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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Caine Plays a Great Gangster, 7 Jun 2010
This review is from: Get Carter [1971] [DVD] (DVD)
Among English movies, 1971's "Get Carter" is always cited as near the top noir/gangster/crime movies ever made. It was based on Ted Lewis's ferocious book Jack's Return Home, which I understand was based on a true crime; was adapted for the screen and directed by the British Mike Hodges, who's got a gift for this kind of thing. The British best people the cast: Michael Caine in his prime, as Carter; backed by Terence Rigby, George Sewell, Bernard Hepton, Alun Armstrong, and Ian Hendry. Britt Ekland (Mrs. Peter Sellers to you) played the love interest. And well-known English playwright John Osborne plays Kinnear, an important supporting role.

The movie opens as Carter, enforcer/hit man for a London mob, who's carrying on with his boss's girlfriend (Ekland) learns his brother has died back home in Newcastle in circumstances Carter deems suspicious. Against the wishes of his boss (Rigby), he decides to head north to investigate. He travels upcountry on a very smoky train reading the American hard-boiled author Raymond Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely" as he goes. Once home, nothing and no one will dissuade him from finding the truth -- fast and furiously -- and then taking a very bloody revenge on all concerned.

"Get Carter" packs a lot in its less than two-hour length. It preserves, more accurately than any other movie known to me, a snapshot of the sour swinging England of the 70's. And it makes inspired use of the aging industrial city Newcastle. The rusted chimneys against the sky, the graffiti, the miles of streets lined with traditional 2-up, 2-down cottages, the tear-down-candidate pubs and betting parlors with primitive toilets out back. Add the constant overcast sky/rain; the grey menacing northern sea. The little touches are also important: a knitted purple tea cosy, and a chamber pot under the bed at the boarding house where Carter stays. The clumsy provincial kids at a dance hall. And then there's the just right jazz score.

But it's Caine's movie, of course, and the theory goes that gangster pictures depend totally on the power and energy of their stars: consider James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft. Caine almost shoots sparks as a sexual predator in his phone sex scene: he achieves a double seduction; Ekland on the phone, his landlady in the room with him. His feral smile at a pub cat fight, and at the end of the picture, as he moves to avenge his brother's death, is bone-chilling. Yet he's able to cry at an important-to-the-plot porn movie.

As an actor, Caine, who was born a London cockney, has played gangsters as coldly menacing as they come, and maybe we're lucky he's strictly an actor. One of the smaller gangster roles here, Sid Fletcher, is played by a man called John Bindon, who was, in fact, a London gangster. British director Ken Loach first used Bindon to play a London villain in his now little-seen Poor Cow [DVD] [1967]. Bindon went on to work in a number of movies and TV shows, always playing a villain. One way or another, great gangster film. See it if you can.
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Showing 1-10 of 40 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Aug 2012 21:09:14 BDT
Ian Mac says:
Many thanks for an excellent thoughtful review of this superb film. Another reviewer complained of poor video & audio quality on his dvd; did you find any such problems with your copy?

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Aug 2012 22:31:36 BDT
Jarvis, You know, I don't have much of a techie background, rarely notice things like that unless they are overwhelming, and really can't speak to the issue, unfortunately. Tho I hate to admit it, but there it is, the other reviewer may well be right,

Posted on 29 Jul 2013 04:01:06 BDT
"[...] Bindon took part in a bloody Soho shootout, not even his British duchess girlfriend could save him. He died as a guest of Her Majesty: of AIDS in a none too lovely jail cell" - this is inaccurate to the point of invention. John Bindon was never known to have been involved in a "shootout" - you are referring to a knife-fight that took place in a club on the river Thames - nowhere near Soho. Bindon's so-called "British duchess girlfriend" was not a duchess. John Bindon did not die in prison. Please check your facts before posting hearsay/invention.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jul 2013 22:43:19 BDT
Chianti, I actually watched a documentary on John Bindon on BBC, and heard/saw this information, including the girlfriend, so..

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2013 18:11:01 GMT
Please re-watch the two John Bindon documentaries (both currently available on youtube), and also consult Wensley Clarkson's biography of Bindon (available here: Bindon: Fighter, Gangster, Actor, Lover - the True Story of John Bindon, a Modern Legend ), and you will find that your memory has let you down on this occasion. You should correct the review.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2013 18:53:08 GMT
Chianti, Done, tho I've a very clear memory of watching that documentary, middle of the night.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2013 19:54:10 GMT
No unfriendliness meant, by the way, but I have a longstanding interest in Bindon. In the documentary that you mention, his former girlfriend picturesquely describes how he left the country, badly wounded - fleeing to Ireland by aeroplane following the knife-fight. Bindon died a decade later, at his London flat.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2013 23:59:34 GMT
OK, you remember it better than I do, I guess. I remember her, talking about going to see him with drugs hidden in her mouth. Thought he'd contracted AIDS. Oh well,

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Dec 2013 00:00:12 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 4 Dec 2013 00:00:21 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Feb 2014 00:25:04 GMT
Timelord-007 says:
Great review of a classic Michael Caine movie.

This review very informative one of the best I read on this film.
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