» » The Quiller Memorandum (1966)

Short summary

Two British agents are murdered by a mysterious Neo-Nazi organization in West Berlin. The British Secret Service sends agent Quiller to investigate. Soon Quiller is confronted with Neo-Nazi chief "Oktober" and involved in a dangerous game where each side tries to find out the enemy's headquarters at any price.

The source novel "The Berlin Memorandum" is billed in the credits as being by Adam Hall. This is a nom de plume for author Trevor Dudley Smith.

In adapting (Trevor Dudley Smith writing under the nom de guerre of) Adam Hall's novel "The Berlin Memorandum", Screenwriter Harold Pinter altered the emphasis of the book to be less a spy thriller and more a meditation on the human condition, and the duplicitous nature of identity.

The theme music played throughout this movie was recorded by Matt Monro as "Wednesday's Child". The song is playing on the radio in the reception of Quiller's hotel, and appears on several of Monro's albums.

The score was composed by John Barry, who became notable for the early James Bond spy movie soundtracks. Barry composed the score for this movie between Operacja 'Piorun' (1965) and Zyje sie tylko dwa razy (1967).

George Segal is the only actor to play the character Quiller on film.

BBC produced a television series, Quiller (1975), about the Quiller character.

Even though this movie was made over twenty years after the end of World War II, the devastation of Berlin was so vast, the set decorators weren't required to "re-create" exterior areas for filming, just interiors.

One of four spy movies that Senta Berger appeared in, in 1966. The others being Our Man in Marrakesh (1966), Mak równiez jest kwiatem (1966), and The Ambushers (1967).

Sir Alec Guinness appeared in this espionage movie thirteen years before he played John le Carré's famous spy character George Smiley in Druciarz, krawiec, zolnierz, szpieg (1979).

Charlton Heston was courted to play Quiller, and was keen to work with a Harold Pinter script, but it didn't work out.

This movie received three BAFTA nominations: Best British Screenplay, Best British Art Direction (Colour), and Best British Film Editing, but failed to win any.

The source novel "The Berlin Memorandum" won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel in 1966. The book was also awarded the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière.

The name of the intelligence agency that Quiller (George Segal) worked for was MI6.

The movie's themes song, "Wednesday's Child", can be heard playing on a radio when Quiller enters his hotel (with the Phoenix members outside).

After Operacja Kusza (1965), this was Director Michael Anderson's second consecutive espionage movie.

George Sanders and Robert Helpmann received "guest star" credits.

Max von Sydow (Oktober) portrayed the famous spy movie villain character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the unofficial James Bond movie, Nigdy nie mów nigdy (1983).

This movie was released a year after the source novel "The Berlin Memorandum" by Trevor Dudley Smith (as Adam Hall) was published.

The movie's major cast feature two Georges, George Segal and George Sanders, as well as two Roberts, Robert Flemyng and Sir Robert Helpmann.

Michael Jayston is the second (and as of 2017) last actor to play the character, Quiller, having done so on the television series Quiller (1975).

The telephone number Quiller tells Inga To remember is 219862.

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Wizard
    This isn't your average James Bond knockoff spy thriller; the fact that the screenplay is by playwright Harold Pinter is the first clue. It's a bit strange to see such exquisitely Pinter-esque dialogue (the laconic, seemingly innocuous sentences; the profound silences; the syntax that isn't quite how real people actually talk) in a spy movie, but it really works.

    Quiller isn't your average spy. He's played by George Segal with a cool superficiality that works very nicely; he doesn't go charging in with guns blazing -- he doesn't even carry a gun -- and the one time he does try to fight his way out of a sticky spot, he gets pounded. The other standouts in the cast are Alec Guinness as Quiller's controller, and Max von Sydow as the leader of the neo-Nazi cell that Quiller is attempting to crack.

    At first glance, the movie is deeply frustrating, and the script appears full of holes, but in fact, it's so smart that it assumes the audience is bright enough to pick up on the breadcrumb trail of clues that it's actually leaving. All in all, I recommend it, but with reservations. If you like tidy conclusions and have limited patience with extreme subtlety, this may not be to your taste.
  • comment
    • Author: Reemiel
    THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM (3 outta 5 stars)

