Al Murray is joined by former director of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington, political comedian Matt Forde and film expert Matthew Sweet for a fresh look at the great British spy movie.
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Hello, I'm Al Murray
and over the next hour we're going to be talking
about British spy movies.
We're going to look back at my favourite spies
and find out what makes them tick.
Cool spies, like the cocky,
uber confident Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File.
Sharp suited spies, like the suave Alec Guinness in Our Man In Havana.
Romantic spies like George Segal's smitten title
character in The Quiller Memorandum.
Hard-drinking spies like the virile Bulldog Drummond from Some Girls Do.
-What is it?
-Well, pretty strong. It's a bullshot.
And damaged spies like Richard Burton's broken,
isolated Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
We'll meet the bad guys they squared off against,
like the testicle-scorching Auric Goldfinger from, er, Goldfinger.
Do you expect me to talk?
No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.
And of course the man who defeated him,
our favourite spy of all, James Bond.
Saving the world with a gun
and a wisecrack in films like The Man With The Golden Gun.
I'm now aiming precisely at your groin,
so speak or forever hold your peace.
Joining me on this top secret assignment are my very
special guests, comedian Matt Forde,
novelist and former director general of MI5 Stella Rimmington
and broadcaster and film expert Matthew Sweet.
Matthew, we'll start with you.
Why do we think the British love spy movies so much?
Well, I think it speaks to something very deep in us.
It speaks to all our fantasies
and anxieties about our position in the world.
And I think these are the things that being played
through in the spy film.
Really from its beginning, the idea is still present now.
Who are we? How powerful are we?
What should the world expect of us?
Stella, are you a fan of these movies in particular?
I'm a fan of some of them, the realistic ones
but the James Bond ones, for example, I just find completely over
the top and irrelevant, quite honestly, cos James Bond is
not a spy and maybe we'll expand on that later, what is a spy?
But it's certainly not a James Bond.
And, Matt, are you a fan of these films?
Yeah, I think the Bond ones are my favourite.
I think because they are so unrealistic and you know when you
watch them that this can't be what spying's really like
because otherwise we'd see it on the streets of London.
You'd notice it if it was as ridiculous and as bombastic as this.
There's more to it than the Bond franchise though, isn't there?
We have the work of John le Carre, of course,
who's, I think, the serious end, as you'd put it, Stella.
-Yeah, the boring stuff.
-Come on, the real stuff.
So, to kick us off,
let's have a look at where the British spy movie got started.
The undisputed master of the genre in the 1930s was, of course,
Alfred Hitchcock, who churned out a string of brilliant spy
films during his British period.
Best of all was The 39 Steps, which starred the immaculate Robert Donat,
rocking a 'tache that'll net him a fortune come Movember, as a man who
goes on the run after being wrongly accused of killing a secret agent.
It's got quirky characters like Derren Brown prototype Mr Memory.
What won The Derby in 1921?
Mr Jack Jool's humourist with Steve Donoghue up.
Won by a length at odds 6 to 1.
Second and third - Craig-an-eran and Lemonora.
-Am I right, sir?
Thrilling police chases, albeit on foot, it was the 1930s.
And a flirty, romantic subplot between Donat and Madeleine Carroll.
My shoes and stockings are soaked. I think I'll take them off.
The first sensible thing I've heard you say. Can I be of any assistance?
-No, thank you.
And your usual Hitchcock device of a person being dropped
into a baffling situation at the deep end
and having to figure it all out.
Well, I'm afraid you leave me no alternative.
That's what you get if you keep your overcoat on indoors, mate.
Is this where our fascination with spies really kicks off?
These films are capers really, aren't they?
I mean, they're not really spy films, are they?
39 Steps, what resemblance does that have to spying
as you know it, Stella, professionally?
Well, it... The film doesn't have very much
but the book on which it was based,
The John Buchan Story, is a very different thing, of course.
I mean, I think John Buchan would have turned in his grave
if he could see Donat performing as Hannay.
In any case, Hannay would never have had a haircut like that.
If you watch him the way through this film, he never changes.
He's just a nothing character.
Hitchcock characters, part of the mechanics of the plot,
they're avatars, aren't they? They're never deep people.
The thing about The 39 Steps is that there's nothing in any
of the film adaptations that we remember that's in the book at all.
All those great sequences, the chases and The Memory Man.
Certainly the sexy business with the Madeleine Carroll character,
none of that is there in the book.
The book is something much stranger and dirtier and odder.
Matt, do you think these films have aged well?
In an odd way, I think they have
because a lot of these themes are universal and watching The 39
Steps, one thing that really struck me is the paranoia of the citizen
getting caught up in this spy ring and who on earth do you go to?
Where does this guy... Where's his outlet, who can he trust?
And you just think, "What would I do?"
All these human paranoias, even though
so much of society has changed. our relationship with the security
-services is still one of great distance and...
I mean, in a way, The 39 Steps pretty much contains
everything that's in a Bourne movie. It hasn't aged a minute.
That idea of velocity
and the improvising hero is very brilliant too, isn't it?
I mean, that's very attractive, that idea of the protagonist who is
desperate but somehow can turn his hand to something in the moment.
Yes, he's got all these hidden resources
that come out and help him.
Surely a real spy has to have something of that?
Oh, yes, I think so, absolutely.
But then that's the only thing that makes it unbelievable is
how on earth would a member of the public be able to fool
these spies that are going around killing each other
and he can disguise himself as a milkman
and give these two guys the slip? Would that be possible?
Don't know, not if you looked like Donat.
It's not a situation in which you found yourself in then, Stella?
No, not exactly that, no.
You're going to be saying things like this all the way through
-this programme aren't you?
-Well, that's what spying's all about.
The thing is, we can't go on any further without addressing
the elephant in the room, 007 the most popular
and enduring spy in the world, James Bond.
Who doesn't love a Bond movie?
From his first appearance in 1962's Dr No,
where he was suavely portrayed by a 30-year-old Sean Connery...
..007 has become synonymous with the British spy the world over.
Everyone's got a favourite Bond, whether it's chiselled
waxwork George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Lounge lizard, Roger Moore who rocks the linens in Moonraker.
Northern hard-nut Timothy Dalton who sweats
and punches his way through the Living Daylights.
Or more recent Bonds like the gritty Daniel Craig or post-modern
irony Bond, Pierce Brosnan, whose underwater tie-straightening
in The World Is Not Enough
shows no-one's taking this entirely seriously.
