Caine No 1
Oct 4 2004 By Sherna Noah, The Journal
Its depiction of a grimy and violent North-East gangland feud divided audiences - and it was slated by critics on its release. But three decades on, Get Carter has been named the greatest British film of all time.
Starring Michael Caine as ruthless killer Jack Carter, the film trounced classics like Lawrence of Arabia, in eighth place, and Zulu, at 36 in the cinema poll by Total Film magazine.
The gritty 1971 movie sees Caine as a London gangster seeking revenge for the death of his brother in Newcastle's underworld. But for many fans, the plot comes second to the locations across Tyneside and the North-East used by director Mike Hodges, who knew the area from his time in the Navy.
These include, most famously, Gateshead town centre's multi-storey car park, which movie fans have attempted to list as an historic building to save it from demolition.
Many other locations - including the north Blyth coal staithes and mid-Tyne ferry landing, have already long since vanished.
Total Film magazine editor Matt Mueller said: "Get Carter was critically slated when it first came out. It was pretty shocking at the time for its scenes of violence, and Caine played a pretty ruthless character. But Caine's character is now seen as one of the greatest anti-heroes of all time. It has stood the test of time and marks the pinnacle of his career."
The film, famous for Britt Ekland's phone sex and Caine's naked shotgun scenes, beat recent British movie triumphs like Billy Elliot - also shot in the region - and Four Weddings and a Funeral in the critics' poll.
Surprise absences from the list include Oscar winners The English Patient, Chariots of Fire, Oliver and Gandhi. The Full Monty, the tale of a group of unemployed Sheffield steel workers who become male strippers, also didn't make it into the top 50.
A Matter of Life and Death (1946), starring David Niven as a British wartime aviator who cheats death, came second.
Trainspotting (1996), starring Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller, came third and is the most recent film in the list.
While Four Weddings and a Funeral has been voted number 26, other movies from Working Title, like Bridget Jones's Diary, Love Actually and Notting Hill, don't get a look in.
Caine has four movies in the top 50 - The Italian Job (27) and Alfie (48), which has been remade with Jude Law, as well as Zulu and Get Carter.
10 great Get Carter settings - but some have got up and gone
1) the North Eastern Pub, where Carter orders a drink "in a thin glass". The pub, opposite Newcastle's Royal Station Hotel, was demolished in 1971. Hill Hammond insurance now stands on the site. Later bar scenes were shot at what is now O'Neill's, nearby.
2) FRANK'S (Carter's brother's) house in Benwell on a street sloping towards the Tyne. This was demolished in the early 70s. Dunston power station, seen across the river, was demolished in the early 80s with Costco now on the site.
3) NEWCASTLE Racecourse. The grandstand at High Gosforth Park is used for the racecourse scenes - and is one of the least changed locations.
4) CYRIL'S (John Osborne) country mansion. This is Dryerdale Hall, near Hamsterley Forest, County Durham. It was owned in the 60s by Vince Landa, the so-called `slot machine king' of the North East, whose business empire collapsed after the murder of one of his employees, Angus Sibbett, in 1967.
5) CLIFF Brumby's (Brian Mosley's) House. The house in Carrville, near Durham, has been much extended. Until recently it was owned by the same family.
6) THE Las Vegas boarding house.
Filmed in Coburg Street, Gateshead, the exterior of the houses, at least, is largely the same.
7) GATESHEAD Multi-Storey car park. The landmark faces demolition when the town centre is redeveloped. Seven of the 11 floors are still open.
8) GLENDA'S Flat. Carter comments on how expensive the flat is before murdering Glenda in her bath. New in 1970, the block formed part of St Cuthbert's Village in Bensham, ironically demolished as a slum in 1994. A new private estate stands on the site, overlooking the Tyne.
9) THE Ferry shoot-out. The shoot out takes place on the Hebburn-Wallsend ferry landing. The service ceased in 1986, and the cafe and bookmakers Carter vists in Hebburn (in Argyle Street and Ellison Street) have long gone, though the streetplan is the same.
10) THE coal staithes: Carter chases Eric along North Blyth Coal Staithes, Cambois, Northumberland; the scene below the ropeway was, however, was shot on the `black beaches' at Blackhall Rocks, County Durham. Both have been cleaned up since the decline of the coal industry and the rise of North-East tourism.