Get Carter – 1971 | 112mins | Thriller | Colour
Harsh debut film from director Mike Hodges who’d impressed British television viewers with his earlier work for the BBC. Get Carter is a well-crafted, gritty, British gangster film based on Ted Lewis’ Jack’s Return Home.
Michael Caine is Jack Carter, a small-time hood working in London for the Fletcher brothers when word reaches him of his brothers death in Newcastle under suspicious circumstances, so Carter leaves London for his home city of Newcastle to arrange his brother’s funeral. While preparing for the burial, he becomes obsessed with learning who murdered his sibling and why. Refusing to accept the police report of suicide, Carter seeks out his brother’s friends and acquaintances, Carter tries to question them but finds a wall of stony silence from the local underworld. Operating on a hunch, he follows sleazy chauffeur Eric (Ian Hendry) to local crime lord Kinnear’s (John Osbourne) home and is surprised to find himself more than welcome. Before he leaves, Carter is warned to return to London before he causes any trouble. He ignores the warning, and soon attempts are made on his life. After a narrow escape, he is rescued by Kinnear’s girlfriend, Glenda (Geraldine Moffatt), and she takes him to her place. The pair make love, and, afterwards, while Glenda is out of the room, Carter discovers a porno film starring, among others, his brother’s young daughter. Carter then sets out on a path of vengeance against those implicated in his brothers death and the film ensues towards it’s downcast ending.
Grim, violent, and stylishly directed, Get Carter is an interesting film that brought some freshness to British crime cinema. Director Hodges immediately establishes his debt to the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett by showing Caine reading Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely on the train to Newcastle. While Caine would like to think of himself as one of Chandler’s or Hammett’s lonely avengers, he is really nothing more than a vicious brute with a warped sense of honour, trapped between the past and the present. This theme is beautifully illustrated by the milieu of the film. Newcastle is a city in transition: the urban tenements are in the process of being displaced by cold, efficient high-rise structures that symbolize the increasingly businesslike crime world that has no place for violent mavericks like Jack Carter.
Mike Hodges: Director
Roger King: Art Direction
Wolfgang Suschitzky: Cinematography
Evangeline Harrison: Costume Designer
John Trumper: Editing
Allan McKeown: Make-Up Dept
George Partleton: Make-Up Dept
Roy Budd: Music
Michael Klinger: Producer
Assheton Gorton: Production Design
Mike Hodges: Script
Christian Wangler: Sound
Jack Wallis: Special Effects