The faces change but the core elements of the series remain.
The one-liners, like this killer quip from Thunderball.
I think he got the point.
The gadgets and girls, ingeniously combined here in Live And Let Die.
And the questionable attitude to foreigners such as this
exchange from Octopussy.
Keep you in curry for a few weeks, wouldn't it?
As his inexplicable Union Jack parachute
from The Spy Who Loved Me shows, Bond loves his country.
And Britain, like the rest of the world,
it would appear, loves him back.
Stella, you said earlier on and I'm going to have to pick this up,
you don't even think he's a spy?
No, he clearly isn't a spy.
I mean, James Bond is a licensed killer
and he works, in theory anyway,
for some institution which represents itself as being MI6.
But, when you think about it, does no spying, he does not find
out intelligence which is what spies do and by the way,
nobody in British intelligence is licensed to kill.
-Well, you would say that.
-Here's your first mistake.
But basically he goes in to M and he's more or less
told his target and he's given this thin file with a photograph,
a gun and a gadget and he goes off to kill somebody.
So he should have been in the SAS?
Well, even the SAS has an organisational structure.
You don't send one bloke out into the field to face the enemy.
So the whole thing is misconceived, if it's supposed to be spying,
but it's something else, isn't it? It's an adventure story basically.
Yeah, one of the things he definitely is...is he's a very
potent fellow when Britain is maybe feeling possibly impotent.
And he has, in fact, put British intelligence on the map,
one has to admit that.
All over the world, people admire British intelligence
and they say, "Ah, James Bond."
Are people more likely to join the security services
as a result of Bond films?
I shouldn't think they're likely to be accepted.
If they think they're going to be James Bond. No.
But why have they survived?
They're so popular because they are so bonkers.
The last thing you want is a realistic film about spying
because it would mostly be form-filling
and I imagine, bureaucracy and, "Oh, you got my flights wrong.
"I'm going to have to get the train now and I've missed the 13.05."
Spies are still human beings,
and I think that's something as an audience we don't want to accept.
Yes, 007's not going to be, "I told you to book me
-"that seat by the window."
"Excuse me, this is the quiet coach."
It is peculiar though because you can watch a Bond film
in the back of car with the sound down
and know exactly what's happening.
There are sequences and set pieces and some of them
are actually constructed around a sort of shopping list of locations.
They find one and say, "This looks good,
"we could write this scene here."
Erm, that's how it worked as time moved on.
Matt, who's your favourite 007?
-I think Pierce Brosnan.
Yeah, I just think he's the only one for me
who really looks the part because Bond is a superficial character
and therefore I think he has to be enjoyed in a superficial way.
So Pierce Brosnan is suitably superficial?
I just think he looks the part, he talks the part.
-Stella, who's your favourite 007?
..cos he's got his tongue in his cheek all the way through
and I think that's the only way to treat James Bond.
Not just his own cheek, I don't think.
-I'm going to say Timothy Dalton.
Rugged Yorkshireman Timothy Dalton.
I'm a big fan of Daniel Craig, myself, cos I think they've dragged
it back into illusions of reality.
Well, they've only brightened up when Judi Dench became M, of course.
And why did Judi Dench become M do you think, Stella?
You can guess that.
But Bond films are peculiar things as well
because you can have a good Bond film
that isn't objectively a good film.
-They're such a micro-genre.
I think Moonraker is my favourite Bond film above all others
but I don't know if it's a good film.
I think the design of these films is something that's maybe had
much more influence than any other element in it.
Look around the built environment of London, you're
surrounded by buildings that were built by men that went to see these
films in the early '60s and have reproduced them in the modern world.
If you go to see Norman Foster, he's got this base by the river,
it's a huge glass building. It seems to be full of identical young
people working at desks and he sits there at a round table,
a bald man in a roll neck sweater.
All he needs is the cat.
OK, well, that's enough James Bond.
I want to now have a look at the antidote.
The coolest British spy of all, Harry Palmer.
Harry Palmer's the spy you'd like to bump into down your local.
Stylishly played by Michael Caine in The Ipcress File,
Funeral In Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain
plus a couple of '90s telly sequels,
he's a 100%, solid gold, good bloke.
Funny and likeable.
See ya later, love.
He gets the girls by actually being charming and gentlemanly.
I like England.
England likes you.
He does all the stuff you'd never see Bond doing.
The Ipcress File shows him cooking and doing a supermarket shop,
as well as showing off his taste in music.
Why don't you put a record on?
He also seems to wear eye shadow and mascara,
although this isn't ever mentioned.
The location shooting roots these films in the real world,
whether it's The Ipcress File's grotty, claustrophobic London,
or the run-down East Germany of Funeral In Berlin.
But if he's a more grounded character,
the plots are still thrilling and fantastical, all brainwashing
and madmen with super computers trying to kick off World War III.
Based on the novels of Len Deighton,
these films were made by Bond producer Harry Saltzman
and for my money have aged a hell of a lot better than 007.
Is Harry Palmer the best of British?
These films are incredibly striking, aren't they? What I love about them
-is how good they are.
-I think it's all to do
with the character, isn't it?
I think that Harry Palmer is the first post-war spy.
He's the first spy who's actually a young man rather than
somebody who's a relic of a former conflict.
He's within this world of figures who are older than him,
who he despises mainly.
He's got a very chilly attitude to them
and he's very much the new man figure in the '60s as well.
Which is a bit of getting used to.
The first thing I saw him in was Alfie, Caine.
Who's sort of this real sexist piece of work
and it is quite odd, you constantly expected him
to be far nastier to these women than he actually is.
I think he's a very rounded and human character in this.
But I think the thing I like about the Michael Caine films is
the backgrounds, the setting.
I think it's wonderful. East Berlin, for example,
is the East Berlin that I can remember looking over the wall into
in the 1970s.
Did you ever go over the wall?
I went through the wall when it was open.
I never went over the wall, I think I would have been killed.
Yeah, I did. I can remember more or less the day
that the wall was breached,
going through into East Berlin and it was, you know,
it's exactly out of these Harry Palmer films.
What's interesting in The Ipcress File is how grubby London is.
The greyness really stands out in those films.
Even when he's in popular tourist locations,
his boss' office overlooks Trafalgar Square,
but when you go into the office, it's very threadbare.
Very of its period, absolutely.
