Cast & Crew
Jack Carter, the enforcer for London crime bosses Sid and Gerald Fletcher, decides to return to his hometown of Newcastle to investigate the suspicious death of his brother Frank. Although the Fletchers protest, as they worry that their business contacts will resent Carter's intrusion, Carter insists on going and takes the train north. Upon his arrival, Carter is stood up by Margaret, Frank's girl friend. In a telephone conversation with Margaret, Carter learns that Frank's teenage daughter, Doreen, is staying with friends rather than her. Carter then goes to his childhood home, where Frank is laid out in his coffin. Although Carter is a violent, unsentimental man, he stays the night to watch over his brother, after briefly leaving to reserve a room at a nearby boardinghouse. Doreen arrives in the morning and Carter asks if she wants to join him and his "fiancée" in South America the following week, as he is planning to run away with his lover Anna, Gerald's wife. Doreen and Carter, accompanied by Frank's friends, Eddie Appleyard and young barman Keith Lacey, then attend Frank's funeral, at which the only other mourner is Margaret. Carter attempts to persuade Margaret to care for Doreen, but the married Margaret demurs, although she agrees to meet Carter the following afternoon. After the service, Carter has drinks with Eddie and Keith, who express disbelief that a quiet man like Frank would die in a alcohol-induced car accident. Carter then searches for a former contact, Albert Swift, who he believes will have useful information. Carter looks for him at the racetrack, and although the terrified Albert eludes him, Carter finds an old enemy, Eric Paice. Although Eric insists that he is "straight now," when Carter follows him, Eric leads Carter to the country home of his employer, northern crime lord Cyril Kinnear. Eric is furious when Carter outwits Kinnear's security guards and ambles in, but Kinnear welcomes him and invites him to sit with Glenda, his drunken mistress, to observe his poker game. As Carter departs, Eric warns that he will inform the Fletchers that Carter has harassed Kinnear, but Carter dismisses him. Upon visiting the pub at which Keith works, Carter learns that another low-level racketeer, Thorpe, who is called Thorpey, was asking about him. As he is walking along the street, Carter runs into Doreen, who tells him that she is going to stay in Newcastle. At the boardinghouse, landlady Edna Garfoot listens eagerly as Carter makes an erotic phone call to Anna. After he hangs up, Carter is sought out by a panicked Keith, who has been followed by Thorpey and three thugs. Carter orders the men to remain in their car, and Thorpey offers him a ticket on that evening's train to London, although he refuses to reveal who bought the ticket. Carter tears it up and, after smashing the driver's face through the car window, chases the fleeing Thorpey. Carter easily catches him and returns to the boardinghouse, where he beats Thorpey into revealing that Cliff Brumby, a crooked slot machine dealer, sent him with the ticket. Leaving Thorpey to be guarded by Keith, Carter goes to Brumby's house, but when the large man is bewildered by Carter's presence, Carter realizes that Thorpey lied. Upon arriving back at the boardinghouse, Carter learns that Thorpey's three hoodlums returned, beat Edna and kidnapped Keith. Callously telling Edna that he can do nothing for Keith at the moment, Carter then seduces the landlady to keep her from phoning the police. Early the next morning, Carter and Edna are surprised by Con McCarty and Peter, two thugs sent by the Fletchers to return Carter to London. Carter gets the drop on them with a shotgun that he found at Frank's house, forces them outside and then eludes them in his rental car. Carter visits Keith, who was badly beaten by Thorpey's goons, and tosses him some money for "karate lessons." Furious, Keith screams after him that Frank was aware that Carter had slept with his wife and might be Doreen's father. Carter then meets Margaret on a bridge, where she lies to him, telling him that Frank was suicidal because she had ended their relationship. Carter is about to strike Margaret when Peter and Con drive up and he is forced to flee. As Carter is running, Glenda pulls up in her convertible and offers him a ride. Telling him that he was seen parking his car and she was dispatched to get him, Glenda, who is also Brumby's mistress, takes him to see Brumby as he inspects a half-built penthouse. Brumby tells Carter that Kinnear ordered Frank's death, although he does not know why, and offers him five thousand pounds to kill Kinnear. Realizing that Brumby is not telling the complete truth, and that he wants Kinnear dead because he is competition, Carter rejects the offer. As he is leaving, Carter is again picked up by Glenda, who takes him to her apartment. They have sex, and Carter learns that Glenda acts in Kinnear's pornographic films, which Brumby likes to watch. When Glenda realizes that Carter is interested in her only for the information she can provide, she storms off to have a bath, and Carter switches on the movie projector by the bed. He is horrified upon seeing the pornographic