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“Hey, Ma! Look at my shoes! Aren’t they great?”
“Oh my God! You look like a gangster.”
— Goodfellas

Gangster movies, like war films and Westerns, are not simply a part of the American cinematic tradition, but a component in the collective psyche of its people. The well-dressed gentleman rogue who sees violence as a necessary part of business, and business as essentially a family or quasi-familial operation, is iconic. Crime, business, and family (or surrogate family) are intertwined. Cosa nostra means “our thing.” So, what makes a good gangster movie?

First of all, in true philosophical style, we must define our terms. What is a gangster? I recently watched a YouTube video billed as the “top ten British gangster movies” and, although there were some great films in there, they were not all gangster movies. In Bruges is a brilliant comedy noir starring the supreme British (mostly Irish) acting triumvirate of Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, but it is not a gangster film. There is no gang. Farrell and Gleeson are hit men in hiding, and Fiennes is a particularly nasty villain. Sexy Beast is another excellent British film featuring a staggering Oscar-nominated performance by Ben Kingsley as Don Logan — watch him respond to an air stewardess who objects to him smoking on an airplane — but there are no gangsters. Logan is putting a team together for a bank heist. Hit-man and heist movies are not gangster movies other than incidentally.

The Godfather movies were gangster movies, Pulp Fiction was not. Lawless is more of a gangster movie than Reservoir Dogs. A gangster movie needs the family, the mob, the pack, to bring out the most primal behavior in bad guys. Oh, and good suits don’t do any harm, as we shall see when we turn to the mafia’s influence on British gangsters.

The first gangster movie I can remember seeing was Angels with Dirty Faces. Cagney plays a tough-guy mobster who also has a soft spot for a boys’ club run by a priest he knew as a kid. I usually hate to Google (it’s a prosthetic memory which weakens the real thing, like spectacles weaken your unaided vision), but I couldn’t remember the actor who played the priest. He was great, and Big Tech tells me he was played by Irishman Pat O’Brien. It is a phenomenal movie — Bogart is also in it — with one of the best payoffs ever. I won’t spoil.

Martin Scorsese, a genuine American national treasure, made two of the most famous gangster movies in Goodfellas and Casino, both accurate renderings of books by ex-mobster Nick Pileggi, who co-wrote the scripts. Goodfellas shows the mob in action (a much more downbeat portrayal of quotidian life in the mafia would later appear in Donnie Brasco), whereas Casino shows the mob’s financial reach and how they protect their investments.

And money is central to the gangster movie. In the heist or hit-man movie, it is a one-off payment; fireworks money. In the gangster movie it is the oil that greases the family economy, and it needs to be consistent. As Joe Pesci’s character Nicky Santoro says in Casino, “Whaddya think we’re doin’ out here in the desert?” In the same movie, when Frank Marino goes back to the bosses with ever-decreasing bags of skimmed cash from Vegas, he finally says, “I didn’t know if I was gonna be kissed or killed.”

It is amusing to note that, even though to be “made” by the mafia you had to have family lineage going back to the old country, the cosa nostra were more realistic when it came to accountancy. Meyer Lansky, the Polish Jew widely credited as the financial brains behind Lucky Luciano’s mafia (Lansky is Hyman Roth in The Godfather), was the subject of a gag by Jewish comedian Jackie Mason:

All those Italians with broad shoulders and dark glasses? How could they possibly have created something like the mafia — unless they had a Jew to show them how? Meyer Lansky? He’s their Henry Kissinger.

So, from black-and-white, Valentine’s Day massacre wiseguys with their Tommy-guns in violin cases to The Sopranos with their bad shirts and their automatic pistols , both moviemakers and the American public have a long-standing love affair with the bad guy in the sharp suit.

As for the film industry in my country, I am not certain which of two English gangster movies I saw first. Brighton Rock was certainly made first. I lived in Brighton for many years and drank in a couple of the original pubs used in the film, in which national treasure Sir Richard “Dicky” Attenborough plays novelist Grahame Greene’s doomed chancer, Pinky. The British refer to actors as “luvvies,” and Attenborough — brother of the famous naturalist Sir David — is the original. Brighton Rock is a great atmospheric period movie, but the British gangster movie that changed everything for me was 1971’s Get Carter.

Based on a tough pulp novel called Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis (if you like the movie, read the book), Get Carter is based in and around Newcastle. For those of you unfamiliar with England’s geography, there is a semi-jocular saying that “It’s grim up north,” and Newcastle is on a short-list of the grimmest. I know. I’ve been there. The city is a minor character in Get Carter, however, like Manhattan in Woody Allen’s film of the same name, Bruges in In Bruges, or Paris in any film set in Paris .