Which is what the offices were like in the 1960s when I went
first into MI5's headquarters, it was a really grubby place.
The top end of Curzon Street, full of cardboard partitions
and dirty windows and all sorts of things like that.
And a really rather horrible canteen.
That's how it was and that is represented
very well in those films.
-No giant screens and maps of the world?
-Nope, none of that.
Red telephones? Tell me there were red telephones?
No, none of that. Oh, I think we did have red telephones
but we didn't have any computer screens or anything like that.
Matt, why do you think these films stand out well?
-Cos they do, don't they?
-They do, I think there's definitely
more depth to them. And for all I think people do want escapism
and ridiculousness, equally people do like to sense
the setting you're talking about, the real world in which they live
reflected back towards them.
They're the films that I find attractive, things that you go,
"God, that's just like the place I grew up" or whatever.
Harry Palmer's presented the more realistic kind of spy,
but George Smiley, he's the real deal. Let's have a look.
Let's be honest - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is dense, whether
you prefer the 1979 TV series, where Smiley was lugubriously
played by Alec Guinness
which went on for approximately three million years.
The oldest question of all, George,
who can spy on the spies?
Get the security mob in. They'll do a job for you.
Or the shorter, but still imposing movie from 2011
where he was played by Gary Oldman
as a sort of disappointed bloodhound.
These aren't Smiley's only screen appearances.
Rupert Davies played him as a sort of messy intellectual type
you'd hate to get saddled with at a party
in The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.
And he's also in The Deadly Affair, renamed Charles Dobbs,
played by James Mason, doing his best
not to let us see his lips move.
The issues seem clearer, so does my conscience.
Stick with Tinker, Tailor though, and it becomes totally addictive.
A slow-burning but devastating betrayal of not only the thoughtful,
intellectual qualities needed to be a good spy, but its cost.
Smiley is a hollowed out man whose wife's affair is public knowledge.
Called out of retirement to investigate a traitor
in the intelligence services, it becomes apparent
that in this world you can't trust anyone, not even your friends.
Is this the real face of spying?
Don't you think it's time to recognise there is as little
worth on your side as there is on mine.
Well, first things first, TV series or the film of Tinker, Tailor?
They're both very good, aren't they?
I like both of them but I think the immersive experience,
the length of the TV adaptation and hearing people
say over and over again, "There's a mole in the circus."
I think for me that's the one.
Yeah, I have to say I find the TV series, the slow burn of it,
Smiley, Stella, is he a real spy?
Yes, John le Carre, of course, knew what it was all about.
Certainly, I think that the BBC production seemed to go on forever
and I should think half the nation would have
been completely confused about what was going on.
You switched off at the end of one week and you couldn't remember
for the life of you what had happened previously.
So, you know, great confusion but nevertheless very gripping.
I have to tell the truth and say that it's too subtle for my taste.
Even in the film adaptation, which compared to the TV
is a breeze, I was constantly getting lost.
I find the twists of it very difficult to follow.
Also, I never remember the end no matter how many times I watch it.
I can never quite remember who the mole of the circus is.
Le Carre is one of those writers who demonstrates to you that there
might be something about this job that eats the soul.
That's certainly the idea that's offered by the fictional
presentations of it.
And that's there very powerfully in the character of Smiley
who is a sort of ruin.
But it makes spy work look very, very lonely.
I think it is true to say that if you work in a secret organisation,
you can't have the same kind of easy social relationships
that most people take for granted and that goes without saying because
you can't talk about what you do and therefore that immediately cuts
you off in a sense from the normal kind of converse that you have.
If you go to your neighbours' Christmas drinks,
when the first thing anybody says, "Is what do you do?"
So, what do you say when they say what do you do?
Well, you have to give some kind of cover story for the occasion
and so Smiley is a man who has covered himself,
covered his existence all the way through his career.
The other thing that crops up in a lot of this is drink.
Well, people did drink enormously in the '60s,
even into the '70s. I mean, you would never go out for lunch
without knocking back a bottle of wine or something.
People just drank, the police drank like fish
and it was just taken for granted.
Well, that's how I'm told television used to be made, sadly not anymore.
Alcohol, that brings so many difficult issues into it,
doesn't it? Indiscretion, not just being drunk
but being hung-over as a spy must be absolutely hell.
Yeah, well, that's how it was.
But they all do still seem hung-over, don't they?
-Well, Smiley was hung-over.
-Everyone in Smiley is hung-over.
But then I suppose the other side were drunk as well
so if both sides are drinking you're all right.
-Mutually assured devastation.
-Who falls flat down first?
Mutually assured drunkenness.
Spy films were big business but wherever there are hit films,
there are cash-ins, there are rip-offs, spoofs and pastiches.
Let's have a look at some of the stuff that the British public
were supposed to lap up.
Spies were massive at the box office.
One spy in particular, and so of course, everyone wanted a go.
1964's Hot Enough For June, directed by Ralph Thomas, starred a reluctant
Dirk Bogart, appearing on the advice of his accountant,
as the lawyer-baiting 008,
drafted in by MI5 after 007 apparently meets his maker.
This lousy film follows the well established formula of girls,
glamour and thrills.
As does Jack Cardiff's The Liquidator, released the following
year, which really goes for broke with the theme tune, a full-throated
warbler direct from the lungs of Shirley Bassey, herself.
# The Liquidator! #
Subtle(!) The king of the cruddy Bond knock-off
was Canadian director Lindsay Shonteff who spent his whole career
on making utterly threadbare films
like 1977's No. 1 Of The Secret Service
AKA Her Majesty's Top Gun.
A film that aims big with stunts, sex and snappy dialogue...
GUN FIRES AND LOUD EXPLOSION
That's what I call a warm welcome.
..but fails at all three.
Two years later and we've got Andrew V McLaglen's
brilliant North Sea Hijack,
an attempt by Roger Moore to break the curse of typecasting
by playing a character who tries so hard to be the opposite of Bond.
Rufus Excalibur Ffolkes is a misanthropic recluse in a fetching
yellow mac who lives alone with his cat and really, really hates women.
This is Mary.
I like cats
and I don't like people who don't.
But perhaps the most notable Bond cash-in was 1967's Casino Royale.
Properly licensed from the Fleming novel,
it was meant to come out before Dr No
but delays lead to it being repositioned as a spoof.
It's got an eye-poppingly good cast as the extravagant title
sequence makes clear - Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven
and Orson Wells, who only appeared in the film on the condition
that he could perform magic tricks in it.
