The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (Criterion Collection) DVD Review

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Criterion Collection
Release date: November 25th, 2008
MSRP: $39.95

Director: Martin Ritt
Stars: Richard Burton, Claire Bloom

Alec Leamas (Richard Burton) is a hardened British spy. He has been in the game for years and professes to have no real set of beliefs. If one were to believe Alec, his job is not a calling to protect country and queen, but simply his job.

The events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold test put Alec’s comments to the test. After a long career, Alec is approached with a very different mission: Alec is to “retire” and make his disgruntlement known, then eventually “defect” and give the Russians false info.

As with any good spy film, there is a considerable amount of duplicity. More than once, I was unsure who was playing who. I am not going to go into the story any further; it should be experienced without too many spoilers. I will say that as Alec gets further and further into his mission, he finds himself starting to realize that there are things that matter to him.

The Spy Who came in from the Cold is a fascinating look not simply at the spy game or the cold war, but also humanity. The core message seems to be that you must believe in something. It does not matter what, but that without a core set of beliefs, you will also certainly get lost the sea of ideologies that bombard us with their messages on an almost daily basis.

Visually, this disc looks outstanding. There are no noticeable scratches or blemishes. I don’t know if any restoration was done, but I can’t imagine a nicer transfer.

As we have come to expect from Criterion, this release is full of nice extras. Not simply fluff, but featurettes that look into the life of author John Le Care as well as the making of the film.

There is a new interview (39 minutes) with le Carré. The author is refreshingly candid in his answers, but I suppose one feels the freedom to express ones opinion when you are in your 70s. He offers up some fun anecdotes and takes some shots at Paramount. The Secret Centre: John le Carré is a 2000 BBC documentary that gives us a detailed look at the life and career of the author, including comments from those in the intelligence community at the same time as le Carré.

There is an audio interview with director Martin Ritt that is from the mid 80s. Ritt talks about his career and his political views. Richard Burton is the focus of the 1967 BBC peice Acting in the ’60s. In a sit-down interview, Burton talks about his career both film and stage. Spy is only mentioned briefly.

We get a look at five key scenes with cinematographer Oswald Morris. I found this fascinating, as he talked about not only how the scenes were shot, but why. This piece will give you a bit of an education in the filmmaking process.

Also included is the original theatrical trailer.

By putting the name Criterion on a package, the bar is automatically raised fairly high, but this set is delightful and offers up a fair amount of insight not only into the making of the movie, but in the careers of those involved.

This is a set I will almost certainly revisit down the line and heartedly recommend it.

Order The Spy who came in from the Cold from Amazon.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from Jeremy, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.