Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carter Got It

In 2004, Total Film ranked the greatest British films of all time from a poll of twenty five critics. This is the top ten;

1. Get Carter
2. A Matter of Life and Death
3. Trainspotting
4. The Third Man
5. Life of Brian
6. The Wicker Man
7. Kind Hearts and Coronets
8. Lawrence of Arabia
9. From Russia With Love
10. Naked

This is a bad list. From Russia With Love, I would agree, is certainly the best of Connery's Bond films but including any James Bond movie while not including any Alfred Hitchcock movie is absurd. Bond movies at their best are imitations of Hitchcock films and Hitchcock made a lot of movies before leaving Britain for Hollywood, among them The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, the former of which beats From Russia With Love at its own game. And, as much as I liked Trainspotting, it's simply not as good as The Third Man or Lawrence of Arabia. And I'm amazed any movie critic thinks A Matter of Life and Death is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger's best film.

As for the number one, 1971's Get Carter is a fine pulp gangster film though I'd argue its director, Mike Hodges, made a superior film in 1998 with Croupier.

Get Carter stars a poised and effectively threatening Michael Caine as Jack Carter, a gangster working for some guys who, among other things, run a pornography racket in London. When Jack's brother in Newscastle dies he finds himself compelled to investigate as the story going around that his brother committed suicide seems fishy. He also goes to see his niece is looked after.

On the train to Newcastle we see Jack reading a Raymond Chandler novel and this is a reflection of the story Get Carter ends up being. Like a Philip Marlowe story, Get Carter follows a clever man of action as he fights his way through a complicated plot with a lot of characters and makes love or gets rough with a new beautiful dame every ten minutes or so.

The main difference is that Carter is unquestionably a bad man. We sympathise with him because he wants to honour his brother and look out for his niece but he's happy to throw a man off a building and injure someone else's niece in the process.

I see a lot of people writing about the film lauded it for its realism but when a movie pits one man up against an entire criminal underworld and he repeatedly wins, we're talking about pulp. But like I said, it's good pulp.

There's an obvious, misogynous double standard in the gangster culture as Carter feels no remorse in exploiting one woman after another but becomes murderous when his niece apparently chose to be in a porno of her own free will. But there are some genuinely, wonderfully sexy moments, including Britt Ekland's one scene (despite the fact that she's the top billed actress) where she has phone sex with Carter. But my favourite is a sequence where Carter being driven somewhere by a reckless, beautiful woman is intercut with footage of him having sex with her.

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