Michael Caine plays Jack Carter, a suave London gangster returning to his hometown of Newcastle to find out how his brother died in mysterious circumstances. Critics of the film have noted that Caine has no discernible Geordie accent — it being the most impenetrable British accent this side of Glasgow — but talks, well, like Michael Caine. Caine is probably the most vocally imitated British actor, and any British impersonator can do Caine the same way their American counterparts can do Pacino. Amusingly, as the film unfolds, we note that just about nobody in it has a Geordie accent. Perhaps the producers shied at the extra cost of subtitling.

Carter’s London bosses are not keen on the trip, and the stakes are high. He is having an affair with the girlfriend — played by the sultry Swedish actress Britt Ekland, who famously married Peter Sellers — of the gang boss, who has to have been cast because of his resemblance to London gangster Ronny Kray, of whom more later. Jack goes anyway, travelling north on a train in an opening sequence brought to life by Roy Budd’s fabulous jazz-Latin musical score. The sharply-suited Caine relaxes in his seat, engrossed in a book, which happens to be Farewell My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, more gumshoe than gangster, but alerting us to the fact that Jack is going home to do some sleuthing, and also something else. He has left the gang behind. He has risked pack rejection, death to any wild animal.

The connection between the gangster and the pack is a strong one. Al Pacino’s character Carlito Brigante in Carlito’s Way is trying to get out of the gangster life and go straight, but he instinctively reverts to type when he has a disagreement with a wannabe gangster and tells him:

You think you like me? You ain’t like me, motherfucker. You a punk. I been with made people, connected people. Who you been with? Chain-snatching, jive-ass, maricon [NB. Latino Spanish slang for “faggot”; don’t say it to a Latino unless you wish to be knifed] motherfuckers. Go on, go snatch a purse.

There is a class system even in the underworld.

As Carter delves further into who killed his brother, he discovers a murky world of underground pornography, and this aspect of Get Carter shows the difference between 1970s culture and today’s just as much as the period cars, flared trousers, and the fact that everyone is smoking all the time.

Nowadays, pornography is available in high resolution within a mouse-click, and can be shot on a phone. When Get Carter was made, what were rather coyly called “blue movies” had to be produced, at high material cost, shot on celluloid, and shown on ratchetty film projectors in dark basements of seedy clubs in Soho. Oh, and it was highly illegal, a fact which provides Carter with both motive and means in the film. There is a scene in which Carter recognizes a loved one in one of these films, and his quiet grief and tears are moving. Then he gets back to his day job of violence and intimidation.

Caine plays what he is supposed to play, a man described by another character as a “tough nut.” Carter watches dispassionately as a sports car submerges in a canal, knowing that in the trunk is a woman — still alive — with whom he was in bed an hour previously. Caine has the ability to make his eyes go dead. Walken and Pacino have the same acting knack.

Get Carter is a blueprint rogue gangster movie. There is a similar sub-theme in Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg’s 1970 film Performance, in which James Fox plays a London hard man who crosses the gang and ends up holing up with faded pop star Turner, famously played by Mick Jagger. In passing, and for genuine film buffs (I am just a pretend one, although I did start out in magazines as a film reviewer), Nic Roeg managed the extraordinary feat of perfectly casting musicians who were quite bad actors by virtue of the fact that each of the characters they played was supposed to be nervous and on edge. All three films repay inspection: Jagger in Performance, Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Art Garfunkel in Bad Timing, one of those rare films which lives up to its blurb: “A terrifying love story.” Do not watch Bad Timing with your partner.

But there still remains the questions of the suits. London’s most famous gangsters, the Kray twins, were famously well-dressed, taking the cut of their cloth both from the corporate world and the mob (and the slice of the Venn diagram where those two worlds overlap). Carter is what we Londoners would call dapper, and that comes from a very definite source in the London underworld’s mythology.

Ronnie and Reggie Kray were London’s most notorious gangsters. Cinematically, avoid The Krays, which features the Kemp brothers from the English 1980s band Spandau Ballet, and they are far too pretty for the role. A better bet is Legend, in which the talented Tom Hardy plays both twins, just as Jeremy Irons played twin brothers in 1988’s Dead Ringers. How, as they say, do they do that? To my embarrassment, watching Legend on an 11-hour flight, I recognized Hardy as Reggie Kray, but did not realize he was also playing Ronnie. Every Londoner of my generation has their Kray twins story, and mine is that I once answered my mother’s boyfriend’s telephone to Charlie Kray, the twins’ elder brother. Don’t ask.

