Wits become the most respected weapons in these classic spy movies from the 1960’s. As long as you’re not allergic to velour, offended by the objectification of women or opposed to Vodka for breakfast, then a good spy story can conquer the ravages of time. Pour yourself a martini, examine your smirk in the mirror and start practicing your dead drops before the next version of the Cold War kicks off.
The Manchurian Candidate
Nothing is as American as moms and apple pies, especially a mother that gives the one in Psycho a run for the parent of the year award. With the insidiousness of mind control running rampant through The Manchurian Candidate this classic spy movie by Hitchcock delves into the double agent world as it picks apart who truly stands for America and who got the breakfast special of scrambled brains down at the Communist Chinese deli. With political intrigue and the dark horror of crushing Shaw’s will this film created a new place to fear invasion: the brain.
The Sean Connery version of James Bond makes you feel dirty in the best of ways and that’s why Dr. No is a classic spy movie. Ahh the 1960s where innuendo was as natural and necessary as breathing. Bond is as needed to the spy genre as a bespoke suit is to your work wardrobe and he is at his best when he’s off protecting the world and scantily clad women from the clutches of evil. A good spy movie has a villain and a great spy movie has a super villain like Dr. Julius No who plays the foil with brilliance. Appreciate this silky love letter to the 1960s that is this film.
Where the Spies Are
David Niven is watchable in every thing he does and Where the Spies Are is no exception. Playing a man recruited by his country to serve as a spy, Niven is past the days of youth but still manages to find enough in him to succeed where others of his age might fail. A classic spy movie that is equal parts amusement and a time piece as you’ll get to see the colonial British viewpoint of other countries, and therefore people, as satellites of the homeland, this film is a genuinely fun love note to the spy film genre.
A constant feeling of an ever-tightening noose built from tension fuels Topaz from start to finish. With spycraft being practiced everywhere, Cuba becomes the target and prize of the brutal power play between America and Russia. With a mercy killing as one of the tender moments, the sacrifice of the killer and the victim translates in any language as an act of love. A truly classic spy movie that brings the reality of the closeness of Communist controlled Cuba to the present day audience and makes it feel as threatening as if it was a current event.
The Cold War is zooming along just fine as the Russians and Americans square off with a few of their pawns in Torn Curtain. With an emphasis on outwitting versus outgunning, this classic spy movie makes the most of brains while still creating many terse moments from the environment of communism that the protagonist and his girlfriend find themselves surrounded by. The spark that should reside between Newman and Andrews seems to misfire with occasional moments of heat but luckily the intrigue holds the heat and is skillfully carried off throughout the film.