    The 1960s saw a plethora of two kinds of spy movies: the outrageous semi-serious James Bond ripoffs (like the Flint and Matt Helm movies) and the very dry, methodical ones that were more talk than action (mostly John Le Carre and Alistair MacLean adaptations). This is one of the better examples of the talky thrillers. Not that the movie is boring... there is lots of good, cat-and-mouse dialogue courtesy of playwright Harold Pinter. George Segal plays the hero, an undercover spy who goes to West Berlin to find out who killed his predecessor... who was on the trail of modern-day Nazis. Segal has surprisingly little difficulty in finding himself right in the thick of things... being captured and drugged by the baddies... and even having time for a romance with a German schoolteacher who may know more than she lets on. Parts of the movie reminded me a lot of the classic "The Third Man"... which I think the director was trying to emulate at times. Well, this is not quite a classic of that caliber but it is a very well-written and smoothly-paced "old school" thriller. Segal makes a very cool lead... witty and sarcastic, yet with a vulnerable side, too.
  • comment
    • Author: Shak
    An almost unrecognizable George Segal stars in "The Quiller Memorandum," set in Berlin and made 40 years ago. Segal is a very young man in this, with that flippant, relaxed quality that made him so popular. This time he's a spy trying to get the location of a neo-Nazi organization. The cast is full of familiar faces: Alec Guinness, who doesn't have much of a role, George Sanders, who has even less of one, Max von Sydow in what was to become a very familiar part for him, Robert Helpmann, Robert Flemyng, and the beautiful, enigmatic Senta Berger.

    This is a very good spy movie. Spy movies were the "in" thing in the '60s. This one doesn't have gadgets and goes more for subtlety. The last 30 minutes are tense and exciting, and the last scene, loaded with subtext, is just great.
  • comment
    • Author: net rider
    How did I miss this film until just recently? What a difference to the ludicrous James Helm/Matt Bond (or is it the other way round?) movies.

    The Cold War atmosphere in Germany at the time was perfectly captured. I was there with the British Armed Forces from Jan 1961 until Sept 1964, and remember it well, and old memories came flooding back.

    Not that I was a spy, but the first thing we were told on our arrival in Germany was that we were only there to give the Yanks an extra six minutes to prepare for, and retaliate to, a nuclear attack. Just how we were supposed to do that no one knew. Then we were told (as people tell their kids today) not to talk to strange men. Presumably they meant Communists.

    In the British Section of West Germany, everything appeared normal, but the claustrophobic atmosphere of Berlin with the Wall and checkpoints ever present, was different. There was always the feeling of paranoia, of someone watching you. This movie brought it all back.

    I'm well aware that "The Quiller Memorandum" was not a perfect representation of reality, but it's a damn sight closer to it than "Goldfinger" and all other similar types of pap. Spying is mostly a secretive, lonely occupation in which James Bond and Matt Helm wouldn't last a minute.
  • comment
    • Author: Thetalas
    This film has special meaning for me as I was living in Berlin during the filming and, subsequent screening in the city. Mind you, in 1966-67 the Wall was there, East German border guards and a definite (cold war) cloud hanging over the city. I loved seeing and feeling the night shots in this film and, as it was shot on location, the sense of reality was heightened for me. Very eerie film score, I believe John Barry did it but, I'm not sure. George Segal was good at digging for information without gadgets. A bit too sardonic at times, I think his character wanted to be elsewhere, clashing with KGB agents instead of ferreting out neo-nazis. I feel this film much more typified real counter espionage in the 60's as opposed to the early Bond flicks (which I love, by the way). Senta Berger was gorgeous! And, the final scene (with her and Segal) is done extremely well (won't spoil it for those who still wish to see fully sums up the film, the tension filled times and cold war-era Germany). Also contains one of the final appearences of George Sanders in a brief role, a classic in his own right!
  • comment
    • Author: Zeus Wooden
    This isn't your standard spy film with lots of gunplay, outrageous villains, and explosions. It's a more realistic or credible portrayal of how a single character copes with trying to get information in a dangerous environment. The characters and dialog are well-written and most roles are nicely acted. I found it an interesting and pleasant change of pace from the usual spy film, sort of in the realm of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (but not quite as good).
  • comment
    • Author: Vut
    Released at a time when the larger-than-life type of spy movie (the James Bond series) was in full swing and splashy, satirical ones (such as "Our Man Flynt" and "The Silencers") were about to take off, this is a quieter, more down-to-earth and realistic effort. Segal plays a secret agent assigned to ferret out the headquarters of a Neo-Nazi movement in Berlin. His two predecessors were killed off in their attempts, but he nevertheless proceeds with headstrong (perhaps even bullheaded) confidence without the aid of cover or even a firearm! His investigations (and baiting) lead him to a pretty schoolteacher (Berger) who he immediately takes a liking to and who may be of assistance to him in his quest. Before long, his purposefully clumsy nosing around leads to his capture and interrogation by a very elegantly menacing von Sydow, who wants to know where Segal's own headquarters is! When drug-induced questioning fails to produce results, Segal is booted to the river, but he isn't quite ready to give in yet. He recruits Berger to help him infiltrate the Neo-Nazis and discover their base of operations, but, once again, is thwarted. Finally, he is placed in the no-win position of either choosing to aid von Sydow or allowing Berger to be murdered. The film illustrates the never-ending game of spying and the futility that results as each mission is only accomplished in its own realm, but the big picture goes on and on with little or no resolution. Segal is an unusual actor to be cast as a spy, but his quirky approach and his talent for repartee do assist him in retaining interest (even if its at the expense of the character as originally conceived in the source novels.) Guinness appears as Segal's superior and offers a great deal of presence and class. Von Sydow (one of the few actors to have recovered from playing Jesus Christ and gone on to a varied and lengthy career) is excellent. He brings graceful authority and steely determination to his role. His virtual army of nearly silent, oddball henchmen add to the flavor of paranoia and nervousness. Berger is luminous and exceedingly solid in a complicated role. Always under-appreciated by U.S. audiences, it's a relief to know that she's had a major impact on the German film community in later years. Special guests Sanders and Helpmann bring their special brand of haughty authority to their roles as members of British Intelligence. The film magnificently utilizes West German locations to bring the story to life. Widescreen viewing is a must, if possible, if for no other reason than to fully glimpse the extraordinary stadium built by Hitler for the 1936 Olympic games. The film has that beautiful, pristine look that seems to only come about in mid-60's cinema, made even more so by the clean appearance and tailored lines of the clothing on the supporting cast and the extras. By day, the city is presented so beautifully, it's hard to imagine that such ugly things are going on amidst it. Composer Barry provides an atmospheric score (though one that is somewhat of a departure from the notes and instruments used in his more famous pieces), but silence is put to good use as well. Is there another film with as many sequences of extended, audible footsteps? Fans of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" will notice that film's Mr. Slugworth (Meisner) in a small role as the operator of a swim club (which features some memorably husky, "master race" swimmers emerging from the pool.) The film's screenplay (by noted playwright Pinter) reuses to spoon feed the audience, rather requiring that they rely on their instinct and attention span to pick up the threads of the plot.
  • comment
    • Author: Spilberg
    Other viewers have said it all: it is a good movie and more interestingly it is a different kind of spy movie. It is credible. The shooting on location in Berlin makes it that much more thrilling.

