The film is a spy-thriller set in 1960s West Berlin, where agent Quiller is sent to investigate a neo-Nazi organisation.
The film had its World Premiere on 10 November 1966 at the Odeon Leicester Square in the West End of London.
In the dead of the night a man walks down a deserted Berlin street, and enters a phone booth. As he begins to dial a number he is shot dead. Jones was the second British operative to be murdered in Berlin by a secret neo-Nazi organisation, Phoenix. An American, Quiller (George Segal), is sent to Berlin as Jones's replacement. Quiller meets his controller for this mission, Pol (Alec Guinness), at the Nazis' 1936 Olympia Stadium. Pol tells Quiller that "a new generation of Nazis has grown up, difficult to recognize because they don't wear uniforms anymore." Pol tells Quiller that his mission is to find Phoenix's headquarters. Pol's superiors in London, Gibbs (George Sanders) and Rushington (Robert Flemyng), are occasionally seen directing the operation from their gentlemen's club.
Back in Berlin, Quiller shakes off someone following him, then confronts the tail in a pub, only to discover the man is his minder, Hengel (Peter Carsten). Hengel gives Quiller the few items found in Jones' possession when he was murdered: a bowling alley ticket, a swimming-pool ticket and a news cutting. Quiller asks after Jones at the bowling alley without success; the swimming pool manager Hassler (Günter Meisner) also sends him packing.
Pretending to be a reporter, Quiller visits the school featured in the cutting, where a teacher was recently found to have been a Nazi war criminal. The headmistress introduces him to teacher Inge Lindt (Senta Berger), who is fluent in English, and whom he interviews about her colleagues, before driving her back to her flat and briefly stopping in for a drink.
Upon leaving, Quiller confronts a man who seems to be following him. Having earlier told Hengel he understands no German, Quiller is revealed to speak it fluently. The man strenuously denies following him and two other men intervene. Quiller returns to his hotel; outside a porter bumps into Quiller's leg with a heavy suitcase. Though the porter says 'excuse me,' Quiller suspects it was intentional. Quiller jumps in his car, and drives off, managing to shake his minder, Hengel, who sees men in another car following Quiller. Quiller notices the other car following him, but is becoming drowsy from a drug that was injected when the porter bumped his leg with the suitcase. At a traffic light, the other car pulls along side. Quiller, now semi-conscious, is unable to drive on when the traffic light changes to green. The passenger door on the car alongside his opens, and a man gently moves Quiller from the driving seat and drives on.
Quiller awakes in a chair in a dilapidated, once-ornate room, surrounded by many of the previous incidental characters, who are all Phoenix members led by a German aristocrat, Oktober (Max von Sydow). Quiller avoids answering Oktober's questions about the SIS operation and how much they know about Phoenix, and makes a dash to escape from the room but is outnumbered. After a doctor injects Quiller with a truth serum he utters a few clues, but is just able to deflect Oktober's questions. Oktober orders him to be killed.
Quiller comes round lying somewhere in the city beside the river. He hails a cab and when his driver gets out, and he sees several men - all keeping eyes on him, Quiller steals it, evading a pursuing Mercedes before booking himself into a squalid hotel. He telephones Inge from the hall, and they arrange to meet the following evening. Pol also arranges another meeting with Quiller and explains that each side is trying to discover and annihilate the other's base; Quiller alone is in a position to know both.
After sleeping with Inge, Quiller admits to her that he isn't a writer, but, is, in fact, an 'investigator' and is on the trail of neo-nazis. None of this seems to surprise Inge, and she readily admits she has a friend who might know the location of Phoenix's HQ. Inge takes Quiller to the swimming pool to meet Hassler, who is now much more friendly. Hassler drives Quiller and Inge to a spot where Hassler's contact, Inge's headmistress, appears; she identifies a dilapidated old building nearby as Phoenix's headquarters.
