Get Carter is 40

Michael Caine in "Get Carter"
Image by mrrobertwade (wadey) via Flickr

George Melly once described one of my favourite movies of all time as a “bottle of neat gin swallowed before breakfast.”

And this March marks its 40th anniversary.

The original Get Carter was lauded as the ‘Best British Film of All Time’ by Total Film. One of the most popular cult classics certainly, the best British film of all time – not sure, but Mike Hodges’s directorial debut delivered a classic 70’s thriller and captured Michael Caine in one of his finest performances.

Adapted from Ted Lewis’ 1968 novel Jack’s Return Home, Get Carter follows hard as nails London gangster Jack Carter‘s (Michael Caine) return to Newcastle for his brother’s funeral. Suspecting foul play, Carter’s quest for the truth about his brother’s death leads to a complex trail of lies, deceit, cover-ups and backhanders played out against the haunting backdrop of the gritty North East.

“Newcastle will be one of the stars of the film,” proclaimed producer Michael Klinger in 1970, prophesying that Get Carter would do for Newcastle what Bullitt had done for San Francisco!

Unfortunately it took over 20 years for Klinger’s prophesy to come true. On its original release in 1971 Get Carter was not a critical success. Many journalists weren’t comfortable with Hodges’s vision of a violent criminal underbelly. Consequently the film spent two decades in the critical wilderness. It was not until Get Carter was re-released in 1999 that it took its rightful place among the pantheon of British cinema classics.

Michael Caine told Loaded magazine in February 1999: ” Quite often, you only realise how good a film is in retrospect. Then years later, a whole new generation picks it up and hails it as a classic!”

There will be a series of anniversary events in the North East to mark the anniversary. It’s a shame that key locations like the Trinity Square multi storey car park in Gateshead have gone. It was here that Carter uttered the immortal line: “You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself,” before throwing Cliff Brumby, played by Bryan Mosley, off the top of the car park.


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