    Good acting. Fantastic last 30 minutes where I have rarely felt so tense so the suspense was intense: great chase in the streets of Berlin but in a different way from James Bond...

    Definitely worth seeing. You won't be disappointed.

    Final note: there is no stupid romance to spoil the film. The ending in itself contributes to the film's value (you will see).

    My vote: 8 / 10.
  • comment
    • Author: Makaitist
    In the 60's, in Berlin, two British agents that are investigating a Neonazi ring are murdered. The Chief of the Secret Service Pol (Alec Guinness) summons the efficient agent Quiller (George Segal) to investigate the location of organization's headquarter. He contacts the teacher Inge Lindt (Senta Berger) expecting to get some clues to be followed and soon he is abducted the the leader Oktober (Max von Sydow) and his men. Oktober also wants to know the location of the British base in Germany and uses drugs in Quiller to get the information but the skilled agent resists. Quiller has a love affair with Inge and they seek out the location of Oktober. When they find, Quiller gives the phone number of his base to Inge and investigates the place. But soon he finds that she has been kidnapped and Oktober gives a couple of hours to him to give the location of the site; otherwise Inge and him will be killed. What will Quiller do?

    "The Quiller Memorandum" is a dated, but still good spy movie. The cast is exceptional, with George Segal, Alec Guinness, Max von Sydow, George Sanders and one of the most beautiful and talented actresses ever, Senta Berger. The ambiguity of the conclusion is very clear for me but open to interpretation. My vote is seven.

    Title (Brazil): "A Morte Não Manda Aviso" ("The Death does not Send Warn")
  • comment
    • Author: Thabel
    Very satisfying spy flick which, if it grabs you, may haunt you for a long time. Perfect and slightly ironic ending. Excellent musical score too.
  • comment
    • Author: Faulkree
    Having just read the novel, it's impossible to watch this without its influence and I found the screen version incredibly disappointing. I'm generally pretty forgiving of film adaptations of novels, but the changes that were made just do not make sense. George Segal's Quiller isn't intense, smart, calculating--qualities Quiller is known for--instead he comes across as a doofus by comparison, better suited to sports-writing or boxing, completely lacking in cunning. The original, primary mission has been completely omitted. Inga is unrecognizable and has been changed to the point of uselessness. Visually, the film was rather stunning, but the magical soft focus that appears every time Inga is in the frame is silly. It's not my intention to be obnoxious and list every point in the movie that strays from the book, but it's truly a shame that such well-crafted material--intriguing back stories, superior spy tactics--is wasted here. Really sad. A much better example of a spy novel-to-film adaptation would be Our Man in Havana, also starring Alec Guinness.
  • comment
    • Author: Insanity
    A leisurely spy thriller both in terms of plot, dialogue and character development, this movie still adds up to greater than the sum of its parts.

