Ted Lewis on the set of Get Carter, 1971
BBC4 Radio documentry on life & career of Ted Lewis, click image to enlarge
Get Carter with Michael Caine stands as one of the best noir - revenge films ever. I first saw it on video in the early '90s when college roommate Wallace Stroby included it with a couple Chow Yun-fat gangster flicks in what the ex-wife called, 'Wally Mail.' Carter was the far better picture and it got me thinking about how many awful revenge films are out there and why Carter was so different.
Every Mel Gibson picture, from Mad Max (which is pretty darned good) to the American Revolution disaster, The Patriot, are all revenge pics. Mel has a big family. Family gets killed when Mel isn't looking. Bad guys mess up Mel. Mel gets mad and boom, you're in Act III, Mel kills bad guys, roll credits.
Get Carter has a professional hit man in London (Caine) who comes home (Newcastle) to find out who killed his brother. That's a pretty standard setup. But it never goes where you expect it to and like the best noir, you're not so sure you wanna go with it. Stark and dark but there's beauty here too. Get Carter is about as beautiful as you're gonna see and hear in a revenge pic.
The words came from writer and artist, Ted Lewis (1940 - 1982) who wrote the book, Jack's Return Home, that the film is based on. Thanks to noir guy, Wallace Stroby, I learned of a 28 minute radio program on BBC4 (here) about Lewis and his very short life and career. The program is available on line for six more days. Sadly, Lewis's books are barely available at all (prices here) but BBC 4 presents the first radio episode of, Jack's Return Home tonight at 11:00 PM GMT / 6:00PM EST with the second episode to air at the same time on 4 September (here).
The exchange below between Caine and Ian Hendry as Eric Paice, is a good example of the poetry Lewis created. I suppose it helps that Caine, whose career was soaring, and Hendry, whose career was tanking, didn't like each other. But it was Ted Lewis that gave 'em the poetry.