man who did,quite a lot of men actually.The fact that he was clearly barking mad didn't seem to bother them.Well,he was from Texas....presumably that explained everything;a bit like Manuel being from Barcelona. Mr Ed Begley sprays a lot of spittle about and generally has a grand time as the loopy General.I just loved his shiny helmet. Mr Michael Caine plays Palmer for the last time with an increased stroppiness quotient.I don't think he was ever so convincing in his subsequent career - with the possible exception of "The man who would be king". The very beautiful and tragic Mlle Francoise D'Orleac appears as Anya. Mr Karl Malden ,whilst not competing with Mr Begley ,holds his own in the "Famous American actor appearing in small European film doing his own thing" stakes. The Eisenstein Ice Ballet "Hommage" is well shot but the special effects are not up to much,looking like outtakes from "Thunderbirds". Despite it's faults,"Billion Dollar Brain" is a fine film.It is crisply shot,the exteriors of Finland are beautiful and the scene where the Russian Cavalry routs the gangsters/partisans is brilliantly realised. It has a literate(but not literary) script,good production values and Richard Rodney Bennet's music is perfect. It may have been hack work for the director Mr Ken Russell,but it's the only one of his films I could bear to sit through twice.
  • I loved the Ipcress File, and enjoyed Funeral In Berlin. Caine's Harry Palmer was cheeky but very effective. In Billion Dollar Brain he's just plain incompetent. Now we all know that Caine can act, but he just phones it in for this one. After a, what can only be described as a very poor attempt at a bond styled credit sequence, Harry is coerced back into British intelligence and is given orders to infiltrate a fascist organisation through an old friend (played by Karl Maldon). It turns out the the organisation is run by a millionaire Texan and a super computer (the Billion Dollar Brain from the title), who are determined to help "free" countries, such at Latvia, from Communism. The elimination of the "invading force" is just plain stupid. Just who, when wanting to invade a country, drives their entire force over frozen lake/river. All the the "good guys" have to to is drop some some bombs, crack the ice and watch all the cars sink to the icy bottom. Which is just what they do. After 100 plus mins the film finished and I realised that I would never get that time back. That thought has haunted me ever since. My only hope is that this review will save others from a similar fate. If you want to watch a good sixties spy movie, hunt down the Ipcress File or just watch a Bond movie. Billion dollar brain is disappointing and fairly stupid.
  • I enjoyed both The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin but not Billion Dollar Brain. Whilst the first two films in the trilogy had a feeling of realism about them, Billion Dollar Brain felt like it was just a send-up of the spy world(which maybe is was meant to be). From the opening James Bond type titles I felt that it was being played tongue-in-cheek. We even have a wild eyed maniac type character who wants to take over the world in the form of Ed Begley. Perhaps if Ipcress and Funeral had not been serious visits into the espionage world than Billion Dollar might be viewed differently.

    Finally, the soundtrack to this film is pretty bad, which is a shame as it was written by the usually excellent Richard Rodney Bennet who wrote the wonderful soundtrack for the Julie Christie film 'Far From the Madding Crowd'.
  • The film starts off in a manner which would fit any of the Palmer films, Ross and Palmer antagonizing each other, Caine coming up with a great line "If you want me back in that office, you're going to have to send around two very big men with a blackjack". The Maurice Binder titles seem to say this film is going to be very different, however, and they are quite breathtaking, miles away from the other two movies, and very reminiscent of his work on the Bond series, or The Sea Wolves. The film itself is packed with Ken Russell's usual visual flair, setting this movie apart from Sidney Furie's or Guy Hamilton's rather drab and realistic settings. 67 saw the Bond franchise up the ante with You Only Live Twice, which saw SPECTRE going into space and Bond in a tiny gyro-copter, so perhaps a giant supercomputer and disguised oil tankers aren't so far fetched in comparison (this series is meant to be the backlash against the fanciful James Bond escapades after all). However, the further you go into the film, it becomes more apparent that it's taken a wrong turn and Michael Caine is in Goldfinger territory, the room in which Midwinter keeps the Brain seems to be very Ken Adam in design. It's not bad, it just doesn't fit the franchise for which it was made (and this proved to be the final theatrical Palmer outing, which really is a shame). And sure, Midwinter's war on Communism plot seems crazy, but here's a Texas oil man willing to go to war based on bad intelligence. Sounds familiar?

    The saving graces of this film are Ken Russell's keen eye and stylistic direction, the way the script stays true to Harry's character, Richard Rodney Bennet's fantastic score (utilizing the ondes martenot, i believe) and the performances, which deserve credit all down the line. From Michael Caine's superb recreation of Palmer, Karl Malden lending strong support, Ed Begley's over the top turn as Midwinter, Oskar Homolka (again) as Stok, and Françoise Dorleac's seductive turn in what would be her final film, they all elevate the film from being some kind of sub-007 rip off. I was going to give it a 7, but I decided on an eight, because above all, it's so damn entertaining.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Personally, I thought this movie was excellent and definitely underrated. Better than "Funeral In Berlin", but probably not as good as "The Ipcress File". Plot a little OTT, but excellent dialogue and film locations make this an enjoyable movie. Nice to see Col.Stok (Oscar Homolka, b.1898 died 1978 in Sussex UK) who gives the movie some sense of realism.

    Trivia: Apparently right at the end of the movie. Michael Caine is walking on floating ice. That was NOT done by a stunt actor, and if he fell in (he wobbles a couple of times) he would have been in serious difficulty :)

    Read on amazon (UK) site that the DVD release (2004) only contains 4:3 version. There's a region 1 release coming October 2005 - I would advise any potential DVD purchasers of this movies to wait for this release.
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