19th July 1966

Triple Cross opens in cinemas

Terence Young is remembered for directing three James Bond films: Dr No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball (and for hiring Sean Connery in the lead role). However, he also brought to life the story of Eddie Chapman in the film Triple Cross.

Chapman, known as Agent Zigzag, was a double agent, who posed as a German spy while working for the British intelligence service, MI5. His involvement in spying came about by chance. On the run from the police, Chapman – played by Christopher Plummer in the film – sought refuge in Jersey but was caught and imprisoned shortly before the start of the Occupation.

A return to England

Spotting an opportunity, Chapman volunteered himself as a spy, promising to feed Germany with a steady stream of useful information. After some consideration, Germany took him up on his offer, staged his execution, and transported him to France for training. With his training complete, he was parachuted back into England, and so his spying could begin.

Or, at least, his spying would have begun if he hadn’t instead gone straight to the police and shown them the radio he’d been given and the frequencies he’d been told to use. In return for feeding false information to his German handlers, he wanted a pardon and £5,000.

Not all he seemed

But if Chapman was a double agent, why call the film Triple Cross? Because whenever he sent a report to his handlers using Morse code, Chapman would sign off with XXX – but only if he was transmitting freely. If he was transmitting under duress, he would leave out the three crosses as a warning to London that he’d been compromised and that what he’d just been sent should not necessarily be believed.

Alongside Plummer, the film starred Trevor Howard (from Brief Encounter), Yul Brynner (The King and I; The Ten Commandments) and Gert Fröbe (who played the title role in Goldfinger). It received mixed reviews.


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