The novels of John le Carre, the former British intelligence officer turned bestselling writer, are a response to the kiss kiss bang bang glamour of super spies, sexy women, high-tech gadgets, and thrilling missions created by the James Bond books and movies. The 1969 feature The Looking Glass War, based on John le Carre’s fourth novel (which was published the same year that the film version of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold  was released to great acclaim), was the third Le Carre adaption in as many years. It follows the same unglamorous portrait of intelligence gathering in the real world of Cold War espionage played out like an existential chess game with agents sacrificed like pieces on the board.
Frank Pierson, an Oscar®-nominated screenwriter (Cat Ballou  and Cool Hand Luke ) who made his feature directing debut on the film, makes a few changes to Le Carr’s story, most notably in the identity of its protagonist, Leiser. In the book, he’s a retired Polish spy coaxed back for a mission behind the Iron Curtain to gather intelligence on possible Soviet missiles in East Germany. Pierson transforms the veteran operative into a young Polish defector who jumps ship to join his girlfriend in London and is pressured by British Intelligence to “volunteer” for a mission in exchange for citizenship.
Plays on Saturday, September 29 on TCM