A scientist called Radcliffe is kidnapped from a train and his security escort killed. Harry Palmer, a British Army sergeant with a criminal past, now working for a Ministry of Defence organisation, is summoned by his superior, Colonel Ross, and transferred to a section headed by Major Dalby. Ross suspects that Radcliffe’s disappearance is connected to the fact that sixteen other top British scientists have inexplicably left their jobs at the peak of their careers. He threatens Dalby that his group will go if Radcliffe cannot be recovered. Palmer is then introduced as a replacement for the dead security escort.
Afterwards, Dalby briefs his agents that the main suspect is Eric Grantby and his chief of staff, codenamed “Housemartin”, and tells the team to find out where they are at present. Palmer is also introduced and befriends Jock Carswell. Using a Scotland Yard contact, Palmer locates Grantby but, when Palmer tries to stop Grantby getting away, he is attacked by Housemartin.
This film and its sequels were a deliberately downbeat alternative to the hugely successful James Bond films, even though one of the Bond producers, Harry Saltzman, was involved with the Harry Palmer series, along with other personnel who had been contracted to work on one or more of the 007 movies.
John Barry’ s score for The Ipcress File is a fine example of popular music being used to great effect in film – something he continued in his most famous work for the James Bond franchise.
The IPCRESS File is Len Deighton ‘s first spy novel, published in 1962. The story involves Cold War brainwashing, includes scenes in Lebanon and on an atoll for a United States atomic weapon test, as well as information about Joe One, the Soviet Union ‘s first atomic bomb.
The story was made into a film in 1965 produced by Harry Saltzman, directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring Michael Caine.