Get Carter: Wikis


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Get Carter
Directed by Mike Hodges
Produced by Michael Klinger
Written by Novel:
Ted Lewis
Mike Hodges
Starring Michael Caine
Ian Hendry
John Osborne
Britt Ekland
Music by Roy Budd
Cinematography Wolfgang Suschitzky
Editing by John Trumper
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) 3 March 1971 (New York City)
Running time 112 min.
Language English

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 North Eastern 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.[1][2]

The film was Hodges' first job as director; he also wrote the script. The production went from novel to finished film in eight months, with location shooting in Newcastle and Gateshead lasting 40 days. It was produced by Michael Klinger and released by MGM. Get Carter was also Alun Armstrong's screen 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.[3] Get Carter was remade in 2000 under the same title, with Sylvester Stallone starring as Jack Carter, while Caine appears in a supporting role. 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 drunk driving 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. Brumby identifies Kinnear as Frank's killer and offers Jack £5,000 to kill him, which Jack refuses. After Jack discovers that his niece Doreen was forced into 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 of Frank's "once a week prostitute" Margaret, via a fatal injection of heroin, in which he leaves her body on the grounds of Kinnear's mansion and then calls the police to raid the residence during a wild party. The arrests will presumably destroy what is left of Kinnear's reputation.

Jack chases the last of his brother's killers along an industrial black shoreline littered with piles of coal slag, forces him to drink an entire bottle of whisky (such had similarly been forced upon Frank) and kills him.

As Jack is about to toss his gun into the sea, a paid hit man (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.



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 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 juvenile jazz band the Pelaw Hussars, also appear.

The 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 Finnish rock band Laika & the Cosmonauts cover the movie's theme on their 1995 album The Amazing Colossal Band.


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 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 "The 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.


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.

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.


The Trinity Centre car park in Gateshead, showing the roof top cafe

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 well-known 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 gives Jack Carter 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. It was set to be demolished sometime thereafter.[4]

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 featured in the film, although sea coal residues are still plentiful.


The original British quad poster (illustrated) with artwork by Arnaldo Putzu, in common with many film posters, has aspects or images that differ from the finished screen version. Historically this reflected both the lower priority given to strict accuracy over maximum visual impact, and also changes made to films after the promotional material was prepared, which was traditionally quite early on. Most strikingly in this instance Carter appears to be wearing a gaudy floral jacket. Curiously, this pattern is almost identical to the covers on the bed Britt Ekland's character is seen lying on while having phone sex with Carter. Eric does not carry a gun at any point in the film as issued (indeed, the gun shown in the poster closely resembles Carter's), and the grappling man and woman do not resemble any characters in the released version of 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 directly relates to the released cut is the depiction of Kinnear's arrest.

Promotional shots and poster artwork exist from the film showing Carter holding a pump action shotgun; in the finished film the only shotgun used by Carter is a double-barreled shotgun which Carter finds on top of his brother Frank's wardrobe. (A sawn-off pump action shotgun is used by Peter in an unauthorized attempt to kill Carter at the ferry landing.)


  1. ^ Herbert, Ian, "Man convicted of 'Get Carter' killing blames Kray twins", 27 June 2006
  2. ^ Hildred, Stafford, "I'll prove I was framed says gangster jailed for Get Carter murder", 6 April 2008
  3. ^ "Get Carter tops British film poll", 3 October 2004
  4. ^ "Car park demolition plans proceed", 23 September 2008

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

See also: Get Carter (2000 film)

Get Carter is a 1971 British crime film starring Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a gangster who sets out to avenge the death of his brother.

Written by Ted Lewis (novel) and Mike Hodges (screenplay). Directed by Mike Hodges.
What happens when a professional killer violates the code? Get Carter!


Jack Carter

  • A pint of bitter [snaps fingers as barman walks away] in a thin glass.
  • [To Brumby] You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me it's a full time job. Now behave yourself.
  • [To Margaret] Listen, the only reason I came back to this crap house is to find out who did it. And I'm not leaving till I do.
  • [To Eric] You know, I'd almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow.
  • I'm going to sit in the car and whistle Rule Britannia.

Cyril Kinnear

  • You don't give a man like Jack a drink in those piddly little glasses. Give him the bloody bottle.


Carter: You know, I'd almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. They're still the same. Pissholes in the snow.
Eric: Still got your sense of humour
Carter: Yes, I retained that, Eric.

Eric: 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.

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