The world John Lecarré describes is without mercy and forgiveness. The films based on his books are not nearly as terrifying, though they are frightening enough. THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is an early adaptation of one of Lecarré's books by the same name, and in it he introduces albeit briefly, the character George Smiley.
The three main characters in this production Alex (Richard Burton), Nan (Claire Bloom) and Monque (Oskar Werner) were all very fine actors in the 1950s and 1960s. This film was one of the last Burton made (965) and in it he plays a "burnt-out" spy who has been the operations officer in Berlin for 15 years of the Cold War. Alex was recruited by British Intelligence shortly after WWII just as the East Bloc began to descend behind the "Iron Curtain" according to Western leaders like Churchill. The CIA was also spun from military intelligence during this period, and there is a brief interaction between Alex and a CIA officer at the beginning of the movie as Alex awaits a defecting East German spy at the infamous "Checkpoint Charlie".
SPY is shot in Black and White which enhances the spooky subject. Night time scenes with flashing lights and rainy London weather add to the atmosphere. I first saw this film in the theater, and I was so young I could not figure out what was going on. The plot is complex, but not as complex as that of later adaptations such as SOLDIER, SAILOR...,or SMILEY'S PEOPLE which were given ample air time for the unraveling. It is a frightening film, and some one my age might wonder why anyone would ever become a spy.