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Saturday November 17th 2018

Billion Dollar Brain | 1967

Third of the Harry Palmer films has the seedy agent (Michael Caine) delivering a flask full of eggs to a European destination and becoming involved with a loony Right-wing American’s plan for world domination. Director Ken Russell, in his second feature, can’t resist turning the climax into a pastiche of the battle on the ice from Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky.

Harry Palmer’s dingy digs, over the surgical appliance shop, are 297 Pentonville Road, N1, at the junction with Gray’s Inn Road opposite Kings Cross Station (now famous from the Harry Potter films). The area’s been given a bit of a facelift since the redevelopment of St Pancras International railway station.

Billion Dollar Brain filming location: Whiteley's Department Store, Queensway, London W2
Billion Dollar Brain location: Harry Palmer checks the contents of the flask: Whiteley's Department Store, Queensway, London W2

He views the contents of the flask with the aid of a pedoscope (a primitive foot X-ray machine that every upmarket shoe shop once had) at Whiteley’s in Queensway, W2, the Bayswater mega-department store (tube: Bayswater). Down-at-heel cellist Wanda Fleming (Bette Davis) does her shopping here in 1970 drama Connecting Rooms. The store has since been given a major makeover and now also houses an 8-screen multiplex cinema. You can see what it looks like today in (briefly) Love Actually and in Closer.

Palmer’s Finnish assignment takes him to the capital, Helsinki, and 85 miles west to the frozen Baltic port of Turku.

There’s no American filming – all the Texan scenes were shot in the studio in England.