Category Archives: Michael Caine

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

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

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

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

On the Beach and other cinematic dystopias

the_omega_man_large_04A few weeks ago I watched Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On the Beach for the first time. It’s been on my mind constantly since.

I read the book by Nevil Shute, on which the film is based, soon after leaving school. At the time I was deeply involved in the anti-uranium and peace movements and, not surprisingly, its message about the danger of nuclear conflict resonated strongly.

For those who have not seen Kramer’s film (or read Shute’s book), it is set in the aftermath of an accidental nuclear war triggered by unnamed rogue state with access to atomic bombs. All life on the planet has been extinguished except for Australia and we are on borrowed time, waiting as a huge radioactive cloud slowly makes its way towards us. The cast, which includes Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, in a rare dramatic role, and Anthony Perkins pre his performance in the blockbuster, Psycho, is terrific.

There are so many things about the film that make it a truly terrifying experience, despite the fact it was made over fifty years ago. The scenes set in a totally dead and still San Francisco and the sense of utter despondency when the crew of the US submarine find the real source of the Morse code message they had hoped would lead them to survivors, are riveting.… Read more

The Don Siegel Rule

SeigelI had to give it a name, so I called it the Don Siegel Rule.

I was watching Charley Varrick recently, the 1973 heist film directed by Siegel, starring Walter Matthau as an ex-crop duster and stunt pilot turned bank who, along with his long suffering girlfriend, Nadine, and unreliable partner, robs a small bank in New Mexico. Unbeknownst to Varrick, the bank in question is actually a front for the mob. In response, the mob sends a hit man (played by Joe Don Baker) after him.

It’s a terrific little heist film. Tough in all the right places, just enough action and suspense to keep you interested, without the kind of over the top action gimmicks similar films exhibit these days. Matthau is terrific as the hangdog loner, Varrick.

Anyway, it got me thinking. There may be bad Siegel films out there, but I haven’t seen them.

Siegel was the king of the intelligent B movie (a title he shares with directors such as Walter Hill). His films have enormous energy and pace, but they also have an economy. Watching Siegel’s films, time and again he’s been able to get above obvious budget and script limitations to tell a gripping story.

The journeyman director cut his teeth making Westerns and noirs in the late forties and early fifties, and then pretty much excelled at whatever genre he tried.… Read more