Michael Caine is Jack Carter, the London gangland enforcer who returns to his hometown of Newcastle to investigate his brother’s death. Rarely has the criminal underworld been so realistically portrayed as in this 1971 masterpiece. Shot on location, resulting in a devastatingly authentic snapshot of life in the north east of England, Get Carter remains arguably the grittiest and greatest of all British crime films.
Newly restored in 4K from the original camera negative by the BFI, and approved by director Mike Hodges, Get Carter is back, and looking and sounding better than ever.
This edition features a new 4K UHD, along with a Blu-ray disc featuring new and archive extras.
"One of the greatest British Films of all time" Total Film
"Thrilling and scandalous" Little White Lies
This 4K Ultra HD Edition is strictly limited to 10,000 copies
Mike Hodges’ seminal gangster film Get Carter receives an all-new 4K restoration from the BFI and is presented here on 4K UHD Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a triple-layer disc. Though a UK release the 4K disc is, of course, region free, and the final presentation is encoded at 2160p/24hz with Dolby Vision. The release also includes a second standard Blu-ray disc featuring the supplements, that disc sadly (for North American viewers) locked to region B. This edition does not include a 1080p presentation for the film, BFI instead releasing a separate standard Blu-ray edition.
BFI’s notes on their restoration state it is primarily sourced from the 35mm original negative, but portions had been replaced with sections of the duplicating negative, more than likely due to damage. For these portions BFI were able to source the yellow, cyan and magenta protection Promaster elements, made from the original negative. BFI also notes that the film’s “final look”—which I assume includes colour grading—was based on previous restorations/releases from 1971, 1999 and 2014.
It’s clear a lot of hard work has gone into this and that hard work has more than paid off: the end digital presentation is an absolute knock-out. Filmed primarily in the poverty-stricken west end of Newcastle along the River Tyne the film is not the prettiest, the dilapidated industrial setting saturated with lots of browns, grays and dark greens, so I can’t say the film ever really “pops.” Still, the setting has never looked as lifelike and extraordinary on home video as it does here, all of those fine details found on the exteriors of the ramshackle brick buildings, cobble roads, and peeling interior walls now crisp and clear like never before. You might even swear you can make out every individual pebble and grain of sand on the beach of the film’s climax. The digital presentation also handles the film’s heavy grain in an extraordinary manner, giving it a clean and natural look that lends the image a lovely film texture sorely lacking on Warner Bros. previous DVD and Blu-ray presentations.
HDR and Dolby Vision has also been effectively applied, further enhancing the presentation. The film is darker but the wider dynamic range aids in pulling those details in the shadows and helps smoothly render some of the film’s smoky interiors that includes a pub early on. The light can bounce nicely off of reflective surfaces, like the water, but I think the most effective moment showcasing the brighter end of the things is the scene later in the film where Caine is in a bedroom watching a projected film. The film in question ends up being integral to the plot so I’ll avoid spoilers, but during this scene, in a dim room with some light coming from the area of the projector screen, there’s a single tear that rolls down Caine’s face and how arresting that tear ends up looking in this presentation delivers more of a punch to the scene. There are other “hot” moments, usually around single bulbs in darker rooms or headlights on darkened streets, but the light levels have been conservatively applied and looks natural to the image. The perfect handling of the wider contrast also shows through in the scene where Carter meets Brumby in that carpark restaurant-to-be, where partial silhouettes are up against an intensely bright background.
As to the restoration itself the work has been incredibly thorough, nothing of note sticking out. As mentioned before alternate sources had to be used in a few places but there are no obvious drops in quality so it’s impossible (at least for me) to pinpoint where these alternate sources have been used. The whole presentation is clean, sharp, and stable, with a wonderful film texture further enhanced by its excellent use of HDR. It really looks striking.
The film includes a lossless 2-channel PCM monaural soundtrack. I found the track a bit sharper compared to the previous presentations with damage never being a problem. Roy Budd’s famous score sounds especially crisp and dynamic between the lows and highs. I also found dialogue came out cleaner and easier to hear, though North American audiences may have slight issues with the cockney accents. Otherwise, it sounds great.