film, which features Glenda and Margaret fighting over Doreen, who is forced to have sex with Albert. Carter's tears soon turn to fury and he half-drowns Glenda, who reveals that Doreen was "pulled," or recruited, for the film by Eric and that it was made by Kinnear. Realizing now that they all had a hand in Frank's death, and why, Carter begins his revenge by locking Glenda in the trunk of her car. Parking the car at a ferry landing, Carter goes across the river to find Albert in a betting shop. In the back courtyard, Carter threatens Albert until he confesses that after Brumby saw the film, he learned Doreen's identity. A few days later, Frank was dragged to Albert's by Eric, who forced Frank to drink a bottle of whisky, then made it seem as if he was killed while driving drunk. Carter stabs Albert to death, then returns to the ferry landing, where Con, Peter, Eric and their men are waiting for him. As they exchange gunfire, Peter taunts Carter by stating that he informed Gerald of his affair with Anna, and that Gerald will maim her. After Carter shoots and kills Peter, the others run away, but, unaware that Glenda is in the trunk, they first push her car into the deep water so that Carter will not have transportation, and Glenda drowns. Driving his rental car, Carter and races to Brumby's building, where Brumby admits that he showed Frank the film in the hope that Frank would kill Kinnear. When Frank threatened to go to the police, however, he was murdered. Carter then tosses Brumby over the ledge, and the racketeer falls to his death. After mailing the film to the Scotland Yard, Carter purchases drugs and a syringe, then ambushes Margaret. Calling Kinnear, Carter tells him that he will trade the information he has against him for Eric, and Kinnear agrees to the deal, arranging to have Eric meet him at 6:00 a.m. the following morning. Unknown to Carter, Kinnear then calls a professional assassin, who wears a signet ring with the letter "J," and tells him where Carter will be. Carter takes Margaret to the outskirts of Kinnear's estate and, after killing her with an overdose of drugs, dumps her body. Before he leaves to meet Eric, Carter calls the police, informing them that a raucous party at Kinnear's has led to a death. While the police are raiding Kinnear's estate and finding Margaret's body, Carter meets Eric on a deserted beach. Carter tortures Eric by forcing him to drink a bottle of whisky, then kills him by bashing his head with the shotgun. After loading Eric's body into a coal cart that dumps waste into the ocean, Carter walks along the beach, satisfied that Frank and Doreen have been avenged. Just as he is about to toss the shotgun away, however, Carter is gunned down by Kinnear's hired killer. As the man then wraps up his equipment and walks away, Carter's lifeless body is gently tossed by the waves.
James M. Black
Get Carter (1971)
Truly, to hear a British cinema-savvy bloke of certain age (between 18 and 48) talk about Get Carter is to hear the invocation of the blessed. It's easy to see what made an impression when the film was released: philosophically, it is a bracingly nihilistic film, where in true noir style one act of violence begins a cascade of bad fortune and falling bodies. What's more, its simple mobster-revenge scenario was executed realistically, and with a startling degree of mundane viciousness, unceremoniously revealed and therefore all the more disquieting. These were not the urbane, dryly humorous crooks of the older heist films, these were the sociopathic, semi-educated, perfectly mercenary gangsters of the headlines, the kind that screw up and leave corpses in the wrong places and kill rather than lose profit, the kind Martin Scorsese was just beginning to explore on these shores. Michael Caine, already the coolest man in England and the walking-talking template for untold thousands of expressionless Brit tough guys, plays Carter, a London hitman who trains it back to his hometown of Newcastle to bury, and avenge, his brother. Virtually everyone he meets takes him for a city mouse in over his head amid the northern town's criminal element, but Carter is cagey and mission-driven, and soon enough he begins playing one sleazeball off of another, assassinating some, setting up others with the police, all of it executed with the laconic cruelty of a slaughterhouse worker.
Since the film does exemplify the first gurglings of neo-noir, there's a moral outrage rising to the surface here; Carter is a heartless gunman, but he's forced into vengeance for reasons that might belong to an ordinary man, which is why the other mobsters on hand are all caught off guard. His brother's murder agitates him, but Carter is finally moved to homicidal action by the revelation that his young niece which may actually be his own biological daughter was forced to participate in a porn loop, under the auspices of the local mob. After that, social norms and decorum are tossed and nobody, not even the relatively guilt-free girlfriends of crooks, is inviolate. Caine's Carter is the classic postmodern man of action, self-possessed but not urbane, attractive but full of untold menace, fearless but destined to die by the sword.
