This intriguing and unglamorous Cold War thriller is based on the true story of the Portland spy ring – a Soviet operation active in southern England from the late 1950s until January 1961, when the core members were arrested.
Produced in 1964, Ring of Spies charts a duel between Soviet intelligence and British counter-espionage and a trade in deadly secrets directed from a bungalow at 45 Cranley Drive in suburban Ruislip, hidden for years from unsuspecting neighbours and British spy catchers.
The story begins when alcoholic Henry Houghton (Bernard Lee) causes a ruckus at an embassy party in Warsaw and is sent home to England by the Polish Ambassador as a bad security risk. Back in England, he is posted to the Underwater Weapons section at the Portland Naval establishment.
Heavily bribed and gently blackmailed, he is persuaded to borrow documents from the secrets safe for the Russians. He meets his contact, smooth charmer Gordon Lonsdale (William Sylvester) – in reality, a Russian spy called Konon T Molody – in a pub.
He also meets Miss Elizabeth Gee (Margaret Tyzack), a lonely respectable spinster who is responsible for the keys to the safe at Portland. Gradually, Houghton breaks down Elizabeth’s resistance and she is cajoled into removing the files.
The material is photographed, the files are returned, and Lonsdale makes his way out to Ruislip. Beneath the kitchen in his quiet bungalow is concealed a powerful transmitter beaming the information to Russia.
Then a naval photographer receives a series of poison pen letters, another spy ring starts to break, Houghton is checked and microphones subtly planted in his home, and the police begin to follow him, Miss Gee and Lonsdale.
Lonsdale finally leads the police to the bungalow in Ruislip.
Released in some markets as Shadow of Treason.
Gordon Lonsdale (Konon T Molody)
Chief Supt. Croft