Now let's get this show off the ground.
Of course, it's a total mess.
Why was this sort of thing so hard to get right?
So why is this light-hearted spy stuff, this spoof-stuff,
why are they so difficult to get right?
A lot of those films are essentially unwatchable.
It seems you could go either two ways to get it wrong.
You could make it too expensive like Casino Royale, which has all
kinds of people and money and things thrown at it or you could do
it incredibly, very much on the cheap and neither seems to work.
They're almost impossible to parody aren't they, Bond films?
Because they are so naff, so regressive in their values,
the punch lines are so corny and the gadgets date so quickly.
It's almost like when people try and spoof The X Factor.
I mean, how do you make it more overblown than it already is?
How do you keep up? I think one of the things
that is really striking in that as well is that you could
call a character 008, stick him in your own film
and not hear from Fleming's lawyers, it's extraordinary.
A lot of the knock-off ones by directors like Lindsay Shonteff
who was the real auteur of the tuppenny-ha'penny James Bond film,
filmed probably without permits on the streets of London, mainly.
In those films, there are even scenes where you're told that
James Bond is indisposed, so you'll get Charles Vine instead.
They're all agents with rather similarly constructed names.
So another way the world's changed, it's more litigious if nothing else.
Gosh, how extraordinary. But they keep that ball in the air,
don't they, of British espionage, of spies being thrilling and exciting
and all that stuff.
In a way, one of the cute things about them is the element of bathos
that's there in the James Bond pictures.
This is some how a wildly exaggerated view of Britain's political power
in the world. That's even stronger in these films
because they can't even get it together to produce a kind of
convincing missile prop, never mind a blue streak.
Which brings me to, Stella, I was born in 1968,
I don't know how it felt to live in '60s Britain.
Was there this feeling of decline that needed counteracting
with these movies in popular culture?
I think the world was a very scary place in the 1960s.
I mean, we were all aware that it was divided into two halves
and we had hideous missiles trained on each other
and at any moment somebody might make a mistake.
Coupled with which, it was austerity Britain in those days,
so I think those were the things that people were looking for really.
Colour, glamour, glitz, foreign places.
People didn't travel very much.
Cos in a sense, one of the things that's blunted the films
is that we now all do go abroad.
I mean, I've got GPS in my telephone,
which means I know how to get from A to B.
We're all James Bond.
So if spies are our heroes in these films,
obviously, we're going to need a villain or two.
Let's have a look at some top notch bad guys.
HE LAUGHS EVILLY
The Cold War didn't really give us a set of uniformed bad guys to jeer at
but luckily we always had the Russians.
1984's The Jigsaw Man gave us these vodka-swilling hardnuts,
who properly deliver on all the cliches
whilst Arturo Venegas in The Whistle Blower, two years later,
really went to town on the dialect.
VERY THICK RUSSIAN ACCENT: The woman will make you the bacon and eggs now.
Try and resist imitating this line for yourself.
Of course, there's also the diabolical masterminds.
When Mike Myers gave us Dr Evil in 1999's Austin Powers,
it worked brilliantly because we were all so familiar with
the type of character he was spoofing.
The utterly deranged villains that James Bond squared off against
like Diamonds Are Forever's bonkers, cross-dressing Blofeld,
with his plan to control the balance of world power using nothing
less than a giant laser satellite.
In an era of mutually assured destruction at the mundane
push of a button, isn't the idea of an insane supervillain
somehow comforting when compared to real life?
Matthew, who are your favourite villains?
Blofeld, absolutely Blofeld, yes.
The bald ones, the scarred ones, the ones with the cats.
The ones that are essentially kind of Nietzschean supervillains.
So there's a kind of philosophical backing to them, they are all
people who want to either rule or destroy or eat the world.
Cos as SPECTRE, they're a secret organisation who are freelance.
The R and the E were 'revenge' and 'extortion', aren't they?
I can never remember what the rest of the acronym stands for but the
last two are 'revenge' and 'extortion.'
-I'm sure they've all...
-'Terror, revenge and extortion.'
They all get it drummed into them at the training sessions,
the away-days, the get-to-know-you weekends.
They work as propaganda, as a kid I was petrified of Russians
and Rocky 4 as well, a lot of '80s American films
and British films as well, the Russians were just seen
as almost the coldest swines that had ever walked the earth.
Well, I think it's because we expected to die in the '80s.
I think we expected to die under a table during a nuclear attack.
This is what the culture was telling me.
I'm quite happy that it didn't happen.
I have been since to the underground base near Crewe
where my part of the country would've been
administered from and seen the rows of desks rather like something from
a Bond film with a toblerone-shaped badge of office on every desk.
It was going to be Inland Revenue.
Yes, but the sinister thing is how small those offices were.
There were only going to be two people left
-from the Inland Revenue...
-Like the Ark.
-..who were going to run
-the whole thing.
-Like the Ark.
-Yes, like the Ark.
How do these films deal with the intangible nature of the Cold War
because the Cold War was simultaneously real and imagined.
I mean, it relied on people imagining
the unimaginable would become real.
Well, there are people who embody certain kinds of ideas
and their roots are in the early 20th century
where you get Fu Man Chu, where you get Dr Nikola,
these early 20th-century supervillains
and they provide a way of thinking about figures like this,
that does seep through into the real world.
I mean, the way that we talk about Osama bin Laden,
had some of the same qualities that fictional characters.
In a way, Vladimir Putin is somehow living up
to our Russian bad guy expectations.
I think he's exceeding it because he's added a homoeroticism to it.
You've got these sort of topless horseback shots, rifle shots,
hang-gliding with rare breeds of bird.
He's clearly had plastic surgery as well which is a very odd element.
He's sort of wearing it, isn't he?
He must have a sort of lair with a big screen
or he's letting everyone down.
What he does have is that kind of slightly totalitarian bad taste,
which is what the James Bond villain has
and which is something that the designer Ken Adam took
from his memories of Nazi aesthetics in 1930s Germany.
So, yes, that combination of the shark tank
but the ormolu clock, that's very Vladimir Putin.
Gold taps, red telephone, leopard skin print sofas.
Black, leather gloves.
But there is a wonderful Russian in the Harry Palmer films who...
Who wants to defect or not.
Yeah, that's right and he's always laughing
and saying, "Hello, English," to Michael Caine.