Caine in his prime was closer to the give-nothing-away-then-explode acting thesis of Toshiro Mifune than to an ordinary Englishman; the essence of his early stardom was embodied in his half-lidded reserve. You could read any plot machination or mystery onto him, and he always seemed to be the smartest guy in the room, regardless of his company. (That seemed true even of Sleuth , in which his companion was Laurence Olivier.) And there's no underestimating the north country bleakness around him here, which makes its own statement as surely as Antonioni's garbage dumps or Kubrick's corridors. (In fact, the nightclub that figures so prominently in the story, ironically but genuinely called La Dolce Vita, was the setting for a real crimeland killing a few years before Get Carter was filmed; Hodges incorporated aspects of the news story into the movie, and used several of its locations.)
Hodges rode on the coattails of Get Carter for years, and never reached its simple eloquence again; indeed, the small hubbub over Croupier, over a quarter-century later, was seen by many, rather indulgently, as the director's return to form. (If I had to pick my second-ran Hodges project, it'd be the icy 1974 adaptation of Michael Crichton's The Terminal Man.) But most of all, Get Carter is a product of the 1970s, when cinematography could evoke the smell of a bitter winter wind, when movie stars were more interesting than merely beautiful, when facing a grim and doomed reality was a stirring and marketable truth, not a buzz-killing bummer. When it came time for the inevitable, and inevitably brainless, modern remake in 2000 (there had been a blaxploitation remake in 1972, the George Armitage-directed, Bernie Casey-starring Hit Man), hypercool ADD style supplanted the original's grit, Sylvester Stallone tried to fill Caine's shoes with a fraction of the star power, and what remains an intensely pessimistic noir ending was softened for the cheap seats. Everyone has already forgotten it, while the legend of the Hodges's film continues to grow 28 years after its release, when it appalled the British censors, a British Film Institute poll on the top 100 best-ever British films saw Get Carter claim slot number 16, far ahead of Chariots of Fire (1981), Dr. Zhivago (1965) and Performance (1970).
Producer: Michael Klinger, Michael Caine
Director: Mike Hodges
Screenplay: Mike Hodges, Ted Lewis (novel)
Cinematography: Wolfgang Suschitzky
Film Editing: John Trumper
Art Direction: Roger King
Music: Roy Budd
Cast: Michael Caine (Jack Carter), Ian Hendry (Eric), Britt Ekland (Anna Fletcher), John Osborne (Cyril Kinnear), Tony Beckley (Peter), George Sewell (Con).
C-112m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Michael Atkinson
Get Carter (1971)
You know, I'd almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow.- Jack Carter
A pint of bitter- Jack Carter
in a thin glass!- Jack Carter
You're a big man, but you're out of shape. With me it's a full time job. Now behave yourself.- Jack Carter
Out!- Jack Carter
Come on Jack, put it away. You know you're not going to use it.- Con McCarty
The gun he means!- Peter
What are you going to do?- Edna
I'm going to sit in the car and whistle Rule Britannia.- Carter
When Carter (Michael Caine ) enters Cyril Kinnear's house, there is a Zulu shield and assegais on the wall. This is an in-joke about Michael Caine's first screen success in Zulu (1964).
The stock of the shotgun carried by Michael Caine for the majority of the movie has the initials "JC" (Jack Carter, Caine's character) and "FC" (Frank Carter) scratched into it.
In the first shot in the long bar, the second local man to stare at Jack Carter, actually has five fingers, and a thumb (an extra finger). This was a genuine abnormality of the 'extra' that played the part. It can be seen as he raises his glass of beer to drink.
'Mike Hodges' had 'Ian Hendry' in mind for the part of Jack Carter.
The scene featuring Jack Carter and Eric Piace at the horse race was shot in one take.
Attempts to demolish the multi-storey car-park, used several times as a meeting place, were met with protests. "Get Carter" made it one of the few famous buildings in the Gateshead, the borough across the River from Newcastle.
The working titles of this film were Bent and Carter. A modern source lists Carter's the Name as another working title. Some contemporary sources, such as the SAB, refer to the picture as Get Carter! The film's opening credits do not begin until "Jack Carter" is on the train for Newcastle, after the initial sequence with him in London. The opening and ending cast credits vary in order.
