Hodges's first directorial job, the film was based on the 1969 novel Jack's Return Home, and the screenplay was written by the author Ted Lewis and by Hodges. 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.
As well as Caine, the film gave roles to the playwright John Osborne, Ian Hendry, Bryan Mosley, George Sewell and Geraldine Moffat among others, with cameos by Dorothy White as the doomed Margaret, and Britt Ekland. 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 — Geoff Cline and Chris Careen.
Jack Carter is a Northern gangster based in London. As the film opens he travels to Newcastle, his childhood home, to attend the funeral of his brother, Frank Carter. Although Frank was supposedly killed in a drunken car accident, Jack quickly comes to suspect foul play; his subsequent revenge is unrelenting and brutal, played out against a bleak industrial backdrop of docks, slag heaps and car parks.
Initial critical reception was poor, especially in Britain — "soulless and nastily erotic... virtuoso viciousness", "sado-masochistic fantasy", and "one would rather wash one's mouth out with soap than recommend it". 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 film in any genre.
Get Carter was remade in a 2000 film of the same title, with Sylvester Stallone playing the main part; Michael Caine had a significant cameo. The newer version was poorly received as a pointless travesty of the original.
- Carter: A pint of bitter. (snaps fingers as barman walks away) In a thin glass.
- Carter to Eric: You know, I'd almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow.
- Eric: (to Carter) So, what're you doing then? On your holidays?
Carter: No, I'm visiting relatives.
Eric: Oh, that's nice.
Carter: It would be... if they were still living.
- Cyril Kinnear: You don't give a man like Jack a drink in those piddly little glasses. Give him the bloody bottle.
- Carter: (to Brumby) You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me it's a full-time job. Now behave yourself.
- Get Carter, the 2000 remake.
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