I still think though,
Goldfinger's plan is quite brilliant irradiate all of America's gold,
render it worthless, cause a run on the dollar, the collapse of world
capitalism, I think if Occupy could get their hands on the radioactive
material to pull of Goldfinger's plan, they would, wouldn't they?
Worth thinking about, you reckon?
His plan was basically austerity.
Well, we were talking about George Smiley earlier,
he's probably the most famous creation of John le Carre
but le Carre's work has been adapted into lots of films.
Let's have a look.
If you thought Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was bleak,
the other adaptation's of John le Carre's books
are no walk in the park.
Frank Pearson's 1969 film The Looking Glass War
isn't exactly subtle.
Anthony Hopkins chews his way through a 6th form-y script
that bludgeons you round the head with its moral dilemmas.
I happen to love my country.
We're fighting a very lonely battle, we're in the dark.
Nobody thanks us for it but my God, they sleep at night, don't they?
Oh, he's so conflicted, but it makes its point.
The establishment class couldn't give a toss about what
happens to the rest of us, and we're all part of their game.
It's a game to you,
and you love it.
Heavy. Angrier still is Martin Ritt's 1965 adaptation of
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold,
which is brilliant but Christ, it's gloomy.
Richard Burton plays Alec Leamas, a washed-up,
alcoholic spy who goes undercover to sow
disinformation about an East German intelligence officer.
A husk of a man, scarred by his job,
he too is a pawn of the establishment. He becomes more
and more isolated from everything and everyone, as seen here on the
world's loneliest picnic, leading to a harrowing, downbeat conclusion.
What the hell do you think spies are?
Moral philosophers measuring everything they do
against the word of God or Karl Marx?
They're not. They're just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me.
Ritt was blacklisted by Hollywood at the time
and his outrage at this is stamped through the film.
By showing us the men on the front line, Ritt and le Carre ask
the million-dollar question, "What has the Cold War turned us into?"
It's the innocents who get slaughtered.
They are furious stories and films, aren't they?
They're bleak, they're shot through with anger.
Well, that's the thesis, that there's something about this that
destroys the soul, destroys the idea of a friendship, certainly.
There's this speech towards the end of the film that is the most
ferocious statement about the espionage world that's ever
been made on film, certainly. It's absolutely savage.
It says this is a world for queers and drunks and little men
and hen-pecked husbands. It's absolutely ferocious.
I think the film is a lot angrier than the book,
even the book is stark and it's a wonderful film and it's so wonderful
that it's very difficult to watch I think.
But I think it expresses the anger of its maker
rather than anything real about the intelligence world.
It's a very powerful film, Richard Burton.
I don't know how old he is in that
because you never can quite locate how old Richard Burton is in a film.
He's craggy, he looks defeated and broken.
-It's a strong meat that movie.
-It's good though, I think
these films are really good for educating the public
about what the reality of these things does cos it's very easy
to see espionage as a distant land but it still involves human beings.
He's operating on a level that most of us will never experience,
but it's taken a toll on his normal, everyday life and he's flat.
I find the le Carre stories, if they're done well,
you don't have the speech we saw with Anthony Hopkins there
saying, "It's all a game, isn't it."
They tell you that anyway.
You don't need a character to actually articulate that idea.
It's so effective though when someone says it.
I find myself, when watching it back, going,
"Mm, yeah, these rotters."
I'm so easily manipulated by stuff like that.
Could you really not trust anybody?
No, of course, I mean, that's nonsense.
You can't work in an organisation where you can't trust anybody.
-That's absolute nonsense.
-I worked at the Labour Party for a while
and I don't know how I managed it.
Yeah, but political parties are very different.
John le Carre isn't the only person to write supposedly realistic
spy fiction. We also have the more amped up straight-to-video,
bargain bucket version, maybe in the form of Frederick Forsyth.
Frederick Forsyth's story is like the go large,
Day-Glo versions of John le Carre's.
Films like 1974's The Odessa File where Jon Voight plays a young
German journalist on the trail of an organisation of ex-Nazis.
A sort of spy meets 'man on a mission' thrillers
that deliver action and excitement
with a frisson of moral ambiguity for added spice.
Look at yourself, strong and healthy, virile, blond, blue-eyed,
that's who you're working for.
Voight's German accent is pure Schwarzenegger here.
I said, sit down.
Forsyth loves mavericks, men who get things done their own way
like Edward Fox's dapper title character in 1973's
The Day Of The Jackal,
who you sort of end up rooting for, even though his mission involves
killing Charles de Gaulle, played here by a watermelon.
Perhaps the most fun is 1987's The Fourth Protocol
where everyone's a maverick.
Michael Caine plays John Preston, a maverick MI5 agent on a mission to
stop maverick KGB operative Valeri Petrofsky played by Pierce Brosnan -
he got better cars in the Bond series -
from detonating a nuclear weapon on a us airbase
This is the ultimate man film. It's full of man dialogue.
Nastrovia. That's Russky for 'up yours.'
Oh, Max Headroom.
And tortured man characters like Petrofsky
who's such a bloody maverick he's even bisexual.
It's hard to pick a favourite scene. How about when Pierce murders
a man he seduces before kicking back
with a scotch and watching the wrestling?
Or the bafflingly erotic scene in which Pierce
and Joanna Cassidy build a nuclear bomb in the kitchen,
but amidst the testosterone, the Brookside Close-style locations,
Russian agents who speak with American accents.
IN AMERICAN ACCENT: How long have we known each other?
Get to the point, Pavel Petrovic.
Not to mention Pierce's wonderful stab at a Russian accent.
IN BAD RUSSIAN ACCENT: Specialising in the design
and construction of atomic shells. I know, Valerie Petrofsky.
-How do you do?
-How do you do?
There's a distrust of the establishment that's pure le Carre.
A sense that the powers that be are playing a game
and whatever side you're on is irrelevant.
Was Forsyth right to be so cynical?
You could well become the next chairman of the KGB.
Preston, you are out of your depth.
It's all a game to you, isn't it?
Did these films have anything to say or are they just entertainment?
Is that, 'it's just a game,'
is that grafted on because that's what we're meant to think?
That's pretty dead and empty, isn't it?
But there is a sort of despair that's present in these films
that feels like something of its moment
and that's there in le Carre too.
You know, a sense that maybe the world hasn't got long left.
And also there's that celebration of the absolute individual,
in a way these people are more individual than James Bond,
in their own way.
