Wednesday 27 October 2021

Get Carter - 1971 film review

I've mentioned Get Carter several times in blog posts over the years. As I've said, it is, along with The Long Good Friday, one of my all-time favourite gangster films and many would rate it even higher than that masterpiece. Back in 2010 I was glad to have a chat with the director Mike Hodges at CrimeFest. Mike has achieved a great deal over the years but I'm pretty sure that Get Carter is the film for which he'll be remembered, long into the future. It's a classic of its kind, and since - amazingly - it's 50 years since it was made, here's a review based on my latest viewing.

Just as Bob Hoskins is the key to the brilliance of The Long Good Friday, so Michael Caine is at the heart of everything in Get Carter. His performance as a one-man killing machine is superb, and there's also a rare touch of emotion at one point. But only a touch. There isn't anything quite as chilling as the final scene in The Long Good Friday, but there are lots of shocking moments, not least in the closing stages as Jack Carter's quest comes to a bloody conclusion.

Ted Lewis''s novel on which the film is based (and which really is excellent - the best British gangster thriller by far) was originally called Jack's Return Home. He' goes back to his roots in the north east following the mysterious death of his brother. Jack is a villain, and so, in a smaller way, was his brother, who was mixed up with villains including Cyril Kinnear, played with creepy menace by John Osborne. Ian Hendry, who was originally considered for the Caine role, plays Eric Paice, a nasty piece of work who meets an extraordinary end. The cast as a whole features some terrific performers,stalwarts of British television ranging from George Sewell, Alun Armstrong, Glynn Edwards, Terence Rigby, Bernard Hepton, and Bryan Mosley, as well as Britt Ekland in a minor but not to be overlooked role as Jack's girlfriend.

Fifty years on, this violent movie offers us insight into a past way of life just as interesting as, if very different from, the pictures of vanished lifestyles in vintage crime novels. The attitudes towards women are strikingly dated, needless to say. Jack Carter's world is a man's world, and it's frightening and very grim. But I don't think, taken as a whole, that it's a film in which Mike Hodges glamorised violence. On the contrary, it's really a movie about very bad things happening to very bad people. And it remains compelling.   



Art Taylor said...

I so much admire this film myself--and appreciate your revisit of it here!
I don't know if I ever mentioned, but I wrote a short story inspired by/in response to Get Carter... and glad to forward if you're interested. Hesitate to be presumptuous (!) or to lay more on your reading list, but wanted to mention just in case!

Martin Edwards said...

I didn't know that, Art, and I'd be delighted if you could let me see it.