Billion Dollar Brain
Michael Caine, Karl Malden, Ed Begley
Directed by Ken Russell
United Artists 1967
MGM Home Video 2005
Billion Dollar Brain is based on the novel of the same name by spy thriller writer Len Deighton. It is your basic megalomaniac cold war rule the world kind of story and is Deighton’s usual convoluted stuff but this time the communists, the Russian double agent, and the red army general are the good guys.
This is the third Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) film after The Ipcress File and Funeral In Berlin and the last Michael Caine would do for a while. In this one, Palmer is a down on his luck private detective who is blackmailed into serving MI-5 again. The plot involves his old friend Leo Newbigen (Karl Malden) who is now working for something called The Brain, a computer owned and operated by Texas oilman and megalomaniac General Midwinter who wants to bring down the communists through the use of viruses, Latvian resistance, and his own army. Now, you know he is doomed because his logo for his army looks very much like the Nazi eagle.
The opening credits of this movie are both very televisic and Bond-like and there is a certain James Bond feel to this spy action (of sorts) movie. The plot is definitely convoluted and has everybody basically trying to off everybody else but joining forces again when the assassination attempt fails because they all blame it on the brain and shrug it off.
The real star of this movie and most interesting character is Russian Colonel Stok played by Oskar Homolka and his solution to the invading army lead by General Midwinter is original and efficient to say the least.
A good dose of willing suspension of disbelief and a good dose of patience is required to watch this spy versus double agent or is it triple agent movie but it is decent. A modern audience will definitely get a giggle out of a billion dollar computer that runs on ticker tape, reel-to-reel, and punch cards.
- A good dose of willing suspension of disbelief is necessary to enjoy this thriller.
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