But then The Fourth Protocol, the fate of the world hangs
on a traffic jam on the A11, so it's quite realistic in that respect.
And we also get to see Kim Philby executed
and he's played by Penelope Heath's gardener from To The Manor Born.
He presumably goes back there and nicks her hydrangeas.
They're wishful films to an extent.
You do get the feeling that Frederick Forsyth really didn't like
Charles de Gaulle and wishes that the Jackal had managed
to achieve his mission.
You also feel that he might have wanted to point the gun
at the protesters on the barricades in '68 as well as de Gaulle.
They're also technique films, aren't they?
There's an awful lot about putting the rifle together
and putting the bomb together and all that sort of stuff.
Cos his books are famously well researched,
that was a thing that Forsyth made a big point of, wasn't it,
that he'd done the homework and he's figured this stuff out.
I think the interest is in the psychology of the characters
involved. There's a fascinating scene in The Fourth Protocol where a guy
working within the security services has been discovered to be slipping
papers to the South African security services
and weeps when he's discovered. And that strikes me...
That's fascinating, that scene.
And also...Pierce Brosnan as this Russian villain who is not
only a murderer but worse than that, he's bisexual(!)
And thus, presumably has to be... That's why he has to be shot.
-Well, he's a double agent.
-That's right. Yes, yes, he is.
Of course, spies weren't just on the big screen, they were on the small
screen as well and this is a lot of
the kind of telly I grew up watching.
If spy movies were wild, spy TV shows were deranged.
In the '60s and '70s, the schedules were full of spy-fi series
featuring no end of outlandish, weirded out espionage adventures.
Best of the lot was The Prisoner, a completely inexplicable
head-scratcher starring Patrick McGoohan as an ex-spy
trying to escape the psychedelic, logic-defying Village
in which he has been imprisoned.
The Avengers started life as a pretty straight-laced spy
series that got progressively odder.
Leading to a series finale where John Steed
and his pal Tara King are blasted into space in a home-made rocket.
It also made stars of future Bond girls Diana Rigg
and Honor Blackman, whose role in Goldfinger was cheekily referenced.
Mrs Dale, how nice of her to remember me.
What can she be doing in Fort Knox?
Even Doctor Who got in on the act,
ditching the space adventures in the early '70s for military-backed,
gadget strewn, action stories, all set in the near future Britain.
John Pertwee actually owned this hideous car
and insisted it be included in the show.
ITV revelled in this stuff, thanks to a string of virtually identical
but fun shows from Lew Grade's ITC stable,
including the likes of The Champions in which three intelligence
operatives handily get powers of ESP after a plane crash in Tibet,
enabling them not just to solve crimes but cheat at golf as well.
These shows were phenomenally popular.
Why do we like our spy stories cut with fantasy?
Well, yes, why do we like our spy stories cut with fantasy?
There's a formula here, isn't there? They're wearing the spy clothes,
they've got '60s psychedelia in. This must be much to do with
the advent of colour television as much as anything else.
That you've got to have spectacular things to look at.
You've got a wobbly British film industry
that can't quite make the films it could
and a lot of very talented directors who can't get jobs on big films
so end up doing these production line series.
So, that's why a lot of those ITV series look more expensive
than they should because they're all made by proper film directors.
The Prisoner is my favourite TV series probably of all time.
It's the most extraordinary... Matt, are you a fan of The Prisoner?
I watched it a couple of times as a kid and I couldn't understand it.
-I don't know that you're supposed to.
-I think you're worrying too much
about not understanding things. Nobody understands The Prisoner.
There was something very sinister about it.
Children shouldn't be watching stuff like that.
I had a maths teacher who used to wear 'I'm not a number'
and we all asked him what it was
and he said it was a thing called The Prisoner and he lent it to us
on video and I took it back and said, "What you watching this for?"
None of us could understand it.
It's the most extraordinary cultural artefact because McGoohan had
turned down being Bond so it's sort of about him resigning.
It's about his former character, John Drake star of Danger Man,
being sent to this strange, psychedelic island prison
in Wales or somewhere.
But I think it shows the counter-cultural influence as well.
You know, there's LSD in the veins of some of these programmes
and mainly that reflects something about the stories about brainwashing
and the use of narcotics by intelligence people as well.
This idea that you might not quite know where you are
or what your own mind is.
Is The Prisoner on an island somewhere,
or is he locked up in a hotel room with a syringe in his arm
and an interrogator standing around him and a wet towel over his head?
We'll never know cos they only made the 17
and they didn't get to answer that question.
It wasn't just on telly that spying had become psychedelic,
it was in the movies as well.
Spies need the latest tech
but in the '60s and '70s,
modernity often went hand-in-hand with psychedelia and even paranoia.
In The Ipcress File, the brainwashing sound effects
were created using the very latest electronic music techniques,
by the Radiophonic Workshop, to properly mind-expanding effect.
ELECTRONIC SLIDE WHISTLE TONE PLAYS
And as for the scene where Harry takes off his glasses,
who knew short-sightedness could be so groovy?
Modesty Blaise might be the most psychedelic spy film ever made.
Not only does Dirk Bogarde's villainous Gabriel have some
of the least practical eyewear in cinema history, he's also
got truly headache-inducing taste in interior decorations.
And the cellar in which he imprisons Monica Vitti's title character,
warps and disorientates like a magic eye puzzle.
"Oh, I think it's a dolphin, man."
But it was also a good shorthand for alienation in the sense
that events are taking place in a world you cannot understand
or make sense of. Look at all this kit in Some Girls Do,
do you know what all those knobs do? Would you want to?
Bond, of course, would've died years ago
if he didn't have a steady supply of gadgets at his disposal,
such as the incredible jetpack from Thunderball, which propels him
to safety in the most exciting way possible.
This is techno-paranoia flipped on its head and made aspirational.
It's it reassuring that Britain can rely on having the coolest stuff
when we need it?
Technology, obviously though, must be
important to the intelligent services, Stella?
Yes, it's always been important...
I'm looking at your glasses now wondering what they do.
And of course continues to be, you know, as technologies advance
and particularly communications technology,
then it's equally important and much, much more complicated.
I mean, some of those gadgets... Do you think they reflect the fact
that during the Cold War, we still thought that the Soviet Union was up
on a level with us in technology? It was only when the Cold War finished
that we realised that a lot of their technological basis was bust.
It must do and it must in order for the Soviet Union to be a threat,
it's got to have snazzy gadgets.
