cover art for The Ipcress File LP
cover art for the Silva CD edition

The Ipcress File

LP: Decca DL7-9124
CD: MCA MVCM-22046 (Japanese)
CD: Silva Screen FILMCD 605
(with dialog and secret track)

  1. Main Title (4:13)
  2. Alone in Three-Quarter Time (2:33)
  3. Meeting with Grantby and Fight (3:26)
  4. Jazz Along Alone (3:11)
  5. The Death of Carswell (3:35)
  6. A Man Alone (3:14)
  7. A Man Alone (3:20)
  8. If You're Not Clean--I'll Kill You (2:20)
  9. Alone Blues (6:16)
  10. Goodbye Harry (1:58)
  11. Goodbye Harry (continuation (0:58)
  12. A Man Alone (2:16)

The Movie

I love the movie. I was listening to the commentary track and director Sydney Furie was complaining that they had a bad script and had to do everything they could, from last minute rewrites to fancy camera work, to make the movie work. I didn't really understand it until I read the book and realized how awful it was. I like Len Deighton's later stuff, such as the Bernard Sampson books, but this one blew dead bear. It was amazing to me how they salvaged it into becomming one of the best movies of its genre.

Michael Caine is Harry Palmer, a flip, not-quite-cricket counter-intelligence officer who works for a humorless old sod named Ross (Guy Doleman). Palmer gets lent out to another branch headed by another humorless old sod, Major Dalby (Nigel Green), and is assigned to find and make contact with a shady character code-named Bluejay. And things get interesting.

The Ipcress File came out during in 1965, when Bondmania was in full flourish. Rather than outdo it, they decided to go completely counter. They're both bright and sophisticated, but Bond is Eton and Saville Row, Palmer cooks his own meals and lives in a dreary little apartment, and romances Jean Courtney (Sue Lloyd)--who's attractive but definitely not Claudine Auger. Bond chases around the world in sunny skies, in fast convertables. Palmer spends most of his time in overcast London.

What makes this particularly intriguing is that a lot of the key Bond people made both films--produced by Harry Salzman, edited by Peter Hunt, and scored by John Barry.


The Music

At first it might seem unusual to hire John Barry to score an anti-Bond movie--it was Barry who had given Bond that distinctive sound in From Russia with Love. But then, Barry knew how to go against it all and remain effective. The Bond sound is big--a big orchestra with lots of brass. For Ipcress he went intimate--the title song, "A Man Alone" is the theme. He used the cymbalom as he had with King Rat, but this time he used it in more of a bouncy, rythmic time. Much of the score has the feeling of a small jazz combo in an intimate little room--somewhere you have to be quiet to hear. Where the Bonds are big, Ipcress is small. The Bonds are action, this film favored of suspense, and the music follows suit.

Probably not the kind of music you'd play in the car as you drive too fast down a winding mountain road. But good stuff to be listening to in headphones as you skulk through a musty library...


Release Notes

The original soundtrack came out on LP, but was slow to come out on CD. For quite a while the only commercial CD release was a Japanese pressing on MCA records, while a bootleg edition paired it with another Harry Palmer movie (but not a Barry score), Billion Dollar Brain. Silva recently released it with dialog (blech) and a "secret track." I don't have the Silva edition so I have no idea what the secret track is. "A Man Alone" shows up on various compilations.