    Chief among the parts are the two opposing chiefs of Max von Sydow as Oktober (charming neo-Nazi bad guy) and Alec Guiness as Pol (cold-hearted English good guy). Both of these fine actors do excellent work with a few scenes. Oktober is the more flamboyant and clichéd part, but von Sydow puts his stamp on it. Pol is all business and a bit of a pedant, and Guiness brings his usual wit and intelligence.

    George Segal does interesting, and quite good work, as the lead. Perhaps those who can only recall Segal's recent actor career in comedy/sitcom roles have not caught his work in earlier dramatic films. (I highly recommend Bye Bye Braverman, a black comedy, to see his subtle work.) I think he does a fine job here as Quiller, The Spy Who Seems Too Obvious, and the script, perhaps slightly underwritten, at least gives Segal room to play with this character. Quiller's blustering ways get him quickly noticed, allowing him to infiltrate the neo-Nazi group, without cover or backup. He does have the support of a beautiful school teacher Inge. Or does he?

    As for the plot, we get no explanation of why it's important to find this group. It just is. The world's most leisurely chase scene in the last 30 minutes of the film is highly suspenseful, and the resolution is ambiguous in a way that I think today's audiences would think unacceptable. I like unsettling endings; so I found the ending strangely satisfying. Identities, love and other human relationships are never straightforward, and there's nothing like a good spy movie to remind me of that.

    Someone above mentioned the Third Man. The last shot (or two) of the movie is highly reminiscent -- perhaps outright lifted. Not that there's anything wrong with that!
  • comment
    • Author: Wiliniett
    If your idea of an exciting spy thriller involves boobs, blondes and exploding baguettes, then The Quiller Memorandum is probably not for you. With a screenplay by Harold Pinter and careful direction by Michael Anderson, the movie is more a violent-edged tale of probable, cynical betrayal by everyone we meet, with the main character, Quiller (George Segal), squeezed by those he works for, those he works against and even by the delectable German teacher, Inge Lendt (Senta Berger) he meets.

    Quiller has arrived in Berlin for an assignment under the control of Pol (Alec Guinness). He is to infiltrate and locate the headquarters of a neo-Nazi organization headed by Oktober (Max Von Sydow). And, by the way, Pol tells Quiller, the two men who had the assignment before you were both killed. It's not long before Quiller realizes, as he's captured, drugged and questioned by Oktober, that Oktober's organization is just as interested in locating and wiping out Pol's group. Quiller managers to escape, but was it too easily done? Pol points out to Quiller that he's now a piece between two players who cannot see each other. Only Quiller can see them. If he gets too close to one player, the other player will follow him and know how to take action. Both Pol and Oktober, each in his own way, would be perfectly content to sacrifice one agent in order to catch the bigger game. Quiller is on his own. He's crafty, careful and resourceful. He doesn't carry a gun. The one thing he has going for him is that he knows he dare not take anything at face value. The resolution may see the bad guys finally taken...but not all of the bad guys. The Quiller Memorandum, while exciting in its own way, has a distinctly bittersweet air to it. The film doesn't leave you with world-weary angst, just the knowledge that if you want to trust anyone you'd better find another line of work.

    I have no idea how many writers who wrote popular screenplays went on to become Nobel laureates, but at least one did. Harold Pinter, who won the Nobel for literature in 2005, brings some of the supposedly enigmatic Pinter style to the movie. There are stretches of dialogue that may make you wonder what on earth the point is, but then you realize the point is to let you think about what these people are up to and what they are really like. The scene in a sports stadium when Quiller first meets Pol is quite funny because it seems so irrelevant. Guinness and Segal play it straight, which makes it even better. But in between the mannered irrelevancies of Pol's observations about Nazi rallies, acoustics, how hungry he is and how good one of his sandwiches looks, we begin to think about how ruthless a man Pol probably is. Pinter uses the same approach with Max Von Sydow's gentlemanly questioning of a tied-up Segal. While John Barry's music score is, to me, often too Sixtyishly obvious, the quiet, thoughtful theme he uses under the credits gives fair warning that this is not going to be a rock 'em, sock 'em spy thriller. All the actors do fine jobs, including George Sanders and Robert Flemyng as two London spy mandarins at their club, who are as much concerned about the quality of the pheasant Flemyng is having for lunch as they are about the situation in Berlin.

