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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK


Get Carter: Original and best

Get Carter: Re-released in its original glory

Film buffs will be in seventh heaven as classic British gangster tale Get Carter returns to UK cinema screens.

They will rejoice in the fact that the 1971 film, which many regard as a landmark in movie history, is once again being given big-screen treatment.

[ image: Jack Carter didn't care who got in his way]
Jack Carter didn't care who got in his way
But there is the added sweetener of seeing the gritty, uncompromising gangland thriller restored to its original British form.

Michael Caine stars in a defining role as the cold, cockney hardman Jack Carter.

And the film that follows him on his brutal trail around Newcastle, as he sets about avenging his brother's murder, has been raised to a lofty status.

But few realise that the version that has gained such a cult following on video and TV is American, and not the full film made by British director Mike Hodges.

Lost original

The original was presumed never to be seen again when US studio bosses lost the negatives, after changing the opening dialogue to be more understandable to their audience.

Finding another original set of negatives, 30 years later, has been a hard team effort, says Nicki Foster of the British Film Institute, which instigated the film's restoration.

She explains: "We had Get Carter on the slate for re-release for a long time. When we actually came to work on it, we got Mike Hodges involved.

"It was he who set about trying to find some more negatives, which he eventually found in the archives of the BBC."

The original opening frames were joined to a high quality print of the film to become the Get Carter soon to be showing in a cinema near you.

[ image: Critics of the day slated the film for its violence and nudity]
Critics of the day slated the film for its violence and nudity
The re-release of the film, adapted from the novel Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis, is timely. Gangland culture is hot property since the success of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Warner Bros, who now own the film, recently announced plans for a remake. And the film's soundtrack was released for the first time last September.

But when Get Carter first came out, its violence, stark realism and nudity caused a stir.

Enduring quality

And, as Cameron Winstanley of Total Film magazine explains, these are all the things that make Get Carter both important to film history and a draw for fresh audiences today.

"It was the first film that didn't portray the gangster underworld as glamorous. Jack Carter is shamelessly harsh even to his friends and isn't bothered about selling them out.

[ image: Artful, rich photography adds to the film's appeal]
Artful, rich photography adds to the film's appeal
"It's cold and cruel but it isn't about gratuitous onscreen violence. It's what you don't see Carter do, but know he has done, that is so effective. New audiences today may be surprised by it but will also find it refreshing."

More than just a stylish storyline, Get Carter is impressive in its production and direction too.

Subtle extra touches - such as Carter reading Raymond Chandler's Farewell My Lovely on the train to Newcastle at the start of the film - give it a rich, textured feel.

Artful photography has led some to compare it to documentary.

It was also one of the first films to be set outside London, unashamedly showing the sterility and bleakness of an inner city landscape.

[ image: The violence was cold and calculating but not gratuitous]
The violence was cold and calculating but not gratuitous
The Newcastle of the 1990s is rather different, having been greatly developed since Carter's day.

But at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle, Marketing Manager Linda Ramsay says the interest in the film's re-release has been huge.

"Everybody has gone Get Carter mad and I've been inundated with enquiries. But it's so good to see it back on the screen as it was the first film to really put Newcastle on the map."

Get Carter goes on general release in the UK from Friday 11 June.

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