Category Archives: Michael Caine

Sexy Beast: the last good British gangster film

KingsleyOkay, I’m calling it. Sexy Beast is the last good British gangster film.

I was reminded of just how good a film Sexy Beast is – and how anaemic and derivative just about every single Brit gangster film made since is in comparison – after re-watching it on the weekend.

Gary ‘Gal’ Dove (Ray Winstone) is a retired safecracker now living the good life with his illegal proceeds in a Spanish villa with his ex-porn star wife, Deedee (Amanda Dove). Gal wants to do nothing more than sit in the sun with Deedee, and fellow London underworld refugees, Aitch (Cavan Kendall) and Aitch’s wife, Jackie (Julianne White).

Their peaceful life is thrown into complete chaos with the arrival of former underworld associate, Don Logan (a stellar turn by Ben Kingsley), a foul mouthed, psychotic gangster, who has come on behalf London crime lord Teddy Bass (Ian McShane), to recruit Gal to help pull a heist Bass is planning.

Gal wants no part in the job, setting the scene for a gradually escalating series of confrontations between he and Logan, who simply will not take no for an answer. Logan’s attempts to bully Gal to take part in the job start humourlessly enough but soon escalate, first in a wave of expletive laden threats, then rehashing the sordid underworld pasts of Deedee and Jackie.… Read more

Mike Hodges’ Pulp & mass paperback fiction on the big screen

Caine in PulpThe opening credits of Mike Hodges’ under appreciated 1972 film, Pulp, are a delight for any fan of cheap pulp paperback fiction. As text roles across the screen (in type writer font, of course), the camera pans between the faces of the three female stenographers transcribing the words of sleazy English expat pulp writer, Mickey King (Michael Caine). As Caine’s nasal voice-over recites his latest novel, The Organ Grinder, we see the different reactions of the women, disgust, shock, and excitement. It’s a reminder that once, before it was reduced to an object of outre fascination for its cover art, pulp fiction elicited strong emotions.

The movie shifts to King, in his cheap white suit and big hair, Jack Carter – the character he played in Hodges’ Get Carter only a year earlier – gone to seed, stepping out of the Italian hotel he lives in to hail a cab. As he sits in the reception area waiting for his completed manuscript, King’s voice-over goes: “The writer’s life would be ideal but for the writing. This was a problem I had to overcome. Then I read the Guinness Book of Records about Earl Stanley Gardner, the world’s fastest novelist who would dictate up to the rate of ten thousand words every day.… Read more

50th anniversary of The Ipcress File

ipcressfile1-1024

If the on-line excitement in response to teaser images from Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, is anything to go by, we’ve lost none of our fascination with the Bond franchise. Spectre promises to have a stripped back, almost retro feel, as evidenced by images of ditching his tailor made suit in favour of a black turtleneck and leather shoulder holster, harking back to previous Bond incarnations in From Russia With Love (1963) and You Only Love Twice (1967).

If you don’t want to wait until Spectre’s scheduled release at the end of this year for a dose of retro spy thrills, look no further than The Ipcress File, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this week.

Based on the 1962 debut novel of the same name by Len Deighton, The Ipcress File hit UK cinemas on March 18, 1965. It was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival and won the BAFTA for best British film the same year. The British Film Institute lists it number 59 on the hundred best British film of the 20th Century.

The Ipcress File was a major success for Canadian born director, Sidney J Furie (another being Lady Sings the Blues starring Diana Ross in 1972).… Read more

Ephemera from the 1971 film, Get Carter

Michael Caine and Geraldine Moffat

Michael Caine as Jack Carter and Geraldine Moffat who played Glenda

Following on my essay earlier this week in the Los Angeles Review of Books on Ted Lewis, his Jack Carter books and the film adaption of the first book, Get Carter (which you can check out here if you if you are interested), I thought readers might be interested in a selection of ephemera from the books and film.

The 1971 movie, directed by Mike Hodges, does not need any introduction here. While it is by no means the best british crime movie ever made, as some would claim, it is a good one and has been very influential, in terms of plot, characterisation and visual feel.

Enjoy.

Get Carter movie poster version 1

Get Carter

Get carter poster 1973

Get Carter poster 2

Get Carter poster 1999

Michael Caine and Ian Hendry behind the scenes

Behind the scenes shot featuring Michael Caine and Ian Hendry

Michael-Caine, Petra-Markham-Rosmarie-Dunham-Dorothy-White1

Michael Caine with the female cast of Get Carter (courtesy of the official Ian Hendry website)

Ian Hendry with Michael Caine and producer Michael Klinger, Newcastle upon Tyne (courtesy of the official Ian Hendry website)

Get Carter US lobby card 1972

1972 US lobby card featuring Caine and Alun Armstrong

Get Carter, 1971 lobby card, featuring Britt Ekland

Jack's Return Home, Michael Joseph, 1970

Jack’s Return Home, Michael Joseph, 1970

Carter, Pan Books, 1970

Carter, Pan Books, 1971

Giallo caine

An Italian giallo version of Ted Lewis’s novel, Get Carter

Get Carter s

Album Cover to Get Carter score by Roy Budd

Caine and Moffat

Caine and Moffat redux

Carter Village

For those who are interested, there are a lot more terrific behind the scenes images from Get Carter here on the official Ian Hendry website.… Read more

Get Carter, again

Ted 71 on set of GC

British author Ted Lewis on the set of the 1971 film, Get Carter

It is impossible to discuss British author Ted Lewis’s 1970 novel, Jacks Return Home, without mentioning its better-known 1971 film adaptation,Get Carter. Rarely has such an influential crime novel dwelt so deeply in the shadow of its cinematic adaptation. In the wake of the movie’s success, the book was quickly retitled Get Carter (which is how I’ll refer to it) and the main character forever associated with British actor Michael Caine, then at the height of his preternaturally long acting career, in a snappy suit and tie, grimly looking over the barrel of a shotgun.

Not that anything else Lewis wrote was particularly successful. As British crime writer Ray Banks observed in a piece on the site The Rap Sheet: “As far as forgotten books go, you could make a claim for pretty much anything Ted Lewis wrote.” But what Lewis lacked in sales, his books, particularly Get Carter, made up for in the glowing praise of crime writers, nearly all of it posthumous.

Get Carter and its subsequent prequels, Jack Carters Law (1974) and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon (1977), have recently been rereleased by Syndicate Books, which marks the first time they have been available in North America for 40 years.… Read more