Yeah. And it had certain snazzy gadgets
but ultimately they didn't work as well as ours.
Yeah, yeah. What's your favourite spy movie gadget, Stella?
Here we have an array of possibilities.
I mean, a car with an ejector seat and hubcaps that do stuff and guns
that come out of the headlights, what more can you want really?
I would never remember which of these buttons works what
so I'd be ejecting myself all over the place.
As long as it's got a parachute attached to it
so you don't land in a field without any help.
Well it's ejecting your passenger, isn't it? That's what it's for.
Oh, I see.
-Well, you see how useful...
-What will they think of next?
Let's not forget though that some of these films were
made in the era of Strategic Defence Initiative
when people were talking very seriously about blasting nuclear
missiles out of space with laser beams.
It's not that far from it, is it?
I think the piece of technology I'd like most to experience is
the Harry Palmer fake Albanian brainwashing room
because there you get to, as we heard, you get to listen to the work
of Desmond Briscoe of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in your ears,
and a light display that you'd have to go to the ICA, or The UFO Club
in Notting Hill to experience in the mid-1960s.
A bit like a night out with Andy Warhol.
The car with ejector seat is the thing I'd want more than
anything else, the odd long drive where you think, "Go on, hop it."
I mean, we could talk about gadgets all day but another thing
I'd really like to talk about is this distrust of the establishment.
But this crops up in a lot of films.
If all these spy films have one thing in common,
it's that they all want to stick it to the man.
This scene from 1966's The Quiller Memorandum crops up time and again.
Two posh chaps having lunch,
not giving a toss about the hell they're inflicting on everyone else.
-Shame about KLJ.
-How was he killed?
Long shot in spine, actually. 9.3, same as Metzler.
-How's your lunch?
By the time we get to Simon Langton's The Whistle Blower,
20 years later, the establishment is the enemy.
Michael Caine's attempts to find out how his son died
from the intelligence services are thwarted at every turn,
which means he gets to do his super wobbly emotional voice.
VERY EMOTIONAL: You expect me to shut up about the fact that my son,
among other innocents, were expendable in this charade?
But the establishment were already having the piss royally taken
out of them as early as 1959 with Carol Reed's hilarious
Graham Greene adaptation Our Man In Havana.
Alec Guinness plays a vacuum cleaner salesman recruited as a spy
by Noel Coward, who couldn't go incognito if he tried,
so doesn't bother.
Not knowing where to start, he just makes up all his reports.
Here the establishment aren't corrupt or secretive,
All going well?
I think we've got the Caribbean network sewn up.
Just put me in the picture.
I think you'll find the West Indies are over here, sir.
I always mix up the East and the West Indies.
Where does this distrust of our betters come from?
-IMITATING NOEL COWARD:
-Oh, yes, Noel Coward. Just marvellous.
If Noel Coward's in it, I'll watch it, basically.
Do these films reflect a sort of public scepticism
about the Cold War do we think?
I mean, Our Man In Havana is a profoundly cynical movie.
But it reflected Graham Greene's scepticism
about the intelligence services that he'd worked in
and was getting his own back in a sense by sending them up.
There's a mistrust of officialdom generally in that post-war period,
so people were worried about what they called
"the disease British amateurism,"
the idea that important jobs were being done
by just plausible types who weren't really very good at them,
so the bosses we see in Our Man In Havana are kind of an embodiment
-of that I think.
-It was done in a comical way as well, isn't it,
so the two fellas having lunch
and then saying "How's your breakfast," after asking how
he'd been shot and getting the East and the West Indies wrong.
They're poking fun at them but there's also...
They've still got the status. They're still laughing at the lot
that the rest of us have to live.
Stella, you lead a push to make the intelligence services more
open about their work. I mean, these films,
they're not doing that, are they?
No, I mean, it wasn't a reaction to films I must say.
It was really a reaction to the end of the Cold War and that was
why when I was appointed director general and turned out to be
a woman, not anything like these guys in these films,
there was quite a sharp, amazed reaction
and the tabloid newspapers all kicked off trying to take
my photograph calling me a housewife super spy and suchlike,
which I think reflects something that people had got
-from all this stuff.
-There are times though when I watch these films
where I'm reassured that it's chaps and "chaps having lunch, I say."
They're not sat there going, "Oh, Christ, the Russians have got
"the jump on us." You know, they're "Pass the pepper, please."
If they would have been the ones in the nuclear bunker, though,
we would have been on the other side. THEY LAUGH
So, a lot of the films we're talking about make a play at being
realistic but some of them are actually based on real events
in British spy history. Let's have a look at a few examples.
The real world of spying creeps into the movies all the time.
Infamous defector Kim Philby of Cambridge Spies fame
turns up at the beginning of The Fourth Protocol.
We can tell he's a wrong'un, he's got a folder with a skull on it.
Before being unceremoniously bumped off. Pow. Take that, Philby.
And 1984's The Jigsaw Man features the ingeniously named
Phil Kimberley, a British defector to the KGB who receives plastic
surgery to go undercover in Britain and steal some documents,
cunningly disguised as popular British actor, Michael Caine.
1964's Ring Of Spies, on the other hand, is very closely
based on the then incredibly recent Portland Spy Ring.
It's got all your favourite spy movie bits - radio into Moscow,
blonde, Russian temptresses, microdots hidden in books,
secret handovers and it's got a terrifying opening
and closing voiceover, presumably designed to obliterate any trust
you might still have in your fellow man.
'But there are still more in our midst,
'looking and acting like ordinary citizens.
'Who knows, there may be a spy willing or unwilling
'in this very theatre, perhaps in the very row where you are sitting.'
But its portrayal of Harry Houghton, the treacherous navy clerk
who leaks military secrets to the Soviets, is incredibly even-handed,
played by Bernard Lee, M from the Bond series, he's a lonely
alcoholic sad sack, who earns our pity rather than our condemnation.
He's ultimately undone by the way he gets a bit flashy in his local pub,
thanks to his new-found importance in financial security.
I mean, we're VIPs, aren't we?
I mean we are, aren't we, Harry?
He's busted in the end, but can we honestly say that in his shoes,
we wouldn't be tempted to do the same?
So Ring Of Spies ends there with lots of Special Branch or
whatever, nabbing those people.
How realistic is that film to the case?
It's presented as kind of verite, really.
