Tuesday 12 April 2016

The strange story of the submerged spy film ....

Unlike Funeral in Berlin, Spy Story barely surfaced in the
public's imagination
I've just purchased a DVD from eBay.

Nothing unusual in that. But what I bought was described by the seller as a "super super rare collectable."

This was, the seller said, "the only copy I've seen in 25 years." He exaggerates rather, but the point is valid.

It was a DVD copy - not even an original - of the film adaptation of Len Deighton's Spy Story. Released in 1976, the film barely troubled the film charts and went into DVD oblivion, never being commercially released.

The Australian seller - from whom I also purchased the Game, Set and Match TV series, similarly "super rare" - made a point in saying the film's copyright was never renewed, so it is out of Copyright control and can be copied.

[Separately, I have also, in recent years, purchased a Betamax copy of said film. I don't own a Betamax player so the only reason for purchasing is it's sheer rarity, and oddness.]

At a time when fans of Len Deighton's fiction can look forward to SS-GB later this year, and an adaption of all nine volumes of the Bernard Samson books by Clerkenwell Films (when they can pull their finger out) as well as a new film based on Bomber, I thought about this film based on Len's books which rather disappeared beneath the surface, and wondered why.

Spy Story is, in the end, not unlike 1988's Game, Set and Match. Both adaptations had fantastic source material to work but through odd casting choices never really struck home; both also then disappeared from the face of the cinematic earth, only to appear periodically on pirate DVDs.

I summarise the film's plot on the main Deighton Dossier website, here.