    I suspect that many people will be intrigued by the film, but that others will find it slow, too cynical or too complicated. Give the movie a chance; even cynicism can warm an empty heart.
  • comment
    • Author: Coron
    Nobel prizes notwithstanding I think Harold Pinter's screenplay for this movie is pretty lame, or maybe it's the director's fault. They don't know how to play it, it's neither enjoyable make-believe like the James Bond movies, nor is it played for real like "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold." As a consequence I was left in some never-never land and always felt I was watching actors in a movie and never got involved. The love interest between Quiller and Inge (Senta Berger) developed with no foundation. The plot holes are many. For example, when the neo-Nazi goons are sticking to Quiller like fly paper, wasn't he suspicious when they did not follow him into his hotel? I had to resist the temptation to fast forward on several occasions.

    The highlight was Alec Guinness who is always a joy to watch. But his appearances here are short. Max von Sydow, having escaped from the Swedish darkness of "Winter Light" only a few years before, has been transplanted to Berlin to play a neo-Nazi ringleader here. His performance is credible, but I think he was doing it for the money. George Segal plays Quiller with a goofiness and lack of sincerity that put me off. The best thing I can say about Senta Berger's performance is that she is a beautiful woman.

    The Berlin location shots are interesting.
  • comment
    • Author: Qumenalu
    Fairly interesting spy movie, but doesn't make much sense under close scrutiny. When a spy film is made in the James Bond vein then close analysis is superfluous, but when the movie has a pretense of seriousness then it'd better make sense. The premise isn't far-fetched, but the details are.

    We are to assume that Berger and the older blond woman were members of the secret Nazi organization. But whether they were or not, either way the movie doesn't add up. There is no satisfactory explanation as to why Segal doesn't get murdered like his two predecessors; even assuming that Berger was a Nazi and fell in love with him - and as a result Segal's life was spared - that still isn't enough, realistically, to explain his survival: especially since Sydow explicitly ordered him to be killed. If Sydow was in on it with Berger, then why would he make the whole thing appear so strange by ordering Segal's murder so that the latter can hear it? Wouldn't this only make Segal more likely to suspect that someone - perhaps Berger - was involved in releasing him? And if Segal reached that conclusion then Berger's cover would be blown. It doesn't add up. It seems that Segal didn't suspect Berger so why did he give her the wrong phone number? And if he did suspect her then why would he walk into a trap? Then there is that whole strange segment when Segal is freed to leave the Nazi base to think things over, and is followed by an armada of Nazi guys. At first they watch his every step, preventing him from making a phone call, but they let him enter the hotel unsupervised! Also, why would Segal go to check the Nazi nest by himself: if this is a serious spy film then why is he playing James Bond? This thriller is considered intelligent by various reviewers; it's probably the same people who consider "Dressed To Kill" to be an intelligent film.
  • comment
    • Author: Dusho
    As other reviewers have suggested, this Cold War Neo-Nazi intrigue is more concerned with subtle, low-key plot evolution than the James Bond in-your-face-gadgetry genre that was prevalent during the 60's-70's. George Segal provides us with a lead character who is somewhat quirky in his demeanor, yet nonetheless effective in his role as an agent. His dry but quick Yiddish humor shines through on many occasions, providing diversions that masquerade his underlying desire to expose the antagonists' machinations. His romantic interest is Senta Berger, whose understated and laconic dialog provides the perfect counterpoint to Segal's character. Alec Guiness and George Sanders have brief roles as Segal's Control and Home Office head, respectively, and both rather coldly and matter-of-factly pooh-pooh over the grisly death of Segal's agent predecessor. In typically British mordant fashion, George Sanders and a fellow staffer in Britain are lunching in London on pheasant, more concerned with the quality of their repast than with the loss of their man in the field!

    That said, the story moves along in a neo-noirish, eerie fashion as Segal continues his search for and exposure of the Nazi cadre. Great job by Max von Sydow who articulately plays his villainous role to the fullest. The remaining cast, mostly German actors, fulfill the demands of their roles more than adequately. Nice plot twist at the end, especially for those who disdain trite endings. Good period piece!
  • comment
    • Author: spacebreeze
    The only redeeming features of The Quiller Memorandum are the scenes of Berlin with its old U-Bahn train and wonderful Mercedes automobiles, and the presence of two beautiful German women, Senta Berger and Edith Schneider; those two females epitomize Teutonic womanhood for me. As for the rest of the movie, the plot, acting, and dialog are absolutely atrocious; even the footsteps are dubbed - click, click, click.

    George Segal is horribly miscast as a spy; he comes across as nothing more than an American smartaleck - though his German is pretty darn good. But it's laughable that the guy he plays could ever bed the likes of Senta Berger. Alec Guiness can't do anything with his role and looks like an ineffectual spy controller - I haven't ever seen him perform this badly - and Max Von Sydow looks like a poorly made up Hermann Munster. In fact, there's a certain air of campness that pervades this entire film; the actors don't appear to take their roles seriously at all.

