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Billion Dollar Brain

original film poster
Directed by Ken Russell
Produced by Harry Saltzman
Written by Len Deighton (novel)
John McGrath
Starring Michael Caine
Karl Malden
Ed Begley
Oscar Homolka
Françoise Dorléac
Music by Richard Rodney Bennett
Cinematography Billy Williams
Editing by Alan Osbiston
Studio Jovera S.A.
Lowndes Productions Limited
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) December 20, 1967 (US)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Preceded by Funeral in Berlin
Followed by Bullet to Beijing

Billion Dollar Brain is a 1967 British espionage film directed by Ken Russell and based on the novel Billion-Dollar Brain by Len Deighton. The film features Michael Caine as secret agent Harry Palmer, the anti-hero protagonist of the film versions of The IPCRESS File (1965) and Funeral in Berlin (1966). The "brain" of the title is a sophisticated computer[1] with which an ultra-right-wing organization controls its worldwide anti-Soviet spy network.

Billion Dollar Brain is the third of the Harry Palmer film series, preceded by The Ipcress File (1965) and Funeral in Berlin (1966). It is the only film in which Ken Russell worked as a mainstream 'director-for-hire', and the last film to feature actress Françoise Dorléac.

A fourth film in the series, an adaptation of Horse Under Water, was tentatively planned but never made. However, Caine played Palmer in two later films, Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in Saint Petersburg.

Contents

Plot

Harry Palmer (Michael Caine), who has left MI-5 to work as a private investigator, is told by a mechanical voice on the phone to take a package to Helsinki. He does not know that he is about to encounter his old acquaintance Leo Newbiggin (Karl Malden) – nor that the package contains virus-filled eggs that have been stolen from the British government's research facility at Porton Down. Later, he is coerced into working once more for the British secret service. He must become a member of the 'Crusade for Freedom' organisation – an ultra-right-wing group led by maniacal oil-billionaire 'General' Midwinter – and thwart its planned attempt at liberating Latvia from Soviet domination, which would cause a worldwide conflict; he must also recover the stolen virus for the British.

Cast


Cast notes:

  • Donald Sutherland has a very small appearance as the computer technician who asks Karl Malden "What's going on?"

Production

Location filming for Billion Dollar Brain took place in Helsinki and other parts of Finland, including Turku. The Riga scenes were filmed in Porvoo. The remainder of the film was shot at Pinewood Studios.

Soundtrack

The score is by Richard Rodney Bennett. In order to create a relentless, harsh mood, he left out sweet-sounding instruments like violins and flutes and relied mainly on brass and percussion[2] including three pianos, which are featured prominently in the main theme, and later, together with the percussion, create sonorities similar to Stravinsky's Les Noces. The score is basically monothematic, constantly varying the main theme. For more romantic moods, it features the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instruments, played here by its most prominent soloist, Jeanne Loriod. Thus, even the tender moments have an eerie undertone.

Later on, Harry Palmer attends the end of a symphony concert, which is supposed to feature Dmitri Shostakovich's "Leningrad" Symphony, written in 1941 during the siege of Leningrad. What we hear, however, is the end of Shostakovich's 11th Symphony "The Year 1905". Yet, music from the "Leningrad" symphony is featured later on during Midwinter's speech to his soldiers in Finland and during the final battle on the ice.

Miscellany

Notes

  1. ^ The computer consoles in the film are Honeywell 200 mainframe consoles.
  2. ^ Interview on Film Score Monthly, quoted here.
  3. ^ Billion Dollar Brain, Time Out, London, Film Guide. Accessed: 03-08-2008.

External links








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