Saturday, 31 March 2012

Keep your eyes 'peeled' ... new Ipcress File found!

It seems that the fiftieth anniversary of The Ipcress File is stimulating creativity among readers and film fans alike. Turning up on YouTube recently is this effort, re-imagining The Ipcress File using ... vegetables!

The budget looks to be about £4.56, but nevertheless the film-makers make a good effort at capturing the feel of the original film. File under 'Internet curios', I think.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

"Harry Palmer is a winner, who comes on like a loser" - The Ipcress File interview with Len Deighton - a Deighton Dossier exclusive!

This interview is © Pluriform 2012 and The Deighton Dossier. It must not be reproduced in any form without express permission of the author and the website owner.

Len Deighton, London, March 2012
(c) Rob Mallows
This quote is actually from Michael Caine, the actor who’s brilliant portrayal of Harry Palmer helped sealed into the public consciousness the character of Len Deighton’s ‘unnamed spy’ who first appears in The Ipcress File, published 50 years ago this year and in print ever since. This book marked a definite literary turning point when it came out at the height of the Cold War.

It is arguably one of the twentieth century’s top spy thrillers, marking as it did a new step forward in the fictional portrayal of the spy game. Palmer was a phenomenon, a working class spy hero who ushered in one of the golden ages of British spy fiction.

Published only nine years after Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel Casino Royale, and only one year after John Le Carré’s debut Call for the Dead, The Ipcress File provided a counterpoint. The main character was from Burnley, a bit of a crook by all accounts, rough around the edges, a gourmet, plagued by his toff bosses and always needing his chit signed - a contrast to the debonair style and high living James Bond and the middle-aged, middle class bureaucrat that was George Smiley. Here was the spy as careerist, for whom petty paperwork is as much a part of everyday working life as holstering a pistol.

Over lunch in March 2012 and subsequently via an email conversation, Len Deighton kindly answered a range of questions about his book suggested by readers of the Deighton Dossier and me, the editor. He talks about the writing process for the book, his reasons for choosing the main plot device, his thoughts on the movie version and the influence of his Soho life as a young artist on key aspects of the film

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Bond back in business ....

Interesting snippet of news from the world of publishing. Two years on from Harper Collins' decision to re-publish all of Len Deighton's fiction works, Ian Fleming's back catalogue of James Bond stories is to be relaunched.

The estate for Ian Fleming has signed a10-year deal with Random House to publish the books in print and e-book format. I imagine these will become collectables in their own time.

Next year will be the sixtieth anniversary of Ian Fleming's first Bond novel, Casino Royale, and one would image that there will be additional edition and a whole shed-load of Bond paraphernalia.

Check out the story on the BBC news website.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Greys and browns ...

Sir Ken Adam at The Museum of London
That was the colour palette which Ken Adam, production director, chose for Harry Saltzman's The Ipcress File to reflect the dreariness and earthy nature of 'sixties London and provide a counterpoint to the glamour of Bond.

This was just one of the anecdotes shared by Sir Ken Adam OBE in his talk before a special showing of the film as part of the Museum of London in Docklands' regular monthly film screenings.

Now a sprightly 91 years old, Ken shared his remembrances with over 70 people assembled in one of the former dockside warehouses now surrounded by the modernity of 'Docklands'. Already having worked to great esteem on Cubby Broccolli's sets for Dr. No and Goldfinger, Ken was brought onto The Ipcress File by Harry Saltzman to create "a poor man's Bond". But Ken and director Sidney Furie had a different creative approach, and fought the notoriously short-tempered Saltzman to film the movie for what it was, rather than what it wasn't.

One of the secrets of the film, Sir Ken said, was that 95% of it was filmed entirely on location, much of it in one of the grand buildings on Hobart Square, near to Victoria Station. This was a new experience for him, but what it allowed him to do was to emphasise the "greys and browns" of everyday London office life. The building on Hobart Square was used not just for Dalby's offices (the cleaning agency front) but to create Michael Caine's flat, and Colonel Ross's office. This move away from the traditional studio apparently caused friction, not least with the producer.

Harry Saltzman was insistent that Major Dalby's offices should be full of the latest computers and monitoring equipment. In contract, Ken Adam and Sidney Furie felt that the offices should have an authentic military feel - desk, camp bend, desk lamp, gas fire, and a bust of Churchill. This bare look was more barrack room than nerve centre, deliberately so. Yet later in the day Saltzman arrived on set with a truck full of computers, determined to have his way. Cue his breaking into an almighty temper, accusing Adam of trying to destroy the relationship with his director. The film unit, Ken said with a wry smile on his face, "loved these rows". Two hours later, it was all forgotten by the producer.

Sid Furie's lead cameraman on the set was Otto Heller, a Czech photographer and camera man who was old enough to have filmed the funeral of the last Habsburg Emperor, Franz Josef, Ken revealed. He never used a light meter and was the person responsible for many of the classic shots through keyholes and over Harry Palmer's shoulder. Apparently, while a perfectionist Heller never bothered to look at the final cut of the film. Ken called him "one of the greats".