    There was a whole raft of spy films that came out in the 60's, but absolutely none of them can hold a candle to LeCarre's "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" with Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. The Quiller Memorandum is way back in the pack of those movies, and if it's worth a look at all it's only for the sake of 1960's German nostalgia.
  • comment
    • Author: Togor
    The first thing to say about this film is that the screenplay is so terrible. It was written by Harold Pinter, but despite his talent for writing plays, he certainly had no cinematic sense whatever. This is one of the worst thriller screenplays in cinema history. There are long stretches of what may have seemed to Pinter like very lively and amusing dialogue (the torture scenes between October and George Segal), but they drag on interminably, and make one want to go to sleep. The casting of George Segal in the lead was a catastrophe, as he is so brash and annoying that one wants to scream. (What with wanting to go to sleep and wanting to scream at the same time, this film does pose certain conflict problems.) On the other hand, the female lead is played by the charming Senta Berger, then aged 25, who does very well, and manages to be enigmatic, and gets just the right tone for the story. But how could she put up with the love scenes with the atrocious Segal? Michael Anderson directs with his usual leaden touch. Max von Sydow as a senior post-War Nazi conspirator over-acts and is way out of control, Anderson being so hopeless and just a bystander who can have done no directing at all. George Sanders and others back in London play the stock roles of arch SIS mandarins who love putting people down, wearing black tie and being the snobs that they are. They say 'what a pity' with droll indifference as they eat their roast pheasant and take note of which operatives have been killed this week. The scene shot in the gallery of London's Reform Club is particularly odious. Alec Guinness is excellent as a spy chief, and he gives a faint whiff of verisimilitude to this hopeless film. The story is ludicrous. The film is ludicrous. Don't bother watching it, except to see the many scenes shot on location in West Berlin at that time, with its deserted streets and subdued mood. From that point of view, the film should be seen by social, architectural, and urban landscape historians.
  • comment
    • Author: Marg
    Mr. no-first-name Quiller is pulled out of his current assignment to investigate neo-Nazis in Berlin. Pulled by whom? He's clearly American. Then why does he report to a bunch of Brits? Reminds me of silly Roman Empire movie conventions where the older roles go to Brits and the younger to Americans.

    This is only the first bit of nonsense. The basic question is why American or British intelligence organizations would be interested in what would basically be a German police matter. It is never explained why Quiller's organization (whatever it is) sees fit to devote its Berlin resources to investigating neo-Nazis rather than working against East Germany and its master the Soviet Union.

    The supposedly neo-Nazi players show no devotion to or even interest in Nazi ideology. All they want is the location of Quiller's British control (who can obviously move at a moment's notice anyway).

    In short, the story makes no sense. I have no complaint about any of the actors. I don't know whether to blame the failure on the author of the novel (which I haven't read) or Harold Pinter, the fidelity of whose adaptation is unclear. There are some nice bits of dialogue, but they don's save the movie.
  • comment
    • Author: Cogelv
    Take a solid, healthy chicken's egg out of the hen house or the fridge… Now throw out all the substance, and just keep the eggshell. Dril several holes in it, the size of a pin, one the size of a small coin. Finally, paint the result in Barbie pink and baby blue… That's more or less what happened to Adam Hall's spy novel for this movie. If you have seen this movie, and it leaves you very dissatisfied or with a bunch of bright orange question marks, don't worry ! You HAVE been watching it carefully. Don't start thinking you missed something: it's the screenplay who did !

    Believe it or not, but in the original story there's a pinch of "Satan Bug" (1965),as it involves a Jewish scientist who wants to wipe out the Nazi community in Argentina with a dangerous germ. There's also a sniff of "Downfall" /"Der Untergang" (2004) in it: the Inga from the book has been as a child in the Führerbunker playing with the Goebbels' offspring, until "Uncle Adolf" committed suicide. There's also a part in Hall's book, that could have been a chapter from "Enigma" (2001), as Quiller has to decipher a complicated message from a friend. This part is done in a very detailed way in the book. Hall's book is also full of psycho-analysis à la Freud. In his novel, Inga is working initially for Oktober, which she always considered as being almost as tough as the only man she ever looked up at, Uncle Adolf. So, when she notices that a captured Quiller is not giving in to Oktober's interrogation techniques, her desperate need for a strong figure starts to shift from the Nazi to Quiller. The Quiller of the book is a survivor of the concentration camps by the way. Now he's working for a unit called the Z-police and Z-commission. This "Zentralstelle" was established after the signing of the London Agreement, and tracked down about 7000 Nazi war criminals. (See Wikipedia for more information about the Zentralstelle or Z-Commission)

