Funeral in Berlin is the 1966 film version, starring Michael Caine, of a book published by Len Deighton a couple of years earlier, and followed the great success of The IPCRESS File both as a novel and on the big screen. The director was Guy Hamilton, who has already directed Goldfinger, and who would go on to direct three more James Bond films, a couple based on Agatha Christie novels, and one based on an Alistair MacLean. Hamilton had worked in intelligence during the war, and put his know-how to good effect in translating story to screen.
Harry Palmer (Caine) is told by his boss (Guy Doleman) that the chap in charge of the Berlin Wall on behalf of East Germany (played by Oscar Homolka) wants to defect to the West. Is this true, or is some kind of trap lurking? Harry hasn't been in West Berlin long before he is picked up by a pretty girl. Has he swept her off her feet, or is she, too, spy? No prizes for guessing the answer...
The story is well told, but today the real fascination of this film for me lies in its depiction of a vanished world, when Berlin was divided, and people trying to cross from East to West risked their lives. In 1975, I stayed with a family who lived in a flat right next to the Wall, and I have never forgotten hearing shots being fired at would-be escapees. It was such a joy to visit Berlin last year and see the city united, with that wretched wall torn down.
Michael Caine is, as usual, good as Harry Palmer,and the supporting cast includes Hugh Burden, an excellent actor whom I remember fondly as Mr J.G. Reeder in the TV version of Edgar Wallace's stories. Where this film falls short of The IPCRESS File is not so much in the storyline as in the soundtrack. John Barry's brilliant music for the first film added a great deal to the atmosphere. Here the music is intrusive, clunky, and far from suitably mysterious. A reminder, I thought, of the dfference that a soundtrack can make to a film. With that minor exception, I can certainly recommend Funeral in Berlin.