BFI’s limited edition throws in a good wealth of material over its two discs, starting things off on the 4K disc with the original audio commentary recorded for the 2000 Warner Bros. DVD and featuring director Mike Hodges, actor Michael Caine, and director of photography Wolfgang Suschitzky. Caine, rather sadly, seems to receive the least amount of airtime commenting around specific scenes on top of explaing the desire he had to make the film realistic. He also shares personal anecdotes like how he would name his dog after the character of Jack Carter. Hodges ends up taking up much of the track, going over the origins of the project, completed—from when producer Michael Klinger read the book to release—within 36 weeks, and talking about his desire to make the film, like Caine, as realistic as possible. In regards to that, the Kray brothers come up often throughout the track, so they seem to have played a heavy influence. Suschitzky pops in every once in a while to discuss shooting on location (difficult, especially when one has to depend on the sun) and the types of lenses used to get the desired look that would best serve the actors and story. Despite Caine not as big a contributor as I would have hoped, the track is still an excellent one that even has some great little segues, like when Hodges talks about shooting the in-film porn film first and how that seemed to oddly keep studio executives at MGM happy, possibly because they thought they were going to be getting some sort of sleazy exploitation film out of the deal.
BFI also records a new academic commentary, this one featuring the duo of Ben Forshaw and Kim Newman. The two work to explain the film’s legacy, contextualizing it to the time and period in both terms of how it represents its Newcastle location and how it differed from other crime/gangster films coming out. This also leads to discussion around the films that it ended up influencing and other adaptations of the same source that includes Hit Man and the ill-fated 2000 remake starring Sylvester Stallone (this track ends up offering the only actual discussion around the remake, brief as it is, that disaster only mentioned in passing elsewhere, Hodges clearly hating). They also cover topics you would expect, like Caine’s and Hodge’s careers, the two joining forces only one more time with Pulp, and the two also bring up the controversies around Get Carter’s violence. It’s serviceable and well put together, the two moving from topic to topic and clearly explaining how the film built up the reputation it has of being one of the greatest British films of all time. Yet, even though it does end up covering everything I would have expected (in a very entertaining manner I have to add), I can’t say anything particularly special stuck out about it. The two usually have a passion about their subject when doing commentaries and I guess I just didn’t get that here. Of the two tracks here I still prefer the 2000 group track.
Moving on, the 4K disc also features an isolated score soundtrack presented in lossless PCM. It of course highlights Roy Budd’s iconic score but a significant chunk of the film is scoreless so one will have to scan the disc to find the moments they’re looking for as I admittedly did. On top of that there is a descriptive audio track and a short 2-minute introduction featuring Michael Caine, recorded exclusively for this edition. In it the actor welcomes the viewer to this new edition and expresses his surprise at the film’s endurance. It has a feeling of just being made up on the spot, but I’ll be forgiving since it’s just a quick introduction. It's great Caine was willing to participate but it ends up being a shame he doesn’t talk about the film in an extensive manner. Still, to be fair, this release will reference some of his past comments elsewhere, so it may have been a little redundant to have him talk about they film yet again.
The remaining on-disc content is then found on the second standard, single-layer Blu-ray, which is again locked to region B. Included first are an hour’s worth of excerpts from conversation recorded between director Mike Hodges and writer Samira Ahmed in May of 2022 at BFI Southbank. The conversation (which references film clips that have been removed) ends up being a career retrospective going all the way back to when he had originally flirted with a career as an accountant before falling into a low-level job in television. He explains how he came to start directing for television before managing to make the move to film. While Get Carter, Pulp, and Flash Gordon do come up regularly throughout the discussion, the conversation ends up tackling his work in more of a chronological manner. Not all of his films get mentioned but they focus on a few surprising titles, Hodges speaking fondly about his otherwise critically maligned adaptation of The Terminal Man. It’s also amusing to see he’s just as surprised as everyone else about having done Flash Gordon. All in all, it ends up being a fun look back on his career.