The film is mostly faithful to Ted Lewis' novel, with some exceptions, such as the fact that in the book, Carter does not kill "Cliff Brumby" and mails the pornographic film featuring "Doreen Carter" to a journalist, rather than to Scotland Yard. At the end of the book, Carter is wounded, presumably mortally, by a knife thrust from "Eric Paice," rather than being shot by an assassin hired by "Cyril Kinnear." Also, Eric is killed when he attempts to shoot Carter with Carter's own rifle, but the old weapon backfires and explodes. The book also contains numerous flashbacks detailing Carter's relationship with his brother "Frank," including an encounter in which Frank tells Carter that he no longer wishes to see him after learning from his ex-wife that Carter May be Doreen's father. Following the success of Jack's Return Home, the novel on which Get Carter is based, Lewis wrote other novels featuring Carter, including Jack Carter's Law and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon.
According to modern sources, when director-writer Mike Hodges wrote the screenplay, he had Ian Hendry in mind for Carter, although in the finished film, Hendry plays Eric. Also, M-G-M initially wanted to cast Telly Savalas as "Cliff Brumby," but the filmmakers believed that the cast should have as many British actors as possible. As reported by contemporary sources, the picture was filmed almost entirely in Newcastle, England and surrounding areas. Many of the extras appearing in the public scenes were Newcastle locals, according to modern sources, which also note that a few scenes-those involving "Sid, Gerald and Anna Fletcher"-were shot in London and that the final beach scenes were filmed at Blackhall Rocks on the Durham coast, close to Newcastle.
Modern sources report that M-G-M executives protested Hodges' decision to kill Carter at the end, as they were hoping to make a sequel to the film, but Hodges insisted that Carter should pay for his crimes. Modern sources note that Caine served as the film's co-producer and add the following crew members: Michael Caine's stand-in Jack Carter; Cam grip Bill Geddes; Asst film ed Bryan Oates; 2d asst cam David Budd; Electrial Doug Byers; Musician Brian Daly and Judd Proctor; and Grip John MacAvoy. Modern sources also note that bassist Jeff Clyne and drummer Chris Karan, who performed the film's score along with composer-keyboardist Roy Budd, were former members of Budd's jazz trio.
Modern sources also add the following cast members: John Cavanagh, a real-life barman, calls Carter to the phone in the first pub scene; Reg Niven, producer Michael Klinger's real-life chauffeur, plays "Frank Carter," who appears in the film only as a corpse; Newcastle local Tracey Star portrays the woman who fights with the pub singer; and Tommy Early is the blind man placing a bet.
Get Carter marked the feature film debut of character actor Alun Armstrong and the motion picture directorial debut of Hodges, who previously had worked in television. Hodges and Caine reteamed for the 1972 picture Pulp. Ian Hendry received a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Get Carter. Although the picture received mixed reviews upon its initial release, with some critics condemning its violence and misogyny, it has since become a cult classic and is regarded by film historians as one of the highlights of 1970s British cinema. Social historians also have praised the film's depiction of early 1970s class structure and life in the Northeast of Britain, and Budd's minimalist, jazz-oriented score is highly regarded by music lovers. The picture had a limited theatrical re-release in 1999, and tours of the location sites are conducted regularly.
Lewis' novel was used as the basis for two other films. The first, Hit Man, was released in 1972 by M-G-M and featured mostly African-American actors. Set in Watts, the picture was directed by George Armitage and starred Bernie Casey. Hit Man was based more on Get Carter than on Lewis' novel, and was produced by M-G-M specifically for the "black market," according to a December 1972 Daily Variety article, after Get Carter performed well financially in foreign markets. In 2000, Warner Bros. released Get Carter, which was directed by Stephen Kay and starred Sylvester Stallone as Carter, who returns to his hometown of Seattle. Caine appeared in that film as Brumby. Director Steven Soderbergh has stated that the original Get Carter also influenced his 1999 film The Limey, in which a London gangster (Terence Stamp) travels to Los Angeles to avenge his daughter's murder.
Limited re-release in United States November 26, 1999
Released in United States January 1971
Released in United States November 2002
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States January 1971
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States November 2002 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Tribute) November 7-17, 2002.)
Limited re-release in United States November 26, 1999 (American Cinematheque; Los Angeles)