Monday 31 January 2011

Sound of the Cimbalon - on the death of John Barry

The Cimbalon is the twangy, Danubian-sounding harpsichord-type instrument which gave The Ipcress File its characteristic sound, most notably in its main theme 'A Man Alone' (such an apt title, too!).

The man whose cracking idea it was to use it to sum up the tension of Michael Caine's Harry Palmer, an agent out in the field unable to know who to trust and knowing his next move could be his last, was of course composer John Barry, who died yesterday aged 77. Known most famously for his Bond themes and other amazing sound tracks such as that for Born Free, he was clearly an artist who had a knack for crafting a melody that fires the imagination.

As Michael Caine wrote subsequently after the global success of the Ipcress movie:
"If you want to see an example of what music does for a movie, go and see The IPCRESS File. Then you'll understand what John Barry's all about."
Precisely. A very, very talented composer.

A fuller tribute to the man and all his works is found on Armstrong Sabian's ever-excellent Mister 8 blog - go check it out. Also providing thoughts on Barry's influence on the world of Bond is The Double O Section blog.

Friday 14 January 2011

...Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief?

Fascinating article in today's Guardian newspaper, looking back on the DVD boxset of the seminal BBC spy series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This adaptation famously starred the late Alec Guinness as spy hunter George Smiley, tracking down the mole at the heart of the 'Circus' (for that, read 'London Central' in Deighton's Game, Set and Match series - the heart of MI6).

It was arguably a defining series in the depiction of the Cold War in popular culture and certainly helped fix author John Le Carré in the canon of spy fiction writers. As reviewer Toby Manning notes, the series is very British and perfectly captures an old school MI:6 before the Internet and Islamic terrorism: "a clutch of pipe-smoking, snobbish, sniggering schoolboys, repressed homosexuality seething through grey strip-lit corridors".

Definitely a series I'd welcome another run at.

As the article points out, the Hollywood remake machine has this cracking drama in its sights: actor Gary Oldman is tasked with taking over the role of the crabby, ageing but ruthless spy-catcher Riley. With Quentin Tarantino's suggestion last year of a remake of Game, Set and Match - not since elaborated on since, of course - perhaps the timing of the Tinker remake points to that fact that sufficient time has lapsed since the Cold War ended for some of the great stories to be revisited and re-imagined for the modern audiences.

Funeral in Berlin? Re-made.

The blood chills.

The classics, I'm afraid, are rarely improved upon.

But, we'll wait and see. What do you think?

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Muggeridge & Deighton

Happy New Year to all readers of the Deighton Dossier blog!

With a new year comes a refresh to the content on the main website which accompanies this blog. In the section on Deighton and design I've created a new page with some fascinating designs he produced for Vogue magazine in 1962, when Deighton was working as a designer while starting to write what became The Ipcress File.

In addition, there's a fascinating interview of Deighton by the late Malcolm Muggeridge, journalist and former intelligence agent during the war, in the short-lived - but entertaining - 'men's magazine, King (think a tame UK version of Playboy). Over five pages the two writers talk at length about the Cold War and spy fiction, the comparisons with James Bond, and the character make-up of the modern spy, all over a menu chosen by Deighton.

A very rare article, which you can download from the website by following the links from the front page.