I’m baffled by the dislike afforded this enjoyable sixties romp. The charge that it is less realistic than the previous films is groundless because the others weren’t the real world either. The first featured some daft business with a psychedelic torture chamber and the second some far fetched romps around the Berlin wall. Of course, the events in ‘Brain’ are no less credible. The kremlin wouldn’t allow a top Colonel to be chums with a British spy, let alone allow him to wander around Latvia taking photographs. The real purpose is to open the plot and make it more colourful, and also the opportunity to satirise entrenched positions and the madness of humanity. Recent events in Russia, especially under Yeltsin, prove that truth is definitely stranger than fiction. The score is terrific and the breath-neck direction may be enough to make it accessible to young, contemporary film fans.
The cast is superb. Guy Doleman is brilliant again as the supercilious Colonel Ross. The scene where he spills the cereals and refuses to move his feet while Palmer sweeps them up is priceless. The Russian spy Anya gives a hilarious speech of ennui about her father on the boat with Palmer and Oskar Homolka as Colonel Stock gives a short, classic lament on the ice flow written by John McGrath who does a great job here, especially in his cutting swipes at blinkered thinking. “The air in Texas is pure. That’s why I haven’t set foot outside of Texas in twenty five years” yells the batty General Midwinter. But the most chilling and truthful exchange occurs between Palmer and amoral spy Leo Newbigen. “When he gets between five miles of the Latvian border, every alarm in the world is gonna blow and four minutes later no one is going to be around.” – “You want your money, don’t you?”
Ken Russell began his career doing documentaries about classical composers and his experience pays off here in his use of sound with image. Anyone bored with current fair and hasn’t seen this trilogy could do worse in giving them a go. This one was the best, in my opinion.