Quiller tells them he needs to investigate the building. Inge says she will wait for him, and the pool manager and headmistress leave the car for Quiller to drive Inge home. When Quiller and Inge are alone together in the car she tells him she loves him. Before Quiller goes to check the house on his own, he tells Inge if he doesn't return in 20 minutes, she's to ring a certain number which Quiller asks her to memorise.
The street is the same one on which Quiller's predecessor was murdered at the start of the film. Quiller enters the house, which appears deserted, until he notices Oktober's henchmen standing all around him. They take Quiller into the same room where he was held captive, and later take him down to the cellar via lift, where several men are organising the move to the organisation's new HQ. Quiller is surprised to see Inge has been brought there too; Oktober tells Quiller they found her sitting in a car outside. Quiller pretends not to know her, but Oktober clearly doesn't believe him. Oktober offers Quiller an ultimatum: either he reveals where the SIS base is by dawn, or both of them will be killed. Quiller is released back onto the dark streets to walk and consider the matter. Wherever he goes he is surrounded by Oktober's armed men, who – while they keep their silent distance – make it impossible for him to evade them, or use any public telephone to ring his controller.
As dawn breaks, he returns to his hotel, while Oktober's men stand guard outside in the street. The hall phone has already been destroyed to prevent him using it. Quiller slips out back into the courtyard and enters the lock-up garages. He finds his rented car, carefully examines it, and finds a bomb has been strapped underneath in case he attempted this method of escape. Quiller detaches the bomb from underneath the car and sets it on the bonnet, the vibrations of which cause the bomb to inch forward towards the front, where it will inevitably fall, and explode. He manages to escape the lock-up garage moments before the bomb slides off the car's bonnet and explodes. Oktober's men stationed around the hotel assume Quiller has been killed in the explosion and leave.
Quiller goes to the SIS office, and reports the location of Phoenix's HQ. Pol appears calmly indifferent, and asks Quiller to make a full report for the record, as he arranges to round up the gang. A few minutes later, the phone rings to report they surprised and arrested all of Phoenix's members at their headquarters. Quiller asks if there was a woman amongst those found at Phoenix's headquarters and is told there was not.
Later that day, Quiller walks into Inge's classroom. Inge explains she "was lucky; they let me go." Quiller tells Inge, "We got them all of them. ... Well, not all of them, perhaps - most of them." Quiller tells Inge if he ever gets back to Berlin he will look her up. He asks her if she ever met a man named Jones; she replies that she doesn't think so. He tells her 'goodbye,' and walks away from the school building, passing the headmistress, who says nothing, but is clearly uncomfortable seeing him again. Inge watches him depart as she returns to her students.
At the 1967 BAFTA Awards the film had nominations in the best "Art Direction", "Film Editing" and "Screenplay" categories, but didn't win. Harold Pinter was nominated for an Edgar Award in the "Best Motion Picture" category, but also didn't win.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 67% of critics gave the film a positive rating, based on 12 reviews, with an average score of 7.4/10. Variety magazine commented that "it relies on a straight narrative storyline, simple but holding, literate dialog and well-drawn characters." Ian Nathan of Empire Magazine described the film as "daft, dated and outright confusing most of the time, but undeniably fun" and rated it with 3/5 stars.
The mainly orchestral atmospheric soundtrack composed by John Barry was released by Columbia in 1966. Performed by Matt Monro, "Wednesday's Child" was released also as a single.
- "Wednesday's Child" – Main Theme (Instrumental)
- "Quiller Caught" – The Fight
- "The Barrel Organ"
- "Oktober" – Walk from the River
- "Downtown" (composed by Tony Hatch)
- "Main Title Theme"
- "Wednesday's Child" – Vocal Version (Lyrics: Mack David / Vocals: Matt Monro)
- "The Love Scene" – The Old House
- "Autobahn March"
- "He Knows The Way Out"
- "Night Walk in Berlin"
- "Quiller and the Bomb"
- "Have You Heard of a Man Called Jones?" – Closing Theme