March 29, 2013

DOCUMENTARY: COLD WAR SPIES

Spy Vibe recommends: Spying Game. Spy Vibers have a great curiosity about the tools and tricks of the trade. Have you ever wished you could sit down with elderly spies from around the world and ask them about the technology and techniques they used? How did they deal with things like covers, concealed gadgets, surveillance, secret documents, dead drops, and assassinations? Although I prefer my spies wrapped in fiction and fantasy, it can be fascinating to hear the sneaky truth about life as a spy. If you are interested in real-life espionage, have I found the documentary for you! Actor Alan Bates narrated Spying Game for Channel 4 in 1999. In the program, former spies reveal trade secrets and talk openly about their missions and adventures. Chapters in the mini-series include Creating a Cover, The Surveillance Revolution, Assassins and Saboteurs, Weapons of Choice, Homemade Radios, Aerial Photography, Berlin, and Double Agents. A dirty business indeed, but intriguing research. 


Most of the former spies interviewed are British and Russian, and the program focuses mainly on the experiences of Cold War espionage and counter-espionage. It's fascinating to hear from spies from both sides of the Iron Curtain, including one woman who talks about posing as a local mom for years in Britain while clandestinely tapping out  secrets on a makeshift radio constructed from common household items. Some viewers may find the series dated in terms of pacing, but I really enjoyed it. More info at the Alan Bates website here. Spying Game is available on Netflix and parts can be found on YouTube. Copies of the DVD can be found cheaply on-line. Amazon page here.

From the Alan Bates website: "It was equally important that the spies themselves remained inconspicuous. As author and historian PHILIIP KNIGHTLEY points out, your average spy is not a flamboyant James Bond-type character, but someone who must blend in to society unnoticed - "The more ordinary they are the more successful they are as spies." The Krogers, an unassuming middle-aged couple from Ruislip, were just such spies. For years they were able to send top secret naval information back to the USSR undetected. One of their neighbours, MRS SPOONER, was friends with the Krogers for years without any idea of their real identity as master-spies. "Mrs Kroger was one of the first neighbours to talk to me. There was absolutely nothing to make you wonder about them. I was really very shocked when it all came out that they were spies. Nobody had an inkling at all."


"Technology became an integral part of the Krogers' lives and an essential part of the information gathering process. Together with other spies of the day they had a range of specialist cameras to choose from. The ultimate spy camera of the time was the Latvian-made Minox, which was beautifully engineered, compact, and perfect for photographing documents onto micro-film. Other clever devices available included a German camera disguised as a matchbox and a pocket sized photocopier from Russia."

"However it was a specially designed microdot making kit supplied by the KGB which was mainly used by the Krogers. Microdots, which are pieces of film the size of a full stop containing pictures of documents, are essential to any spy wishing to move secret information between countries. Peter Kroger's cover was as an antiquarian bookseller, so he was able to smuggle a lot of top secret information using microdots hidden in the text of books. The couple also hid them in talcum powder tins, lighters and matchboxes." Lipstick pistol below from the collection of the International Spy Museum.


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Check Spy Vibe for recent posts about 60th Anniversary of Casino Royale events, Cold War Photography, Operation Kid Brother (MST3K), the discovery of one of Ian Fleming's WWII Commandos, PG Tips Brooke Bond, Ian Fleming's Playboy interview for Kindle, 1960s espionage writers, Spy Vibe's discovery of a rare Ian Fleming serialization, my review of SKYFALL, 007 at the Intnl Spy Museum, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and more. Here are the links from my recent series about Ian Fleming's musicNoel Coward,Whispering Jack SmithHawaiian GuitarJoe Fingers Carr.


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1 comment:

  1. One of these days I'm going to make it down to the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

    ReplyDelete

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