It’s the sixties, and a certain super spy is burning up the silver screen. If you’re United Artists, finding more spies to make movies with was a pretty good idea. One of them was “Harry Palmer,” originally intended to be a bit of a blue-collar contrast to the more well-known spy, he went Bond in a big way in the 3rd film to feature the character, Billion Dollar Brain.
Billion Dollar Brain – The Movie
Harry Palmer has retired from MI6 and enjoying life as a private investigator/funny-euphemism-for-too-much-masturbation. He gets a call to track down a package containing a dangerous virus in Helsinki. He meets Anya (Françoise Dorléac), who takes him to meet an old spy buddy Leo (Karl Malden). Harry wants to bail, but MI6 gently persuades him to get back to the spy business and save the world. From some crazy Americans who want to invade the Soviet Union, in this case. Oh, and the pretty blonde lady is a Russian double agent, in a twist, everyone saw coming.
Billion Dollar Brain – The Furs
Anya enters with her red fox coat and hat when Harry meets her in Helsinki.
If Cold War spy media taught me anything, he should have immediately clocked the blonde with the sexy accent in the fur coat as a Soviet agent.
Harry immediately gets down to spy work, Bond style.
Anya takes him to meet Leo, played by Karl Malden, at a steam bath. I have spared everyone images of a shirtless Karl Malden kissing Françoise Dorléac. You are welcome.
This entire sequence is frustrating because the director (Ken Russell) decided to crank up the arty bullshit and film the pair through a bloody jungle as they walk in.
Things improve slightly when they arrive at the hidden lab, and there are no more plants to hide Françoise Dorléac behind.
After a few twists and turns, Anya executes a double-cross to steal the virus for Leo while wearing this black fox-trimmed coat and matching ushanka-styled hat.
Double double-cross, or however many we’re at by now, as Anya takes the virus for herself, leaving Leo and Harry in the (snow-colored) dust. I’m willing to entertain the fur is a black sable, but I’m not sure.
The amazingly obvious flaw in the private army’s plan to attack the Soviet Union is actually exploited to the screenwriter’s credit. Anya is revealed as a Soviet double agent (GASP), and Harry gets a pat on the back and the virus back from the KGB.
This is a good entry for a ‘60s film, with unusually prominent use of fox fur that was not as common at the time. It certainly falls under the Russian-spy-lady-in-fur trope that was one of the few good things about the Cold War. Granted, I may have traded that for not having to grow up fearing imminent nuclear annihilation. Here’s where we acknowledge the relevant trivia about Françoise Dorléac. This was her final film, and she was the elder sister of Catherine Deneuve.
Fur Runtime: approx 7 minutes
Film Runtime: 111 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 7%
Find-a-Fur, Billion Dollar Brain, 1967
(all times are approximate)
- 10:29 – 15:09 – red fox coat and hat
- 32:41 – 35:26 – white fox parka + hood
- 37:50 – mink
- 1:25:36 – 1:30:33 – black fox hat & coat trim, intermittent
- 1:43:41 – 1:44:58 – ”