1970 UK Spy Out in the Cold, Man-on-the-Run Movie

UK color film, c. 1968-1973. The storyline seems contemporary to it’s release date. From what I recall, the protagonist is a spy either kidnapped, or perhaps ‘recruited’ by the enemy in his bid to bring them down from within.

Ever flip through the channels and, over a period of months/years, repeatedly catch the middle of a movie at the same exact spot? This is one of those “Deja View” films, where I’ve seen the same couple of snippets a few times over the years. I first ran across it in my youth, and most recently about a decade ago. I refused to watch it, hoping I’d eventually see it from start to finish.

The first portion I recall is the lead being held captive in the manor house of a remote farm (late fall/early spring?). I believe he’s held in a locked upstairs bedroom (perhaps there are scenes of him looking out an upstairs br window?). It seems to be a repressive situation- maybe he wakes up from being drugged, maybe he’s being held, maybe its a safe-house for indoctrination. Again, he’s either trying to infiltrate the enemy or has been abducted. He manages to escape (I believe the farm is on northern or western moors).

The second segment is filmed in a small port town, near the water (perhaps even a small dock?). He’s making a call for rescue or intel from a red booth near the water. Nearby is a child he interacts with. I also believe there’s a pub visible in the shot, which he visits after interacting with the boy. I think he went to the local, looking for someone with a boat to further aid his escape. I recall it still seeming cold out (jumper/jacket weather) but perhaps more verdant in the port scenes than at the farm.

My memory has the star being well known (Caine/O’Toole/Harris), maybe from the Angry Young Man / Kitchen Sink / Brit New Wave typist-pool. I also recall him being more rugged-looking than the Alan Bate-types. I’ve looked up a several actors on IMDB over the years in an attempt to find the film, but the available synopses have been insufficient to rule anyone in or out. Also, I’m a Yank Anglophile, so I can almost rule out great actors like Tom Bell, who are lesser-known in America. I also can’t rule out the lead being a Yank, but it’s not what I recall and the parts I saw were definitely in the UK / Ireland.

My quest to locate this title was given new life when I recently located and watched a copy of OTLEY (1969, Tom Courtenay), which shares some remarkable similarities in plot elements / locations. As it panned out, I’d never seen any portion of Otley before, and the film in question certainly isn’t a comedy. Nor should it be confused with ROGUE MALE, O’Toole’s great remake of the of the 1939 WWII novel and classic ’41 adaptation, where the protag literally ‘goes underground’.

I wish I had more details, but I’ve read over hundreds of UK film summaries looking for this. Hopefully someone knows enough to jog more from my Swiss cheese memory…?

5 thoughts on “1970 UK Spy Out in the Cold, Man-on-the-Run Movie

    1. That’s the one!

      How unfortunate for me, that the answer was right under my nose all along. I bought the DVD many years ago, and the only time I’ve watched it is when I had pneumonia and a high fever. I was in-an-out the whole time I watched it, and the penny never dropped about this being the film I’d been looking for.

      I dug out the dvd and scanned through it and, sure enough, everything is there- even the white drapes in the bedroom, his jumping from the window, the interaction with the boy, the pub being white. The only thing I seem to have been wrong about was the color of the phone box… but he was in County Galway rather than Yorkshire.

      Thanks for pulling my memory out of the mud… too bad it’s not a better movie! Good cast, Huston at the helm… but even Walter Hill said it was a tossaway script, done to fulfill a contract.

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