Sunday 12 October 2014

Selling secrets .... the invention of The Ipcress File

Eggs were harmed in the making of this film
I recently picked up on eBay an interesting piece of ephemera: a publicity pack from the Rank Films organisation about The Ipcress File.

This is an authentic package of material targeting promoters, cinema owners and journalist, containing information about the film and its stars and ideas for creating public awareness. It's evident from the file that part of the success of The Ipcress File as a film is - along with the story, of course - the success with which it was marketed as a new type of spy film.

In reading through the pack, you can get an idea of the angles that producer Harry Saltzman and his marketing team were looking to push in the advance publicity around the film. In the background information - the first page - there are choice phrases used to describe the film, which give an idea of how they were marketing it at a time when the Bond films were already becoming successful:

  • "THE IPCRESS FILE - a tense thriller of espionage and counter-espionage"
  • "a happy-go-luck British ex-army officer who is pitchforked into espionage"
  • "a tangled web of treachery as fantastic and exciting as can only be found in the complicated and highly professional game of world espionage"
The pack includes background information on the two "stars" picked out - Michael Caine, obviously, but also Sue Lloyd, who plays Jean Courtenay. Tellingly, she is given greater prominence in this pack than either of the other two main characters, Major Ross (Guy Doleman) and Major Dalby (Nigel Green). Clearly, in the sixties, sex appeal was a strong component of any successful film, and a number of the promotional ideas suggested in this pack centre around this. For example:
'Conjure up the fascination of a tie-in with a lovely perfume bearing the intriguing name of 'Contraband', plus copy that reads MADAME LIVE DANGEROUSLY - CHOOSE CONTRABAND ... AND GET YOUR MAN. Add a sizzling full colour picture of glamorous Sue Lloyd and you have the ingredients of a first rate promotion with the distributors of this exotic perfume.'
It's fascinating to read how in the 'sixties, just as now, the marketing men were identifying the themes and angles which would grab the public's attention and steer them towards the film. Promoters are given ideas for a whole range of competitions to raise awareness of the film:

  • A quiz in which readers are asked to link the film star with the film they first starred in
  • An 'interrogation survey' to test how much readers actually know about real-life and fictional spies, such as Edith Cavell, Richard Hannay and Greville Wynne
  • 'Operation  "Enemy Agent"' - local newspapers are invited to challenge readers to find "The Man with The Ipcress File", requiring a man from the newspaper to walk around the vicinity of the cinema carrying a file clearly marked with the film's name. Members of the public were asked to challenge him and say"YOU ARE THE MAN WITH THE IPCRESS FILE AND I CLAIM MY REWARD". Really!
  • Cinemas were encouraged to have a display front of house written in Morse Code, to get people wondering about the film
There are plenty more whizzy and strange ideas in this pack. For every would-be promoter the studio's publicity department really made an effort to get what we would nowadays call "brand awareness" in advance of the film's release. Judging by its popularity when premiered in 1965, they were pretty successful.

In the rest of the post you'll find picture of this 'Top Secret' file, as well as a short contribution from Len himself about the brain-washing element that is central to the film's story.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Hors d'ouevre, Orders

Thanks to David, son of regular contributor Nick Flindall, who spotted this article in yesterday's Telegraph magazine online.

Journalist Bee Wilson, writing in the cooking/life section of the newspaper, looks at the concept of the hors d'ouevre in cooking.  It's a useful article for nothing else that it explains what the word means, something I've never known - outside of the main work. So, in a cooking sense, sort of maverick, rejecting convention and current trends perhaps?

In this context she refers to Len Deighton's Action Cook Book, of which she writes:
'[the book] looks like a joke, but many of Deighton's thoughts on food remain fresh and witty. He puts cardamom in rice and tarragon in scrambled eggs. He counsels us to avoid "dodgy" pineapples and to invest in a good omelette pan. Of fennel, he writes, "looks like pot-bellied celery, tastes like liquorice".'

Nice little article.

Coming up soon - a blog post on the Ipcress File, with a small contribution from Len based on recent emails.