Earlier this yr, the film-maker Mike Hodges wrote a wonderful letter to this newspaper, in reply to the query I had posed in an article about his British mobster movie from 1971: “Even after 50 years, can we correctly get Carter?” Hodges laid it naked: we are going to get Carter if we get that it’s a Hogarthian polemic in regards to the British class system with all its disgrace and self-hate.
Within the late 50s, Hodges did his nationwide service within the Royal Navy, in the midst of which he witnessed the poverty and wretchedness in fishing ports equivalent to North Shields, the place a lot of Get Carter is about. This injustice radicalised Hodges, turning him – in his personal phrases – from a complacent younger Tory into the ferocious film-maker that created this masterpiece in regards to the dead-eyed gangland enforcer, Carter, unforgettably performed by Michael Caine, working for porn barons and intercourse traffickers in London, who returns to Newcastle residence city to research the unusual dying of his brother. Nobody desires that may of worms opened, least of all Carter’s employers in “the smoke”. The implications are chillingly violent.
The inspiration of Get Carter lay in its mixture of kitchen-sink pulp with the powerful social realism of Ken Loach. Individuals are deeply suspicious of Carter when he exhibits up from the capital. He’s acquired above himself. He wears good fits. He takes care of himself. The snippiness and nastiness of class-ridden Britain is in every single place within the movie, and Hodges’ genius was to indicate us that crime and social realism overlap as a result of crime was one of many few ways in which working-class individuals might get wealthy. Hodges’ different achievement was to rediscover the uncared for British crime author Ted Lewis, on whose novel Jack’s Return Residence the movie was primarily based. However Hodges’ screenplay was an excellent riff on the supply materials and he invented traditional traces which weren’t within the ebook, equivalent to Carter’s haughty demand to a geordie barman for a pint “in a skinny glass”. There’s additionally that legendary deadpan speech, delivered by Caine in his faintly chilling sing-song: “You’re an enormous man however you’re in unhealthy form; with me, it’s a full-time job. Now behave your self.”
Hodges and Caine had been reunited for the underrated black comedian thriller Pulp (nearly a bleakly humorous B-side to Get Carter) with Caine because the sleazy crime novelist employed by Mickey Rooney’s retired Bogartian film star to jot down his memoirs; it means travelling to a distant island (Malta) the place he’s blended up in a really sleazy mess. The Terminal Man in 1974 – admired by Kubrick – additional showcased Hodges’ model with drama and thrillers, and his aptitude for satire, and it’s of a bit with the sci-fi paranoid model of the time. George Segal performs a pc scientist who suffers from blackouts, will get hooked on the electrode stimulation meant as therapy and with the concept that he’s existentially merging with a malign pc system. With this movie, Hodges confirmed us a chic premonition of the twenty first century’s digital habit.
However it was on the finish of the last decade that Hodges gave us his second nice movie, a movie with which he might let rip along with his expertise for comedy and showboating visible extravagance: Flash Gordon. The sci-fi journey was tailored from the 30s comic-strip serial, with Sam J Jones enjoying the Earthling sports activities star and all-round hunk Flash Gordon, caught up in an intergalactic conflict with the evil Ming the Cruel, performed by Max von Sydow and Brian Blessed uproariously excessive as Prince Vultan. Hodges’ imaginative and prescient wasn’t the identical as Star Wars or Star Trek: it was zanier and extra expressionist than that, with its nice operatic theme from Queen and its weird 2D studio units and freaky Day-Glo color scheme.
Within the 80s, Hodges didn’t fairly discover the identical initiatives or scripts, and his wacky comedy Morons from Outer Area died on the field workplace, however it was a sport try to translate the TV comedy genius of Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones to the large display whereas boisterously debunking Hollywood macho sci-fi journey. His thriller Black Rainbow, with Rosanna Arquette and Jason Robards as a touring clairvoyant and her ageing dad who can predict the deaths of individuals within the viewers had a spiky aptitude, and there was forthright ardour in his IRA drama-thriller A Prayer for the Dying, with Mickey Rourke because the haunted ex-Provo tempted out of retirement for one final job on the request of mobster Alan Bates.
In addition to sensible and fluent TV work, Hodges returned to his traditional themes in two of his much-admired movies from the 00s: his cult gem Croupier from 2000 was nearly ignored by the British cinema trade till it turned an indie smash within the US; it’s an intriguing and cerebral thriller a few struggling author – terrifically performed by Clive Owen – who will get a job as a croupier in a on line casino to get concepts for a ebook and will get sucked into his corruption. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead – a thriller with apparent money owed to Get Carter and Ted Lewis – was a Clive Owen film that didn’t work fairly as effectively, however had some actual environment, and the identical instinct for male loneliness.
Hodges was an excellent social commentator, an ideal satirist, an ideal storyteller and an ideal film-maker.