Plot: What’s it about?
Colonel Stok (Oscar Homolka) is a Russian intelligence agent who wishes to defect, but it seems like complications prevent him from doing so, each time he tries. As such, he has asked the British government to assist him and soon enough, they formulate a plan to free him, which is headed by Harry Palmer (Michael Caine). Palmer serves a British spy, but he isn’t pleased about it and in truth, he only does so to avoid a long prison sentence. But he soon heads into Russia to help extract Stok, complete with a plan that will throw everyone off course, as it involves the funeral of Stok. Of course, Stok is still alive, but Palmer plans to use a fake funeral as a way to export the Russian out of the area, without raising any suspicions. As luck has it however, the wrong body is taken in the process, which leaves Palmer to regroup and make a new plan, which involves some work, in between sessions with some lovely ladies…
This is the second screen adventure for Harry Palmer, whose antics can also be seen in The Ipcress File, Billion Dollar Brain, Bullet to Beijing, and Midnight in St. Petersurg. All of these films feature Michael Caine in the lead role and offer great spy thrills, at least to some extent. I prefer the earlier ones to the final two, which were made in 1995, but spy buffs should seek them all out, as even decent genre pictures are rather hard to find. Those who know the series should know what to expect from Funeral in Berlin, which is enough to make for a solid movie. Caine is terrific as Palmer and of course, the selection of ladies is top notch, which makes it fun to watch also. With lots of suspense, action, and even liberal doses of humor, Funeral in Berlin is an above average spy flick and as such, it is more than recommended. I do wish Paramount has included more in terms of extras, but this release is still well worth a rental.
I liked Michael Caine’s turn as Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File, but he seems even better here, perhaps a little more used to the character. He seems much more natural and fluid in his second run as Palmer, which is good news, as this is one character that needs those traits. As was the case in The Ipcress File, Caine has a complex, well written role to work within and since the material is quite good, he never has to push too hard, in order to make it all work. Even so, he pulls a few rough spots through and as such, more than earns his paycheck here. You can also see Caine in such films as Quills, Mona Lisa, Get Carter, The Man Who Would Be King, The Italian Job, and Zulu, as well as the other Harry Palmer films. The cast also includes Oscar Homolka (The Seven Year Itch, The Invisible Woman), Eva Renzi (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Pink Jungle), and Guy Doleman (Thunderball, Dial M For Murder).
Video: How does it look?
Funeral in Berlin is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. A very fine looking effort from Paramount here, very clean and sharp from start to finish. I was surprised by how clean the print was, with minimal marks & grain, but that’s just the start of the good news here. The colors look bright, but also natural in hue, while contrast is stable and consistent, with no real flaws to discuss. I did see some edge enhancement at times, but all in all, this is a very proper visual presentation, so fans should be pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono option is good, but I do think a new surround track might enhance some scenes, to an extent. As Paramount often creates new 5.1 mixes, I figured this movie would have one, but that’s not the case. It stands well with the simple mono track, but at times, I think some surround presence could spark the experience, even if not to massive results. The basics sound good here however, with clean dialogue and never muffled sound effects, no real complaints to lodge in the end. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as English subtitles, should you need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.