Get Carter is probably Michael Caine’s greatest movie, well, it is for me anyway! This 1971 British crime movie was directed by Mike Hodges and starringalongside Caine were, Ian Hendry, Britt Eckland, John Osbone and Bryan Mosley (Alf Roberts of Corrie)The screenplay was adapted by Hodges from TedLewis’ 1969 novel Jack’s ReturnHome. Producer Michael Klinger optionedthe book and made a deal for the ailing MGM studioto finance and release the film, bringing in Hodges and Caine. Caine became aco-producer of the film.Get Carter wasHodges' first feature film as director, as well as marking the screen debut of Alun Armstrong. MGM were scaling backtheir European operations and the film became the last project approved beforethe American company closed its BorehamwoodStudios.
In the late 1960s film censorship relaxationproduced an increase in dark, uncompromising films, with many directors pushingthe boundaries of acceptability. GetCarter was a film whichexplored this freedom. The filmwent from concept to finished film in just 10 months. In 1969 producer Michael Klinger devised plans fora gangster film to capitalise on public interest in the British criminalunderworld after the Kray Twins 'convictions. Klinger was invited to view a first print of Peter Walker’s Man of Violence (1969)and was unimpressed, telling the director "I'm going to make a gangsterfilm, but it's going to cost a lot more than this and it's going to be better." After searching many publishersfor material to adapt into a film, Klinger purchased the rights to Ted Lewis’s novel Jack’s Return Home. Andrew Spicer haswritten that "he [Klinger] sensed its potential to imbue the British crimethriller with the realism and violence of its American counterparts"
The film's premiere was held in Los Angeles on 3 February 1971, with a preview held in New York on 3 March thatyear. The film finally openedfor general release across the UK on 10 March 1971 and in the USA on 18 March,where it was rated 'X’rating for violence and femalenudity, meaning it was for adults only. Itwas later reclassified as 'R’,meaning under 17's had to be accompanied by an adult. A censored edited version was releasedin West Germany on 6 August 1971, with a running time 9 minutes shorter thanthe original. Michael Klinger was involved in promotion of the film in the UK,using the experience from his background as a distributor to conduct a strongadvertising campaign. Teaser Posters forthe film appeared on the front of every London bus, with the tag-line 'Caine isCarter'.
Contrary to popular belief, Get Carter was not a financial failure, according to Steve Chibnall its box office takingswere "very respectable." On its opening week at ABC2 cinema at Shaftesbury Avenue, London, itbroke the house record, taking £8,188. It out-performed Up Pompeii which wasshowing in the larger ABC1. It also performed strongly when moved to the ABC sin Edgware and Fulham Road. On its general release in the North of England, Chibnall notes ithad a "very strong first week", before an unseasonal heatwave damaged cinema attendance. Chibnall writes that "Interestingly, although [the film's] downbeat and unsentimental tone is now thought to express the mood ofits times, the mass cinema audience preferred Love Story (Arthur Hiller 1970), which remained the most popular film in Britain throughout Get Carter's run."