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Spy Stories

Coded phrases and angled trilbies make for a genre the British adore.

Loose lips sink ships in many of these films, which see directors like Hitchcock, the Archers and Roy Ward Baker establish their careers.

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Spy Stories
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View The Ipcress File
The Ipcress File

The Ipcress File 1965 PG

The coolest spy of all – Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer – makes his brilliant big screen debut in this landmark British spy thriller.

109 mins United Kingdom Director. Sidney J. Furie

Harry H. Corbett, Richard Harris and Christopher Plummer were considered for the role of Harry Palmer.

Michael Caine was paid £6,000 (average house price in 1965: £3,000). Gordon Jackson received just one fifth of that fee.

View Deadlier than the Male
Deadlier than the Male

Deadlier than the Male 1966 12

Richard Johnson is Bulldog Drummond, a freelance investigator who attracts the attention of a pair of deadly female assassins, played by Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina.

97 mins United Kingdom Director. Ralph Thomas

Star Richard Johnson was rumoured to have been the original choice to play James Bond, until Sean Connery usurped him.

His character, Bulldog Drummond, has appeared in 23 films to date.

View Highly Dangerous
Highly Dangerous

Highly Dangerous 1950 PG

Margaret Lockwood plays an entomologist who travels to a Balkan country to investigate claims of germs warfare, only to find herself in the midst of a deadly spy game.

84 mins United Kingdom Director. Roy Ward Baker

Director Roy Ward Baker learnt his skills working with Hitchcock, Carol Reed and Will Hay.

The film's tagline promised of Margaret Lockwood's heroine, 'Her arms were made for love… Her lips were made for lies!'

View Q Planes
Q Planes

Q Planes 1939 U

Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier star in a spy drama about the disappearence of prototype military aircraft.

78 mins United Kingdom Director. Tim Whelan

Secret service money is said to have helped fund production because of the film's plot mirroring true life, with the Luftwaffe put on notice that the British knew their plans.

Richardson's chic spy was unmasked as the inspiration for John Steed in TV's The Avengers, admitted his creator Brian Clemons.

View Maroc 7
Maroc 7

Maroc 7 1966 PG

Gene Barry stars as a spy on an Arabian adventure, sent to Morocco to infiltrate Cyd Charisse’s highly glamorous jewel-smuggling outfit.

United Kingdom Director. Gerry O'Hara

The film's theme tune, performed by The Shadows, peaked at number 24 in the charts, but has been newly revered since.

Jewel thief Cyd Charisse as a former ballerina who famously insured her legs for $5 million. In his memoirs, Fred Astaire called her "beautiful dynamite".

View Sabotage

Sabotage 1936 PG

A cinema owner works with a ring of terrorists, with drastic effects on his wife and her brother, in Hitchcock’s London-set thriller.

76 mins United Kingdom Director. Alfred Hitchcock

"Sylvia Sidney acts with charm and intelligence," said Monthly Film Bulletin's review. She certainly eclipses John Loder, who was cast after first choice Robert Donat was unable to take the role.

Sabotage was banned in Brazil as it was said to pose a threat to public order.

View Secret Agent
Secret Agent

Secret Agent 1936 PG

Long before James Bond, Alfred Hitchcock tried the story of a suave spy.

86 mins United Kingdom Director. Alfred Hitchcock

In a personal letter, Gielgud called co-star Peter Lorre, "an expert in stealing scenes by putting in extra unrehearsed business at the take."

In its review, the Yorkshire Post advised that, "a very tolerant attitude towards improbabilities is essential."

View The Spy in Black
The Spy in Black

The Spy in Black 1939 U

A masterful thriller with true flair, The Spy In Black has a much larger importance: it threw Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger together for the first time.

77 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Powell

"I had always dreamt of this phenomenon: a screenwriter with the heart and mind of a novelist," wrote Michael Powell of his first meeting with Emeric Pressburger on this film.

Most reviews praised the realism of Veidt's performance – both he and Pressburger fled Nazi tyranny for real.

View The Spy's Wife
The Spy's Wife

The Spy's Wife 1971 12

Tom Bell stars in this short film about a spy's wife who shows herself to be rather adept at espionage, while her husband is away on a mission.

28 mins United Kingdom Director. Gerry O'Hara

This short film features Vladek Sheybal, who sought advice on playing villains from his friend Bette Davis. She told him, "Narrow your eyes, lower your voice and make long pauses".

Dorothy Tutin was always destined for stardom, with Kenneth Tynan calling her "ablaze like a diamond in a mine" after her first theatrical role.

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