Sitting in a converted warehouse in Docklands, Ken recalled how he used a warehouse nearby to film the sequences in 'Albania'. Furie, a Canadian, was not that experienced but outside on location, he had bags of energy and enthused the whole team to think creatively and embrace the cliched shots for which everyone remembers the film. In fact, they gave the film Adam believed the unique atmosphere that has made it a classic.

I asked him about the role of Len Deighton on the film. He revealed that Deighton was around on set and did share his views on the relationship to the story in the book. More practically, he was - famously - on the set of Harry Palmer's kitchen and taught Michael Caine how to crack eggs with one hand (though Caine eventually left it to Deighton to do this and it is his hands which appear in the final film!).

Having worked on both Bond and the "anti-Bond", Adam shared some interesting perspectives on the two. During a break in filming, Adam and Michael Caine went to the Bahamas, where Bond was filming, but Cubby Broccoli apparently would not allow Caine on the set alongside Sean Connery [perhaps, like when matter and anti-matter are combined, the space-time continuum would split!]. When filming had finished, that year Ken was invited to both Saltzman's and Broccoli's tables at the Bafta awards - both had booked the biggest tables in the venue. Cubby was sure that Adam would win him a Bafta for his work on Goldfinger - instead, he got it for Ipcress File. Cue stormy looks from Broccoli, who didn't talk to Ken for the next two months.

Having been warmed up with a view from one of the key creative forces behind The Ipcress File, I saw the film in a new light. And it is still a London classic!

What am I bid? .......

Part of the fun of collecting a particular author's book is hunting down the hard-to-find editions. Many of Len Deighton's early works are now in that category; as posted on this blog, even Len himself has revealed that he doesn't have a copy of the first edition of his first book, The IPCRESS File!

Well, there's an opportunity for collectors to get hold of some of the most collectable of Len's works. A blog reader and collector - who has one of the best collections of Len Deighton books I know of - is now selling the collection to raise funds. On 20th March, Chiswick Auctions is holding an auction of books and manuscripts. Lots 23-31 will be of interest to blog readers, including first editions in immaculate condition of The IPCRESS File, Horse Under Water, Funeral in Berlin and Billion-Dollar Brain, as well as copies of other sought-after books.

Do check out the auction. Such great copies don't come around very often, so it's worth perhaps taking a punt!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Lunch with Len ...

Len Deighton, Koffman's London
March 2012
(c) Rob Mallows
Last Saturday I was fortunate to catch up with Len Deighton over lunch at Koffman's in London's Knightsbridge.

We covered a lot of bases in a conversation over lunch lasting four hours at which we were joined by Len's wife Ysabele and his friend and fellow author Mike Ripley, contributor to Shot's magazine.

Len's in semi-retirement and gave little indication of working on any new fiction; no news either sadly on his histories of the aero engine and the fountain pen, which were with his editor.

Our conversation covered a range of bases. We discussed The Ipcress File, and Len shared a couple of anecdotes: When it came out in 1962, due to his publisher's lack of foresight, the 4,000 first editions sold out so quickly that when Len himself went into a WH Smith to pick up a copy it was sold out! And, surprisingly I thought, he told me he doesn't currently own a first edition of the book himself!

The most interesting story came when Ysabele, Len's wife, confirmed that Erik van Hazelhof, was the famous Dutch agent, whose story was filmed as the film The Soldier of Orange (Len had written the foreword to his second biography). Ysabele says that he took part in the raid which was the inspiration for one of the most famous Bond scenes, in Goldfinger.

I made some notes during our discussion but rather than 'grill' Len over lunch with questions, he's agreed to respond via email to a series of questions I'll put, which I'll then publish on the blog in the same way I did last year (see menu options above). Given it's the 50th anniversary of it's publication, I'm going to ask him a number of Ipcress File questions. If you have any Ipcress File-related questions, do drop an email soon to me through the blog!

Ipcress File arrives in London's Docklands ...

Sir Ken Adam OBE
... thanks to the Museum of London. Rachel Crossley, the Museum's events manager, has got in touch with the Deighton Dossier about a special presentation of the film of The Ipcress File, startrng - of course - Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, the 'unnamed spy' in Len's book, who is on the trail of disappearing nuclear scientists who are apparently under the control of the mysterious 'Jay'.

As blog readers will know, the film is a classic, and one of the best features of the film is the way that it authentically presents a grimy but vibrant London in the 1960s. The style of the film is immediately recognisable, and one of the elements contributing to that is the set design. As part of Friday's screening in London's Docklands, Sir Ken Adam - the set designer on the original film - will be there to give an introductory talk. Anyone with even a passing interest in the film is encouraged to pop along to the Museum's Docklands branch and check out this special event.

Here are the details:
The Ipcress File, Friday 9 March, 7-9.15pm

Tickets £7 (concs £5) Book tickets online or via the Box Office on 020 7001 9844

For more information about the Museum's programme, go to their website.