Get Carter is a great British gangster movie that’s been elevated to legendary status since the initial release, but it’s a legend because it’s tough rather than sympathetic. Michael Caine is the most iconic actor imaginable, and Mike Hodges’ film comes from a purple patch in Caine’s career, circa The Italian Job, then The Last Valley and Sleuth in the early 70’s. Yet Get Carter doesn’t belong with classic pulse-pounding Warner Brothers gangster flicks, or family dramas like The Godfather; it’s a kitchen-sink gangster movie, drab, bleak and sick at heart. With plenty of trigger warnings about violence and morality, this adaption of Ted Lewis’s book Jack’s Return Home is well worth a fresh double-disc restoration from the BFI, out this week (Aug 2022), there’s a lot to unpack.
Let’s start with Caine; a beloved performer for decades, he’s never shied away from proper acting, playing dark and unsympathetic characters in films like Dressed to Kill or Mona Lisa. Jack Carter is one of his darkest; returning home to Newcastle from the big smoke, Carter isn’t really trying to find out what happened to his brother, who has been found dead in his car, plied with alcohol. Carter already knows that he wants revenge, but to find out which local crims to tackle, he needs to find out exactly what his brother was involved with, and that voyage of discovery takes him into the sleazy depths of a male-dominated world of crime.
So this isn’t the same Michael Caine that we love to cheer on his more cheerful capers; Carter is a cold-blooded, callous, violent man who treats women badly and men worse, and Hodges doesn’t spare us repulsive detail. But Carter’s trip oop north is a tricky one; by setting a criminal against criminals, our moral compass is quickly screwed. Carter has some spare but memorable lines, from comparing Ian Hendry’s eyes to ‘piss-holes in the snow’ to his classic put down ‘You’re a big man, but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself.’ This quotablity has helped Get Carter gain a reputation as one of the best, if not the best British film ever, but the vapid cheerleading of the likes of Loaded lads magazine in the 90’s ignored that fact that Carter is a villain in a story with no good guys at all, and we’re hardly meant to cheer his cold, bloody process.
Some vague spoilers for a 50 year old movie; the scene in which Carter sits up in bed, watching a pornographic film in a mirror and discovers the nature of his brother’s death is still deeply disturbing, and the manner in which Carter temporarily revenges himself is even more horrific. Also shocking is the casual way that Hodges captures an atmosphere of moral turpitude through the architecture of Newcastle and Gateshead, with cobbled streets giving way to the new brutalism of the celebrated 10 story car-park which features in a key scene. With vocal support from Hendry, playwright John Osbourne, Britt Ekland (briefly) and more, Get Carter is an iconic but deliberately unlovable film; like the central character, it’s brutal and utterly dangerous to know.
This two disk edition comes complete with a fresh introduction and a 2000 commentary by Caine, plus a separate commentary from Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw, and a welcome focus on the music of Roy Budd.
- UHD – 4K (2160p) presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
- Blu-ray – presented in High Definition
- Newly recorded introduction by Michael Caine (2022, 3 mins)
- Audio commentary featuring Mike Hodges, Michael Caine and Wolfgang Suschitzky (2000)
- Audio commentary featuring Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw (2022)
- Isolated score by Roy Budd
- Mike Hodges in Conversation (2022, 60 mins): the director discusses his career in this interview recorded at BFI Southbank
- Klinger on Klinger (2022, 24 mins): Tony Klinger recalls and evaluates the career of his father, Michael Klinger, Producer of Get Carter
- Don’t Trust Boys (2022, 22 mins): actor Petra Markham reflects upon her career on stage and screen, and recalls her role in Get Carter
- The Sound of Roy Budd (2022, 17 mins): Jonny Trunk explores the varied career of Roy Budd, and revisits his iconic score for Get Carter
- BBC Look North location report (1970, 5 mins)
- Roy Budd Plays ‘Get Carter’ (1971, 4 mins)
- Michael Caine’s message to premiere attendees (1971, 1 min)
- The Ship Hotel – Tyne Main (1967, 33 mins): Philip Trevelyan’s evocative documentary film about a pub on the banks of the River Tyne
- International trailer (1971)
- Re-release trailer (2022)
- Script gallery
Order from the BFI Shop here:
BFI DVD/Blu-ray releases can be ordered from home entertainment online retailers or from the BFI Shop at https://shop.bfi.org.uk/