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Mike Hodges on Get Carter

A couple of short interviews with Mike Hodges from 2001.

Extreme Cinema

Grim, remorseless gangster Jack Carter (Michael Caine) returns home to Newcastle to investigate the death of his brother and exact revenge. Confronting a local mobster (Glynn Edwards) behind a betting shop, Carter is told that the mobster witnessed his brother's murder but wasn't directly involved. No matter.

"I know you didnít kill him," Carter notes as he plunges a knife into the man's stomach twice with a chilling brutality that reverberates throughout the rest of the film.

"What was so shocking was the simplicity and professionalism of it. There was no great frenzy or lunacy," recalls Caine, who based Carter's steely persona on gangsters he'd witnessed while growing up in London. "There's no dialogue, no warnings. It's one stab wound and youíre dead."

"You hardly see the knife," says director Mike Hodges, who had Edwards wear a white sweater to emphasize the blood, and who added the blast of a ship's foghorn "like a moan, a terribly sad noise" to the soundtrack when Edwards expels his dying breath. In an early cut of the scene, which troubled British censors, "the knife was more evident. I quite wisely took it out, because the less you see of the knife, the more effective the scene is."

"We regarded the level of violence as very low," Caine says. "I'd seen so many films that were sort of a pornography of violence, of just smashing, slashing, and whacking people over and over and over again. The idea was to show you that in real life, each punch grinds some teeth in, and just one thrust of the knife can open someone's heart."

This article by Mark Salisbury was part of Premiere magazine's February 2001 feature "Extreme Cinema - The 25 Most Dangerous Films Ever made."

Total Film

Total Film: Were you surprised that your debut feature struck such a chord with the British public?

Mike Hodges: I was astonished by Get Carter's success. It was quite scary because I hadn't anticipated that people would like the character of Jack Carter so much. I thought the picture would shock people. In fact, they seemed to relish it.

TF: What did you learn from making the film?

MH: The whole process of becoming a film-maker is learning to keep things simple. Personally, I don't think you should be noticed as a director. If you look at Get Carter, there is an incredible simplicity to it that amazes me, despite the fact that there are lots of locations. It's pared down to the bare minimum, the way that Croupier is as well. I also learned the benefit on Get Carter of having an outstanding editor. It was John Trumper on that movie - I wish I had worked with him again.

TF: What are your favourite scenes?

MH: The most memorable moments are the quiet ones involving Michael's character. Like when he looks out of the ferry and see the mother and two children, and realises that he's not normal. Or when Glenda is in the boot of the car and it's tipped into the water and he feels something. As the film progresses, he realises he's sick and psychotic. All this talk of South America is a kind of escape, and yet he knows he will never escape himself.

Mike Hodges was interviewed in the July 2001 edition of Total Film magazine for the UK re-release of his movie Croupier.


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