How are things with Harry Palmer?
Colonel Ross (GUY DOLEMAN), Harry's former boss from the M.1.5 days
believes that Harry is down on his luck, and he breaks into Harry's
office to make sure. Certainly, the grubby little office in north
London with its glass-fronted door marked "H.P. Detective Agency,"
gives no suggestion of affluence. Ross ransacks cup-boards, filing
cabinets, desk-drawers, and it is obvious from Ross's rummagings
that Harry is hard-up and hungry, and that he eats and sleeps here.
A messy larder contains packets of corn-flakes, sugar, a dirty bowl
and spoon, and a pint of milk. "Stay where you are," a voice
commands, and a light is switched on. It is Harry Palmer (MICHAEL
CAINE) himself, gun in hand. Harry recognizes his ex-boss, who
explains why he is there. "You're not doing too well since you left
us, are you, Palmer? I want you back in M.1.5." "I'm touched," says
Harry. At this moment a messenger boy arrives with a special
delivery letter. Ross continues to urge Harry to rejoin M.1.5 but
Palmer refuses. When Ross leaves Harry opens the letter. It contains
money and a key.
As Harry gazes puzzled at the pile of
money on his desk the telephone rings. He answers it. The strange,
flat, metallic quality of the voice that speaks to him makes Harry
uneasy. "You have received a key and £200? Yes or No?" Harry
hesitates. "Who-is this?" "You will go to the West London Air
Terminal at 0830 hours-the key is for Left Luggage locker C6. Inside
it you will find instructions. . ." It is the voice of The Brain! As
if under the spell of this electronic master, Harry goes to the Air
Terminal. Inside the locker is an envelope and a vacuum-flask. The
envelope contains an air ticket to Helsinki. The vacuum-flask, Harry
discovers after a quick dash to a shoe store where he puts it under
the X-ray of a pediscope, contains half-a-dozen eggs!
On Mannerheim Street, Helsinki,
people covered in mounds of furs, long overcoats, helmets, scarves,
hurry along. Breath hangs on frozen air; eyes blink against the cold.
There is deep snow everywhere. Harry, following his instructions,
telephones a Dr. Kaarna and gives the code: "Now is the winter of
our discontent." In reply, a man's voice tells Harry to meet him on
the frozen foreshores of Helsinki harbour."How will I know you?"
Harry asks."I will the man replies, I'll give you the Password." On
the foreshore Harry sees a beautiful girl he assumes to be a
student. "Now is the winter of our discontent." The girl Anya
(FRANCOISE DORLEAC) goes on to explain to Harry that Dr. Kaarna
could not come. Harry refuses to give the girl the vacuum-flask and
asks to be taken to Dr. Kaarna.
Anya takes him on a ferry boat which
slowly churns its way across the frozen harbour, past tiny islands
covered in snow. Behind them is revealed the fantastic panorama of
Helsinki's south harbour. "Where are we going?" Anya points to the
island of Suomenlinno. "To my island," she replies. They come
eventually to Anya's flat. Inside there is a room equipped with a
sauna bath and from the hissing steam emerges Leo Newbegin (KARL
MALDEN). Harry knows Leo well. In Prague, some years before, he had
saved Leo's life. Leo is in good shape now. Anya has rejuvenated him,
and he's earning big money. He gives Harry £200 for delivering the
eggs which are a means of carrying a highly lethal virus."Come in
with us and you'll be earning £400 a week," he tells Harry. "Leo,"
says Harry, "where is Dr. Kaarna?" Leo smiles blandly. "I am Dr.
Kaarna," he replies. Later that day, in a phone booth, Harry looks
up Dr.Kaarna's address for himself. He goes to the Doctor's flat and
finds the door open. Inside is Kaarna's almost naked body, with a
small puncture two inches to the right of the 17th vertebra.
Harry runs from the flat to a public
phone on the floor below. He dials Finnair and books a seat on the
next plane to London. Then two men grab him, squirt a phial of gas
under his nose, and drag him unconscious down the stairs to a
waiting car. He regains conciousness to find Ross sitting beside him.
Ross proceeds to bully Palmer into working for his department,
threatening that unless he does so he will hand him over to the
Finnish poiice. They will book him for Kaarna's murder. Harry agrees
to join and is sworn in as a British secret agent. So Harry Palmer,
the reluctant cockney spy, be-comes involved with the Billion Dollar
Brain, the fanatical enterprise of Texan multi-millionaire, General
Midwinter (ED BEGLEY), who has poured his fortune into an
anti-Communist campaign organized by a colossal computer.
The Brain is the master-mind of a
vast independent espionage network, a giant computer complex ticking
out instructions to mercenaries throughout the world. Palmer's
mission: to get to the heart of the complex before the mad General,
obsessed with power and anti-Red phobia, launches an invasion of a
Soviet territory and thus triggers an atomic war. That mission takes
Palmer into the hinterlands of Finland, in the bone-freezing core of
winter, to an encounter with his old protagonist, Colonel Stok
(OSCAR HOMOLKA), of the Russian secret service, to Helsinki and
London, to the ice-swept northern sectors of the Iron Curtain, and
into the stifling heat of the American southwest before achieving