    Quiller is called to Berlin, as the previous British agent, Kenneth Lindsay Jones has been found floating in a lake, killed by a sniper's bullet. As he hasn't been in Berlin since long, the Z-commission have prepared a memorandum with all the information available about a (neo-)Nazi group called "Phönix". Hence the title of the book. What the Z-people don't know is who the leader is, nor where they are hiding. In the end, it turns out that this leader of "Phönix", SS general Zossen has since the war become a respected member of the new German government under a false name. It's a quite complicated spy novel, but one with a storyline that makes sense. I can't say the same for the movie, I have to say. First at all, the title is never explained. Secondly, we don't hear about the Z-Commission, the London agreement. The Quiller in the movie is as British as Rockefeller, while Pol has become British. And no mention is made of him having been in a KZ during the war. I'm also irritated with what has become of the character of Inga, the disappearance of the germ side-plot, and I could go on for a while… That's why I think this egg not only has substance, but what is left is full of holes, leaving the critical watcher quite dissatisfied at the end.

    Harold Pinter may be a BIG name with a large cohorte of aficionado's, but frankly, what he has done with this novel is nothing less than a shame. Can you imagine what would have become of let's say "The day of the jackal" script, if he would have used the same frivolous surgical techniques he used on the Quiller-memorandum ? Would the OAS top have met the Jackal in a Mexican desert ? Or would Pinter maybe have dropped the whole OAS angle ? Thrown out the special gun ? Would the cold blooded killer invented by Forsythe have become a somewhat bumbling American with a Okie accent ? I'm neither very pleased with the choice of George Segal as Quiller. He was fun in "St Valentine's day massacre" (1967), he really gave me the creeps as the smiling but menacing Peter Gusenberg. But as Quiller, no… Somehow, he's not the right man in the right place, and certainly not someone I would sympathize with, as one should do with the hero of a movie. Max von Sydow though was very well cast as the gentleman-Nazi. Senta Berger is an extremely beautiful and elegant woman, but in this movie she's no longer a survivor of the Hitlerbunker as in the book, but a nice gentle school teacher, with a mysterious undertone.

    The cameo's of George Sanders and Alec Guinness are of course top notch, but these wonderful actors only have a few Lines to say. The house in which Oktober questions Quiller is superb, and so is the Mercedes "Adenauer" used in this movie. But all this Barbie pink and baby blue extra's can't save this movie. A missed opportunity, Mister Pinter.
  • comment
    • Author: Fenritaur
    I saw this for the first time 40 years after it was released but I can't believe that it deserves the plaudits it got (and still gets). The plot is naff (why are agents from around the World trying to stop what is, basically, a right wing Political Party?). The acting is naff (George Segal (why George Segal?), second division at best). The Screenplay is naff (Harold Pinter? Surely not!). The only thing that saves it from a lower rating is the music. John Barry and Matt Monroe (magnificent) save it from a big fat zero! Am I an anti-sixties kid? No. I was around in '66 and can tell a good spy story from a turkey. Compared to many other "spy" hits from that era this is a definite "MISS".
  • comment
    • Author: Vathennece
    Saw this one years ago and, not having been overly impressed, recently re-viewed it in order to "give it another chance", (motivated, not least, by a renewed interest in the screen career of Alec Guinness). Verdict? Guinness, (as the British spy-master in 1960s Berlin), is superb. His appearances, as the pompous, bureaucratic manipulator, are the real high points of the film. His character is so rich, (you can imagine his whole career being built on knowing when to "kiss and when to kick"), that you long for more. Also superb is the camera work and lighting. You REALLY feel this is how Berlin MUST have looked in the depths of the Cold War and the use of actual locations, (such as the view from Guiness' "headquarters" in the highrise building overlooking the centre of West Berlin), is great. Whenever I re-read a John Le Carre novel set in that period, it will no doubt be the images from THIS film that come to mind. Which brings me to the downsides of the film. Number one, oh how you LONG for a Le Carre-quality script! As it is, what you get, (Neo-Nazis and a "love story", which is boring from the word go), is dime novel stuff. Segal and Berger do not make for convincing leads and the whole thing lacks pace and vitality. I imagine the director was aiming at some kind of "framework" story in which the audience is invited to "fill in the pieces", (e.g. is Berger's Head Teacher really 'one of them' or not?), but, as it is, I got the feeling, "If you cannot be bothered to fill it out, neither can I!" Conclusion: it will be at least another decade or so before I bother to re-view again. (OR to replay the theme song. Talk about OVER-use! It begins to crop up in EVERY scene! Was the WHOLE of West Berlin, Europe, human kind just re-playing "Tuesday's child" in 1966???) 6/10
  • comment
    • Author: Natety
    I wanted to make a list of all the things that are wrong with this film, but I can't - such a list would need much more than a thousand words. People tend to like it because "it's not like the Bond movies"; well, it's not - it's like "The Ipcress File", except that "The Ipcress File" was a genuinely smart and atmospheric movie, while "The Quiller Memorandum" is a clumsy, dated spy thriller full of pseudo-hip dialogue and plot holes. And considering how terrible its one fight scene is, it's certainly a blessing that it doesn't have any more. George Segal is a fine and always engaging actor, but the way his character is written here, he doesn't really come across as "a spy who gets along by his brains and not by his brawn"; he seems interested almost exclusively in the girl he meets, not in the case he's investigating, and (at least until the end) he seems to survive as a result of a combination of his good luck and the stupidity of the villains. I'll give this horribly dated film a generous **1/2 rating anyway; hell, you don't see a cast as great as this one every day!
  • comment
    • Author: Mezilabar
    I don't know what it is exactly but I have a sweet spot for late 1960's cold war films and The Quiller Memorandum is a particularly good tale of this type. I'm drawn to it's stark story line and the open yet unanswered questions of morality, duty and love. It might have something to do with the 'Absurdist playwright' Harold Pinters screen play. While the plot deals with Neo-Fascism and is strictly speaking not about the Capitalists war with Socialism. It somehow fits easily into the canon.

