Category Archives: Michael Caine

Fifty years later, Get Carter is still the iconic British gangster film

When you get a moment, my latest for the CrimeReads site is on 50 years of Get Carter, how the Michael Caine revenge flick attained cult status and changed the face of British crime cinema. I don’t think Get Carter is the best British gangster film ever made but it is certainly the most influential. You can read my piece in full at this site via this link.

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My top 10 British gangster films

One of my favourite British gangster films, Mike Hodges’s Get Carter, is 50 years old. It premiered in the UK in the northern British city of Newcastle, where it was filmed, on March 7, and in the US on March 18. I have penned a piece for a prominent crime fiction/related site on the influence of Get Carter on crime cinema, but am not exactly sure when this will come out. For now, I thought the film’s half century anniversary was as good a time as any to hit you with my top 10 British gangster films.

They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

I wrote about They Made Me a Fugitive in some length on this site here. It was one of a trio of early post-war British gangster films that caused a stir with censors, the others being No Orchids for Miss Blandish and Brighton Rock, both of which appeared in 1948. Fugitive stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, a demobbed Royal Air Force pilot who reluctantly joins a criminal gang headed by a flash gangster with a very nasty streak, Narcy, but baulks when his discovers his new employer is into drug trafficking. What I love about this film, and the aspect that attracted the most critical condemnation when it first appeared, is its depiction of the poverty and desperation of post-war British life.… Read more

Playing dirty: war as a criminal enterprise

Towards the end of last year I posted on my love for the 1968 espionage/war thriller, Where Eagles Dare. My first post for 2019 continues what is becoming an unofficial series of sorts on this site, ‘in praise of films I watched with my parents on the television on Sunday night when I was young’. This time, I want to briefly pay tribute to the incredibly hard-boiled late sixties revisionist war film by Hungarian emigre, Andre De Toth, Play Dirty.

I am not sure exactly what was going on with war films in the late 1960s – I assume it was the influence of the radical tenor of the times –  but there was a whole crop of them that really took the gloves off in terms in their cynical, gritty depiction of the utter corruption and folly of war. Think Jack Cardiff’s The Dark of the Sun (1968), and Phil Karlson’s  Hornet’s Nest (1970), as well as the aforementioned Where Eagles Dare, just to name a few I have featured on this this site previously.

Set on the North African front during World War II, I reckon Play Dirty is up there with the most hard-boiled and cynical of them. Plus January 1 was the 50th anniversary of its release, a milestone that went totally unmentioned anywhere, so the time is right to give it a bit of love.… Read more

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 Redman). 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