Get Carter

Get Carter

Infobox Film | name = Get Carter

director = Mike Hodges
producer = Michael Klinger
writer = Novel:
Ted Lewis
Mike Hodges
starring = Michael Caine
Ian Hendry
John Osborne
Britt Ekland
music = Roy Budd
cinematography = Wolfgang Suschitzky
editing = John Trumper
distributor = Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
released = March 3, 1971 New York
runtime = 112 min.
language = English
budget =
amg_id = 1:92874
imdb_id = 0067128

"Get Carter" is a 1971 crime film directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a mobster who sets out to avenge the death of his brother in a series of unrelenting and brutal killings played out against the grim background of derelict urban housing in the northern English city of Newcastle upon Tyne. The film was based on Ted Lewis' 1969 novel "Jack's Return Home", itself inspired by the real life one-armed bandit murder in the north east of England. [ The Independent] Man convicted of 'Get Carter' killing blames Kray twins] [ Daily Mail online] I'll prove I was framed says gangster jailed for Get Carter murder, 6 April 2008]

The film was Hodges' first job as director; he also wrote the film's script. The film went from novel to finished film in just eight months, with location shooting in Newcastle and Gateshead lasting just forty days. The film was produced by Michael Klinger and released by MGM.This film was also Alun Armstrong's film debut.

In 1999, "Get Carter" was ranked 16th on the BFI Top 100 British films of the 20th century; five years later, a survey of British film critics in Total Film magazine chose it as the greatest British film of all time. [ [ "Get Carter" tops British film poll] BBC News, 3 October 2004] "Get Carter" was remade in 2000 under the same title, with Sylvester Stallone starring as Jack Carter. Michael Caine appears as Cliff Brumby and Mickey Rourke plays the villain Cyrus Paice. This remake was not well-received by critics.


Newcastle-born gangster Jack Carter has moved to London to work for British mob boss Gerald Fletcher (Terence Rigby). As the film opens, Jack returns to Newcastle to attend the funeral of his brother, Frank, who died in what was officially listed as a drunken car accident. However, Jack suspects he was murdered and sets out to uncover the truth. After setting himself up with a room in a small boarding-house, Jack re-establishes links with his family and past associates. After Jack questions local loan shark Cyril Kinnear (John Osborne), rival henchmen threaten Carter and warn him to leave town, but he violently attacks them. When he forces one of the henchmen to give him a name of someone who might be involved in Frank's death, he learns the name "Brumby."

Cliff Brumby (Bryan Mosley) is a ruthless mob enforcer with a controlling interest in local arcades. After Jack accosts him, he realizes that the thugs gave Brumby's name as a red herring to throw him off the trail. In Jack's absence, the rivals return, and attack the boarding house landlady (Rosemarie Dunham). The following morning, Fletcher sends two strong-arm henchmen to get Jack to return to London, but Jack forces them back with a shotgun and escapes. The fact that so many people want him out of Newcastle only strengthens his suspicions.

With Fletcher's men in pursuit, Jack meets with Brumby at the Trinity Centre Multi-Storey Car Park, who pegs Kinnear as Frank's killer and offers him £5,000 to kill him, which Jack refuses. After Jack discovers that his niece Doreen was an unwilling participant in an amateur pornographic film filmed in Kinnear's apartment, he becomes enraged. (There is some indication that Doreen is actually Jack's daughter due to an illicit affair with his sister-in-law.) Jack concludes that Frank knew about the films and was killed before he could expose them.

Jack's subsequent revenge is unrelenting and brutal, played out against the grim background of Tyneside in the early 1970s, a world of smoky bars, working men's clubs and derelict urban housing. Jack takes out each of his enemies with no remorse and utter brutality. Particularly brutal is Carter's murder via a fatal injection of heroin, of Margaret, an attractive leather-skirted prostitute whom his brother, Frank, "saw once a week". Stripped of its PVC coat, her body is left in the grounds of Kinnear's mansion. Jack then calls the police to raid the residence during a wild party. The arrests destroy what is left of Kinnear's reputation.

Jack meanwhile chases the last of his brother's killers along an ugly industrial black shoreline littered with piles of coal slag, gets him drunk, as he did Frank, and kills him.

As Jack tosses his gun into the sea, a paid hitman (known only as "J", the initial on his signet ring), who was contacted by Kinnear the previous evening, shoots him with a sniper rifle. (This character was actually first seen at the start of the film sharing the railway carriage with Jack in an otherwise unexplained coincidence). The film ends with a shot of Carter's corpse as the waves wash over him.


Other roles included:
*John Osborne as gang over-boss Cyril Kinnear
*Ian Hendry as small-time gangster Eric Paice
*Bryan Mosley as businessman Cliff Brumby
*George Sewell as gangster Con McCarty
*Tony Beckley as gangster Peter the Dutchman
*Glynn Edwards as gambler Albert Swift and Carter's childhood friend
*Terence Rigby as London gang boss and Carter's boss Gerald Fletcher
*Godfrey Quigley as a work colleague of Frank Carter's
*Alun Armstrong as Keith, another work colleague of Frank's
*Bernard Hepton as Thorpe, a gangster
*Petra Markham as Frank's daughter Doreen
*Geraldine Moffat as Kinnear's moll Glenda (who is also sleeping with Brumby in exchange for the use of a penthouse flat)
*Dorothy White as Margaret, a married woman whom Frank Carter saw 'once a week'
*Rosemarie Dunham as B&B owner Edna Garfoot
*Britt Ekland as Anna, the mistress of Carter's boss Gerald Fletcher. She is also having relations with Carter and plans to run away to South America with him after Carter avenges his brother's death.
*John Bindon as Sid Fletcher
*Kevin Brennan as Harry
*Ben Aris as Architect
*John Hussey as Architect


The distinctive music in the film was composed by Roy Budd, a jazz and "easy listening" specialist, who worked well outside his previous boundaries for this film. The much admired theme tune features the sounds of Caine's train journey from London to Newcastle. All the music was played by Budd and two other jazz musicians, Jeff Clyne (double bass) and Chris Karan (percussion). The soundtrack was first released on CD by the Cinephile label in 1998 (it had previously only been released in Japan). It has often been used as incidental music for TV programmes and adverts, most with no connection to the film.

