Friday, 29 July 2011
Funeral in Berlin was a 1966 British spy film based on the spy novel by Len Deighton. It is the second of three 1960s films starring Michael Caine that followed the characters from the initial film, The IPCRESS File (1965). The third film, made in 1967 was Billion Dollar Brain.
Caine would reprise the role of Harry Palmer three decades later for Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in St Petersburg.
British secret agent Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) is summoned to a meeting with his superior Colonel Ross in London and is informed that he is to be sent to Berlin to arrange the defection of Colonel Stok (Oscar Homolka), a prominent Soviet intelligence officer. Despite his scepticism of the potential defection, Palmer heads to Berlin where he liaises with Johnny Vulkan, an old German friend of his, who runs the Berlin station for British intelligence. Vulkan arranges for Palmer to make a trip to East Berlin to meet Colonel Stok.
Palmer makes a rendezvous with Stok in the East, and finds him eccentric and likeable. Stok explains his reasons for wanting to defect he is growing old, his responsibility to guard a sector of the Berlin Wall has been a failure with a number of recent escapes, and he hopes to be rewarded for his defection with "Colonel's pay for life". He explains that he is an "Old Bolshevik" who stormed the Winter Palace in 1917. Stok calls Palmer "English" and continually tries to catch him out with trick questions. He is impressed with Palmer's answers and tells him he is "not as stupid as he looks". He asks for the defection to be managed by Otto Kreutzman, a West German criminal who has organised a number of recent escapes.
Palmer returns to the western sector and puts the wheels in motion for Stok's defection. He meets a woman, a model (Eva Renzi), with whom he spends the night. Suspicious at the forward manner in which she approached him, he has his police contacts establish her identity the following day, and arranges for a criminal to burgle her apartment. She transpires to have several different false passports. Meanwhile, Palmer arranges a deal with Kreutzman to bring Stok across the wall for £20,000. Palmer then returns to London and hands in a report to Colonel Ross. Ross is convinced that Stok's defection is genuine, and he dismisses Palmer's suspicions that the model he met in Berlin was a spy. Ross gives full authorisation for Palmer to return to Berlin with documents and money to complete the deal. The false documents are provided for Palmer by a man named Hallam (Hugh Burden)
The plan, devised by Kreutzman, is to arrange a burial and bring the Colonel across the border in a coffin. Palmer agrees - meanwhile he again meets the model and unmasks her as a Mossad spy. She reveals she is in Berlin to hunt down a man named Paul Louis Broum - now operating under an alias - who she implies is linked to Palmer's current mission. He is a war criminal who stole millions of pounds of gold during the Second World War.
Kreutzman goes over to the east to supervise the defection personally, as it is such a major and difficult case. Palmer waits with Kreutzman's henchman on the western side of the border to wait for the coffin.
Betrayed by everybody he comes in contact with, Palmer manages to figure out what is going on and escape with his life.