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The Human Factor (1979)

When a leak of information in the African Section of British Intelligence is discovered, security man Daintry is brought in to investigate.

Director:

Otto Preminger

Writers:

Graham Greene (novel), Tom Stoppard (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Attenborough ... Colonel John Daintry
Joop Doderer Joop Doderer ... Cornelius Muller
John Gielgud ... Brigadier Tomlinson
Derek Jacobi ... Arthur Davis
Robert Morley ... Doctor Percival
Ann Todd ... Castle's Mother
Richard Vernon ... Sir John Hargreaves
Nicol Williamson ... Maurice Castle
Iman ... Sarah
Keith Marsh Keith Marsh ... Porter
Anthony Woodruff Anthony Woodruff ... Doctor Barker
Gary Forbes Gary Forbes ... Sam
Angela Thorne ... Lady Mary Hargreaves
Tony Haygarth ... Buffy
Paul Curran ... Halliday
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Storyline

When Arthur Davis, a junior bachelor in the British Secret Service's African section, is seen taking a file with him, to meet his girlfriend Cynthia, the brass fears he may be the leak to Moscow, and allows Dr. Percival to terminate the "risk factor" by poisoning to avoid a scandal. In fact, Davis' desk chief, Maurice Castle, is the double Agent, since the South African Communists helped him smuggle out his black lover Sarah M., meanwhile his wife and mother of schoolboy Sam, to force him to cooperate with the Apartheid government. When Cornelius Muller, the South African official who failed to get him in Pretoria's power, visits London for the anti-Communist operation Uncle Remus, he points out Castle still is the natural suspect. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Every man in love is a potential traitor.


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

January 1980 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

El factor humano See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$376,050

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$376,050
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Author Graham Greene said of this movie's source novel of the same name, he wrote in "Ways of Escape", pages 255 to 258: "My ambition after the war was to write a novel of espionage free from the conventional violence, which has not, in spite of James Bond, been a feature of the British Secret Service. I wanted to present the Service unromantically as a way of life, men going daily to their offices to earn their pensions, the background much like that of any other profession, whether the bank clerk or the business director, an undangerous routine, and within each character the more important private life. When I had spent a few years in the Service during the war, first in West Africa and then in London, I had certainly found little excitement or melodrama coming my way. I began The Human Factor more than ten years before it was published and abandoned it in despair after two or three years' work. I abandoned it mainly because of the Philby Affair. My double agent Maurice Castle bore no resemblance in character or motive to Philby, none of the characters has the least likeness to anyone I have know, but I disliked the idea of the novel being taken as a roman a clef. I know very well from experience that it is only possible for me to base a very minor and transient character on a real person. A real person stands in the way of imagination. Perhaps a trick of speech, a physical trait may be used, but I can write no more than a few pages before realizing that I simply don't know enough about the character to use him, even if he is an old friend. With the imaginary character I am sure, I know that Doctor Percival in The Human Factor admires the painting of Ben Nicholson, I know that Colonel Daintry will open a tin of sardines when he returns from the funeral of his colleague. I sent a copy of the book to Moscow, to my friend Kim Philby, and his reply interested me. His criticism was valid. I had made Castle's circumstances in Moscow, he wrote, too bleak. He himself had found everything provided for him, even to a shoehorn, something he had never possessed before." See more »

Goofs

In the South African scenes (filmed in Kenya), the cars have Kenyan registration plates. See more »

Quotes

Maurice Castle: Davis calls all children "little bastards".
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Human error
12 August 2013 | by robert-temple-1See all my reviews

This film should have been amazing. It is directed by Otto Preminger, from a novel by Graham Greene, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, and has a cast of famous actors. But it is bleak, vague, meandering and disappointing. And what is worse than that, it is boring. It does however feature a very strong central performance by Nicol Williamson, and is the closest I have seen on screen to what Nicol was really like in person. Of course, Nicol's greatest screen triumph was when he played the lead in the amazing film INADMISSABLE EVIDENCE (1968, play and screenplay by John Osborne, directed by Anthony Page). It is a tragedy that that film is not available on video or DVD, as it shows what a human powerhouse Nicol Williamson was at his very best. One reason why this film has less kick than it should is because Williamson's South African wife is played by a first-time actress, known by the single name of Iman. (She later became famous because she married David Bowie, though David Bowie is not someone I personally have the slightest interest in, I must say.) She is totally unconvincing as a South African because she is so obviously a Somali, which must be 3000 miles away and racially unrelated. Because of her inexperience, she was unable to cope with the part successfully, though she improved in later scenes. This created a kind of vacuum, so that Nicol had to flail around a bit and generate the tension on both sides, as Iman was so inert in many of her scenes. Preminger was 74 by this time and clearly lacking in energy. He did not shoot enough cutaways, allowed shockingly poor lighting to be tolerated, was content with too many badly-framed long shots, and seems just to have let things drift. The story lacks focus and much of the suspense appears to be simulated. It is far from being a high voltage story, much less film. Derek Jacobi does a good job in an early role. Ann Todd and John Gielgud appear briefly, but only as cameos. Richard Attenborough does well, but Robert Morley, although incredibly sinister as he is meant to be, is also way over the top, suggesting that Preminger may have nodded off in his director's chair during the shooting of those scenes. At the very least, Preminger should have reduced Morley's 'eyebrow wobble factor'. The ending is intentionally bleak, in true Greenian fashion, and comes as a shocking irony so extreme that it might almost be said to have been the point of the whole exercise, or perhaps Greene's wry comment on the spy game in general. Or is it life that gets Greene down? Or sin? Or God? Or the Church? Or whatever it is that he is always banging on about, like a perverse child who wants to stamp on his rosary and shout profanities in which divine names are compromised by rude contexts? In any case, we have better things to do than watch films which fall short of our expectations, don't we?


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