Yes, that film was shown as a sort of training movie
when I first joined.
As an example of the kind of thing that went on.
However, for me, there's a disappointment there in that very
little of the real investigation is shown.
It focuses a lot on Houghton and Gee and their relationship.
It looks as though all that happened
really was a load of Special Branch officers saw that he was spending
a lot of money in a pub and then went out and arrested him,
whereas an awful lot of investigation went on
behind the scenes.
I'm fascinated that you were shown it as a training film
because it might show you how to be a spy,
but it doesn't really show you how to catch one.
No, well, that wasn't the point. I think it came after lectures
about illegals and I suppose it was a kind of light relief after it.
We weren't supposed to be learning from it.
Well, they reflect the paranoia of the post-Cambridge Spy areas,
don't they? James Bond's our elephant in the room
with spy movies. The Cambridge Spies are the other thing
-in the real world, aren't they?
And I mean, the Cambridge Spies existed.
Many people in the service I joined had known them
and there was this sense of really fundamental treachery
and the fear of how easy it has been for the Russians
to recruit the Cambridge Spies and how there might be many more
-around that we didn't yet know.
-There should be a sequel to this
because I think when these guys got out of jail they married each other.
It's a happy ending.
But I don't know whether it's a happy ending or not.
Well, we've talked about all the things these films do really,
really well, but the one thing they're not so hot on
is their attitude to women.
Women's roles in spy films are really limited, aren't they?
Can I help you?
Yes, my name is Bond, James Bond, I'm looking for Dr Goodhead.
You just found her.
Yes, James, a woman with a professional qualification,
how did she slip through the net?
But Bond's surprise in Moonraker does reflect the fact that
spying in these films is very much a man's world.
There were outliers like a string of WW2 films,
such as 1950s Odette which showed female SOE operatives bravely
carrying out crucial resistance missions.
You have a message from London for Milo.
About the RAF.
Or 1966's tongue-in-cheek Modesty Blaise
which starred Monica Vitti as a reformed femme fatale on a mission
to prevent a diamond heist. But for the most part, the women in these
films either accessorize the lives of male spies or complicate them
like Harriet Andersson's Ann Dobbs in 1966's The Deadly Affair.
Why don't you settle our own squalid, little mess
by telling me I'm a nymphomaniac slut!
Kick me out and let me do what I'm going to do,
but without the feeling that I'm crucifying a saint!
But most films took their lead from the Bond girl
such as 1967's Deadlier Than The Male.
This film rebooted the popular Bulldog Drummond character
from the 1920s for a post-Bond audience.
Complete with exploding cigars...
..but its sexual politics are rooted in an earlier age.
The female characters here are purely decorative.
Ooh, ask the young lady to come down again, will you?
All there for our hero to kiss noisily.
The film even got an X-certificate due to the censor's concerns over
a scene where a woman actually tortures a man.
HE GASPS Oh!
In the real world, did women really get such a raw deal?
'The cigars were bought from the old gate bomb specialist by a bird.
'No information on the bird, except she was a looker.'
Well, I mean, Stella, here you are,
a former director general of MI5, what do you make of all this?
In these films, women don't have particularly strong roles,
but surely they're crucial to espionage?
When I joined MI5, which was in the late 1960s,
women were in a sort of second...Moneypenny-type situation.
There were two career structures
and the Moneypennys looking after the papers, doing the analysis,
if they thought you were quite bright, was what women did.
The men went out and did the hard end of the intelligence work.
That began to change during the '70s,
and eventually women broke through with women's lib
and sex discrimination legislation and all that stuff.
So by the end of '70s, early '80s, women were on a par
with men in the intelligence services, particularly in MI5.
That's fascinating that it would have taken legislation
and that kind of social change
cos surely women are as good as spying as anybody else.
Well, of course they are, but it was a mindset in the 1960s,
you hardly worked after you got married and you certainly didn't
work after you'd had children when I first started out in my career.
So there was an expectation that women,
particularly middle class women, were going to stay at home,
look after the kids and do the flowers
and that was the social expectation.
And the intelligence services were behind in their social expectations.
Vernon Kell, who ran the show in the war years
and before, said that of the women who worked for him,
he wanted them to come from good families and have good legs.
"I like my gals to have good legs," he said.
-Which I think was a bit hazardous...
-But hang on a minute,
men were supposed to be able to make notes on their shirt cuff
while riding horseback, so you see, we're going back a long way now.
That's quite a niche skill, isn't it?
So how did you feel when in the Bond films art reflected reality
and Judi Dench is M?
I thought that was wonderful, I must say, and about time too.
If you look at the early films in which she is M,
she's quite glamorous, isn't she?
She's a kind of half Bond girl, really.
In the latest one, of course, she's really matured into a proper
runner of an organisation and a giver of orders
and suchlike which of course is what a DG does.
And you can identify with her in the last film?
I can identify, yes.
Fantastic. That's about all we've got time for really
but I can't leave it without asking you,
what's your favourite spy movie and why?
It's Skyfall, but I loved how raw and nasty and dirty it was.
I thought it was a perfect modern spy film.
I think it's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold for its ferocity
and its bleakness and its melancholy.
And for the dark night of the soul that you're on with Richard Burton,
whether it's accurate or not I don't know
but it's certainly the kind of spy film
that Dostoyevsky could have made.
-Our Man In Havana, without a doubt, for Noel Coward's
representation of the MI6 operative in that era and particularly
for Alec Guinness, early playing the spy man
who absolutely fails to do it effectively
and for all the sort of Havana scenes. I think it's wonderful.
OK, I'm going Moonraker.
Well, all that remains for me to say is to say thank you
to my guests, Matt Forde, Stella Rimmington and Matthew Sweet
and I'm off to radio our findings back to Moscow.
Be seeing you.
Comedian and history buff Al Murray is joined by former director of MI5 Dame Stella Rimington, political comedian Matt Forde and film expert Matthew Sweet for a fresh look at the great British spy movie. This round-table discussion looks at the films themselves - not to mention the spies that star in them - and uses them as a lens on the British people, our fear of the world and our changing views of espionage over the decades.
As well as discussing the inevitable moral ambiguity, the limited female roles and general distrust of the intelligence community, we also find out what Dame Stella Rimington, the real M, actually thinks about James Bond, what you really say at a party when someone inevitably asks what you do, the spy gadget she'd really like to get her hands on, and the film that was genuinely used as a training movie when she first joined the service.