The influential Human League album "Dare" contains a track covering the "Get Carter" theme, although it was only a version of the sparse leitmotif that opens and closes the film as opposed to the full-blooded jazz piece that accompanies the train journey. Stereolab also covers Roy Budd's theme on their album "Aluminum Tunes, Volume 2", although they call their version "Get Carter", as opposed to its proper title, "Main Theme (Carter Takes A Train)". This Stereolab version was subsequently used as a sample in the song "Got Carter" by 76.

The juvenile jazz band the Pelaw Hussars, also appear.

Early criticism

Initial critical reception was poor, especially in the United Kingdom: "soulless and nastily erotic...virtuoso viciousness", "sado-masochistic fantasy", and "one would rather wash one's mouth out with soap than recommend it". The much-respected American film critic Pauline Kael, however, was a fan of the film, admiring its 'calculated soullessness'. A minor hit at the time, the film has become progressively rehabilitated via subsequent showings on television; with its harsh realism, quotable dialogue and incidental detail, it is now considered among the best British gangster films ever made. In 2004, the magazine "Total Film" claimed it to be the greatest British movie in any genre.

There are two slightly different versions of this film. In the opening scene of the original version Gerald Fletcher warns Carter that the Newcastle gangs 'won't take kindly to someone from The Smoke poking his bugle in'. This was later redubbed (not by Terence Rigby) for American release with 'won't take kindly to someone from London poking his nose in', as tape previews in the US had revealed that many Americans did not understand what 'Smoke' and 'bugle' meant in this context. "Smoke" is slang for London, in reference to its reputation as a foggy city, while "bugle" is slang for nose.

Also the line 'I smell trouble, boy' is edited out, for no apparent reason. DVD releases within the United Kingdom under the 'Iconic Films' label do not have these changes.


"Get Carter" was remade in 2000 under the same title, with Sylvester Stallone starring as Jack Carter. Michael Caine appears as Cliff Brumby and Mickey Rourke plays the villain Cyrus Paice. This remake was not well-received by critics."Hit Man", a 1972 blaxploitation film starring Bernie Casey and Pam Grier, is also a scene-for-scene remake, crediting Ted Lewis in the opening titles.


The novel on which the film was based, "Jack's Return Home", unlike the film, is not set in a clearly defined area. The film, however, is set exclusively in Newcastle and Gateshead.

The most talked-about location in the film is the Trinity Centre Multi-Storey Car Park, which became iconic after its inclusion in the film. Corrupt local businessman Cliff Brumby (Bryan Mosley) gives Jack Carter (Michael Caine) a tour of the incomplete roof top cafe, stating that he is in the process of developing it into a restaurant. Carter later throws Brumby from the same location. The car park has attracted much interest from across the world due to its inclusion, and is also admired for its 1960s Brutalist architecture. The shopping centre on which the car park stands closed for redevelopment in early 2008. Gateshead Council have confirmed that that the car park itself will close for good by the 8th June 2008 at the earliest. It is set to be demolished sometime soon. []

Other locations in Northumberland and County Durham were also used. The location for the ending was the beach at Blackhall Colliery, six miles north of Hartlepool. At that time (it was shot in August 1970), waste from the pit was still being tipped directly into the North Sea. Since the closure of the [ collieries] , the beach is now somewhat cleaner than the blackened wasteland over which Carter pursues Eric, although seacoal residues are still plentiful.


The poster (illustrated) does not represent the film accurately. Carter is never seen wearing anything as gaudy as a floral jacket, Eric does not carry a gun at any point (indeed, the gun shown in the poster closely resembles Carter's), and the grappling man and woman do not resemble any characters in the film. The only fight of this kind depicted in the finished work is between two women in the pub that Carter visits, mid way through the film. The only part of the collage that is in any way accurate is the depiction of Kinnear struggling in police hands.

Promotional shots exist from the film showing Carter holding a pump action shotgun, despite the fact that the only shotgun used by Carter is a double-barreled shotgun which Jack finds on top of his brother Frank's wardrobe. (A sawed-off pump action shotgun is used by Peter in an unauthorized attempt to kill Carter at the ferry landing.) The first shot (found in some books about Gangster films) shows him pointing the gun at the camera and to a person who has not seen the film would appear to be an actual still. The second (found on the back of some DVD covers, i.e. the Australian release of the film) is more clearly a promotional shot and shows Carter posing with one arm around Anna (Britt Ekland) and the other holding the pump action shotgun by his side.


External links

*imdb title|id=0067128|title=Get Carter
* [ "Get Carter" Location Tour]
* [ "The Real Get Carter"]
* [ "Jack's Return Home"]
* [ "Get Carter - The Original Site"]
* [ "GET CARTER", Screenplay by Mike Hodges, based on the novel "Jack's Return Home" by Ted Lewis, Revised Draft, 1971]

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