BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967)
Article #1439 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-21-2005
Posting Date: 7-21-2005
Directed by Ken Russell
Featuring Michael Caine, Karl Malden, Ed Begley
A retired spy is pulled back into the business when the theft of some new viruses gets him entangled with a plot to invade the U.S.S.R.
Fantastic content: The near-invasion of the Soviet Union and the use of a giant supercomputer push the movie into marginal science fiction territory.
It’s movies like this that make me understand why I never really took to the whole James Bond franchise. It’s because those movies are so jokey that they never surprise me; when they throw jokes, bizarre characters or odd plot twists at me, I’m not really surprised because I saw them coming and expected them. This spy thriller takes itself much more seriously; it, too, has jokes, bizarre characters and odd plot twists, but they serve instead to keep my attention and freshen up the story. Quite frankly, I found more real laughs here than in any of the James Bond movies that I’ve seen. It also has its own visual style that is quite engaging while being markedly different from that of the Bond movies, and I attribute this to the direction of Ken Russell, who had a definite talent for catching the attention. I like the whole cast of this one, but the best performances come from Ed Begley as a superpatriotic Texas billionaire and Oskar Homolka as a Russian colonel who takes a liking to Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer. And let’s face it; any movie that opens with a man being given puzzling directions to deliver a thermos full of eggs to Helsinki must get some sort of award for catching one’s attention.