    It has a very close similarity with the second Harry Palmer film Funeral in Berlin (1966) - the same dirty unglamourous espionage, post war Berlin and of course Caine and Segal's very laid back and world weary performances. Both have the enemy use sex as a weapon against them and walk a seemingly dangerous alien world where no one can be trusted and all have their own hidden agendas whether monetary or philosophical.

    All the acting is understated, I am not a fan of Segal's later work but he fits this well ( he had a good year in '66 - he also appeared in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ). Max Von Sydows 'I'm not a barmen Mr.Quiller I'm a German gentleman' is menacing without being overly dramatic or cartoony. The asinine old world attitudes as portrayed by Alec Guinness and a small cameo by George Sanders are slight but add to the flavour of the period.

    Maybe slightly too dark and pessimistic for an optimist to enjoy but as a portrait of the period and the uneven boundaries of right and wrong and the duplicitous nature of nationalism - it is an unsung classic.
  • comment
    • Author: Pedar
    Languid, some might say ponderous mid-60's British-made cold-war drama (it could scarcely be called a thriller, more "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" than, say "Thunderball") that for all its longueurs, does have some redeeming features. These include another superior soundtrack by John Barry, if perhaps a little too much son-of "The Ipcress File", some fine real-life (West) Berlin exteriors, particularly of the Olympic Stadium with its evocation of 1936 and all that and Harold Pinter's typically rhythmic, if at times inscrutable screenplay. George Segal, plays the edgy American-abroad new CI5 recruit (looking unnervingly at times like a young George W Bush!) before he started doing "genial" and reminds us that his previous part was in the heavyweight "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf". Try as he might though, he can't quite carry the lead here, lacking as he does the magnetism of Connery or the cynicism of Caine. Alec Guinness gets to play a Smiley prototype but brings too much Noel Coward to the table. Max Van Sydow is better as the neo-Nazi leader, veiled by the veneer of respectability as he cracks his knuckles and swings a golf club all the time he's injecting Segal with massive doses of truth serum, while Senta Berger is pleasant, but slight, as the pretty young teacher who apparently leads our man initially to the "other side", but whose escape at the end from capture and certain death at the hands of the "baddies" might lead one to suspect her true proclivities. The movie wants to be more Le Carre than Fleming (the nods to the latter fall flat with a couple of fairly underpowered car-chases and a very unconvincing fight scene when Segal first tries to escape his captors) but fails to make up in suspense what it obviously lacks in thrills. I also expected just a little more from the interrogation scenes from the man who wrote "The Birthday Party". Watchable and intriguing as it occasionally is, enigmatic is perhaps the most apposite adjective you could use to describe the "action" within. In conclusion, having recently watched "Quiller's" almost exact contemporary "The Ipcress File", I have to say that I preferred the latter's more pointed narrative, down-home grittiness and star acting to the similar fare offered here.
  • Cast overview:
    George Segal George Segal - Quiller
    Alec Guinness Alec Guinness - Pol
    Max von Sydow Max von Sydow - Oktober
    Senta Berger Senta Berger - Inge Lindt
    George Sanders George Sanders - Gibbs
    Robert Helpmann Robert Helpmann - Weng
    Robert Flemyng Robert Flemyng - Rushington
    Peter Carsten Peter Carsten - Hengel
    Ernst Walder Ernst Walder - Grauber
    Edith Schneider Edith Schneider - Headmistress
    Philip Madoc Philip Madoc - Oktober's Man (Man with brown trousers)
    Günter Meisner Günter Meisner - Hassler (as Gunter Meisner)
    John Rees John Rees - Oktober's Man (Man with black-rimmed glasses)
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