BFI has also filmed a handful of new interviews for this release. Tony Klinger, son of producer Michael Klinger, stops in to talk about his father’s career. The interview is similar to another he did for Arrow’s edition for the follow-up Hodges/Caine/Klinger film Pulp, though he gets a little more into his early days including how his father “accidentally” fell into producing. The focus ends up being more on Get Carter (naturally) but he does also get into some of the films that would follow that hit.
Actor Petra Markham (Doreen) talks for 22-minutes about her role in the film and what it was like working with Caine in the couple of scenes she had with him, and recounts filming what ends up being a key revelation in the film. Following that is then a new 17-minute interview with writer/DJ Johnny Trunk who gets into the career of musician/composer Roy Budd. On top of Budd’s score for Get Carter he talks about some of his other work, however he acknowledges that the composer’s other scores ended up being attached to mostly forgettable films (he mentions his score for Diamonds is the only other one that sticks out). The most fascinating portion of Trunk’s contribution ends up being around the albums that were released for Budd's music, and to my surprise an easily accessible copy of Get Carter’s score wasn’t available until around 1998 after the film received a re-release. This ended up being my favourite new addition on here.
To accompany that BFI includes 4-minutes’ worth of archival promotional footage featuring Roy Budd recording the score for the opening credits. Also from the archives is 5-minutes’ worth of footage covering the film’s production from a 1971 airing of a BBC regional news program called BBC Look North. Though some of the audio is missing it’s notable for featuring quick interviews with producer Michael Klinger and Caine and how the program focuses on the difficulties around shooting on location, which Suschitzky gets into in the commentary. The disc also features the 46-second message from Michael Caine he recorded for the premiere he was not able to attend due to his commitment to filming X, Y and Zee. Also included is the film’s international trailer, the 2022 re-release trailer, and then script gallery
Though BFI has included solid content around the film the most interesting inclusion ends up being the 1967 33-miinute documentary The Ship Hotel – Tyne Main. The film—made with a synch-sound Éclair camera—captures the poverty found in the area of Newcastle along the Tyne River where Get Carter would eventually be filmed, focusing on the role of a local pub that acts as a center for the community. The camera lingers about, first capturing the pub’s opening and then the eventual slow roll of customers coming in. From there it documents some of the conversations between patrons, what appears to be a couple hooking up, and even people breaking out into song. Despite a couple of moments apparently being staged, like that hookup (according to BFI’s notes around the film at least), it’s a captivating and thoughtful document of the location and its community.
The limited edition then comes with a few other goodies, most notably a 77-page booklet. The booklet starts off with an appreciation for Caine and the film written by Mark Kermode, who developed a bit of a friendship with the actor (apparently Caine had told him he was “[one] of the only critics I took notice of”). Kermode’s essay ends up addressing the period and the rise of working-class playwrights and actors that would eventually pave way for a film like Get Carter getting made. Tim Pelan then writes up an essay more focused on the film’s production and its Newcastle location (and its release) that is then followed by a reprint of Alex Cox’s short 1990 write-up for The Moviedrome Guide and an excerpt from Michael Caine’s autobiography What’s It All About? In this excerpt the actor recalls the production and shares his thoughts on the finished product. Sadly, he doesn’t think Hodges lived up to his potential as a director. John Oliver then writes up short biographies for both Caine and Hodges.
Jason Wood also adds a contribution to the booklet that ends up taking up most of the last half of it, an extensive look at the work of Roy Budd. Wood first writes up a brief bio about the composer before reprinting interviews he conducted with musicians Barry Adamson, Matt Johnson, Jah Wobble, and writer Bob Stanley, each participant explaining how Budd’s work has influenced them or impacted film scores since. It’s one of the more extensive and well-researched pieces on Budd I’ve read.
Though I didn’t receive a finished copy the limited edition is also listed to include other collectibles such as a fold-out poster and four postcards. Closing on that, BFI has put together about as complete an edition one could hope for the film, thoroughly covering the film’s quick production and effectively explaining its place in British cinema.
Fans should be giddy over BFI's new feature-packed limited edition for the classic gangster flick, which delivers a near-perfect new 4K presentation for the film.