Funeral in Berlin - 1966

Harry Palmer movies

Plot summary

Harry Palmer is assigned to Berlin to arrange the defection of Russian agent. In Berlin, through his contact Johnny Vulkan, he meets Israeli agent Samantha Steel, who seems to be interested in the same people he's after.

Palmer crosses into East Berlin to meet Colonel Stok to arrange the removal of someone. Stok tells Palmer he wishes to go west and has a few conditions; he wants a meager stipend, a house in the country, and his escape must be carried out by Kreutzmann, a master of escapes from East Berlin, because he wants the best.

Palmer negotiates an arrangement with Kreutzmann, who demands as part of his payment a set of travel documents in another name. From Hallam, the documents manager back at MI5, Palmer receives documents in the name of Louis Paul Broum. As he places the envelope in his briefcase for return to Berlin, he sees that name on the photocopy of Samantha's little black book, with the figure $2,000,000 next to it.

Palmer returns to Samantha's, handing her a set of pearls to replace the one in the fake robbery. He makes a point to show her the inside of his briefcase as he does this, so she can see Broum's name on his envelope. She is an Israeli agent, who steals the documents to prevent Broum from traveling out of Berlin to Switzerland, where he can claim $2,000,000 of Nazi war profits that were stolen from Jews.

Palmer has to admit to Ross that not only has he lost the 20,000 pounds, but the documents as well. Ross orders him to kill his friend Vulkan, as without those documents Vulkan's of no use to the British.

Palmer is faced with a moral dilemma, but finds a twist-laden solution. In doing so, he also unravels the complex undercover operations played out around the Berlin Wall by the melange of international agents, double agents and one-time innocents.

Film notes

Berlin is the star of this film. A divided city, still with the scars of war but now vibrant and growing, and teeming with people from all over the globe, meeting in interncontinental hotels and jazz bars. The city - and the wall - have a presence throughout.

Caine's performance is excellent, and he's well supported by Evan Renzi and the Johnny Vulkan character of Swiss actor Paul Hubschmid.

As is the case with the book, the director seems to want to confuse the viewer with sub-plots, sleight of hand and a fast-paced narrative which can leave one confused at times as to exactly who is dupling whom and for what. But it never detracts from what is an enjoyable film.

The role of Samantha Steel was originally assigned to Anjanette Comer. Due to her death shortly before the film was shot, Eva Renzi replaced her.

The novel was originally called 'My Funeral in Berlin' by Deighton, but a mistake at the production design stage at the publishers meant it lost the possessive pronoun.

Opening credit sequence, Funeral in Berlin

Film notes

Director: Guy Hamilton (UK)
Producer: Charles Kasher
Screenplay: Evan Jones (screenplay)
Starring: Michael Caine (Harry Palmer); Paul Hubschmid (Johnny Vulkan); Guy Doleman (Colonel H.L. Ross); Oscar Homolka (Col. Stok); Eva Renzi (Samantha Steel); Hugh Burden (Hallam)
Music: Konrad Elfers
Released/broadcast: 23 February 1967 (UK)