The Ipcress File

Released 1965




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The Ipcress File

Movie Summary

Sidney J. Furie
Not Available

Army sergeant Harry Palmer, caught black-marketeering in Germany, has done a deal with Colonel Ross of Intelligence to avoid prison - he has joined Ross's unit in London and is now a spy. When Ross seconds him to the smaller unit run by Major Dalby so that he can investigate the kidnapping of a scientist, Harry finds that his new job is a deadly dangerous one, and might even cost him his life.


Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Christopher Plummer and Richard Harris both turned down the role of Harry Palmer before the less well-known Michael Caine was cast.

    • This was the first of three films starring Michael Caine as the working-class spy Harry Palmer. In Len Deighton's novel (and its sequels), the spy has no name and is said to come from Burnley, but, after Caine was cast, he was given a name and turned into a cockney. The Ipcress File was an international box-office success (on a slender budget) and made Caine a star overnight. It led quickly to two follow-up Palmer movies, Funeral In Berlin (1966) and Billion Dollar Brain (1967). These were increasingly more expensive and also increasingly less popular; the fourth Deighton novel about the spy, Horse Under Water, has never been filmed. Michael Caine returned to the role of Harry Palmer for a couple of poorly-received TV movies in the 1990s, not based on Deighton novels.

  • QUOTES (4)

    • Dalby: [repeated line]: Now listen to me, Palmer. Listen to me.

    • Dalby: [reading Harry's file to him]: Insubordinate. Insolent. A trickster. Possibly with criminal tendencies.
      Harry Palmer: Yes, that seems a pretty accurate appraisal.

    • Harry Palmer: [meeting Ross in a supermarket]: You didn't come here to talk about button mushrooms and birds.

    • Colonel Ross : [transferring Harry to Major Dalby's unit]: You won't like it, Palmer. Dalby works his men. And he doesn't even have my sense of humour.
      Harry Palmer: No, sir. I will miss that. Sir.

  • NOTES (1)

    • The mysterious acronym "Ipcress" transpires to mean "Induction of Psycho-neuroses through Controlled Reflexes under Stress" - the brainwashing technique which Harry Palmer narrowly escapes near the end of the film.


    • The newspaper clippings stuck to the wall in Harry Palmer's kitchen are, in fact, the then-popular "cookstrips" devised by Len Deighton (author of the original novel and a former professional chef) for The Observer newspaper's food pages. These cartoon strips, giving recipe instructions for simple meals, were a feature of The Observer for several years in the 1960s.