But Caine as Carter cemented that actor’s status in England, along with Zulu, Alfie, and iconic heist movie The Italian Job. If you see an Englishman over 50 years old and address him thus, he will know exactly what you mean: “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Get Carter was remade in Hollywood with Sylvester Stallone, and to make a full declaration I haven’t seen it. I watched the trailer and felt, essentially, that one should shake one’s head sadly and pass on.

The current incumbents of the back of British bank notes are Churchill, Jane Austen, Turner, and Alan Turing, who was put there as a gesture to the “gay community” after Gordon Brown apologized posthumously to the philosopher who masterminded the code-breaking Enigma machine which helped win the Second World War over his hounding as a homosexual, a woke gesture avant la lettre.

There will undoubtedly be pressure to replace these white devils with some black nurses or bus drivers, but in a truly equitable world Michael Caine would be on the £50 note. He is as close as you can get to a national institution, at least to ordinary people of a certain age. The media are not so sure, however, as Caine is famously conservative.

As with all famous actors, there are apocryphal stories, and there are two concerning Caine I hope are true. Filming in the aforementioned Soho (still known as the seediest part of London), possibly during one of the so-called “Harry Palmer” films (The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, and others), Caine used a break to go and look at a Rolls-Royce showroom, already being a rich man. He asked a car salesman how much a particular model would cost and the man replied, rather more than sir can afford. Incensed, Caine took a taxi to another showroom and bought the same model on the spot. He then drove it around the block past the first dealership, sticking two fingers up at the salesman who snubbed him on each circuit.

Then there was the time Caine was filming in East Berlin — that has to be Funeral in Berlin — and took a bus to explore the city on a rest day from filming. He asked the driver the fare, and was told that it was the same rate for anyone to go anywhere, and that this was a testament to the wonders of Communism. No, explained Caine, it’s because no fucker wants to go anywhere.

So, if you have not had the pleasure of Get Carter, treat yourself. If you enjoy, go after The Long Good Friday next , with the unlikely couple Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren taking on the IRA. The British gangster movie probably spawned the adjective “gritty.” Gangs will become stronger and figure more in Western urban life as the economy drags and society crumbles. You might as well watch gangsters who have at least some fashion sense. Get Carter is as English as roast beef and potatoes, black taxis, and low-quality dental care.

What is the future of gangs? In the short term, I would say good. I have followed with interest the concerted wave of black looting in the Bay Area of San Francisco and, since Black Friday, more or less nationwide. In the Bay Area, it escalated from some corn-rowed kid and his cousin scooping up trainers to larger groups of feral blacks gutting a store to a 25-car operation which sealed an area and allowed 80 looters to operate unimpeded, even if there were any cops left in San Fran to impede them — and black Democrat mayors, sympathetic white district attorneys, and police chiefs have largely seen to it that there aren’t. Now, what happens when these platoons need marshalling? Blacks won’t organize this kind of thing themselves because they can’t. They will still need whitey, as they do for everything else.

There is a great scene in a great gangster movie, Abel Ferrara’s King of New York, in which Christopher Walken’s character, Frank White, is smooching with his lawyer girlfriend on the subway. Three bad black dudes enter the carriage and ask for his wallet and watch. He pulls back his jacket to reveal a holstered gun and the punks back off. He pulls out a banded wad of notes and throws it to the blacks.

“Come to the Plaza Hotel. Ask for Frank White. I have work for you.”

How long before that scene is prophetic? As White says to the police officer tasked with bringing him down: “I’m not your problem. I’m just a businessman.”

When the feral blacks of the Bay Area get a capo di tutti capi, then the bosses can go back to the stores and say, hey, we see you had a little problem here. Nice place, too. Maybe we could make that go away. Protectionism: the cosa nostra’s business model . The gangster is like the cockroach, breeding and thriving during times both good and bad.

As for movies, I can watch the same one over and over again. I must have seen Get Carter 10 or 12 times. Well, you wouldn’t buy an album, play it once, and never play it again, am I right? In fact, an old girlfriend once said to me, as I was settling down in front of the TV with a famous gangster movie playing yet again, that she found it funny that I could watch the same film so many times.

I simply replied, funny how?

(Republished from Counter-Currents Publishing by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Nice article. FYI, Nick Pileggi wasn’t in the mob. He was a reporter who covered the mob.

    • Replies: @Z-man
  2. What a bunch of navel-gazing tripe. Thanks for wasting my time.

  3. There’s nothing worse than a writer who wants to sound hard.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
    , @Tom F.
  4. AceDeuce says:

    I thought that much of this was pretty good stuff. I was going to mention (but another poster beat me to it) that Pileggi was not a gangster. He was lower than one-he was/is a journalist. He was also married to author Nora Ephron, FWIW.

    The Man Who Fell to Earth was an interesting pic. That was based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, who also wrote The Hustler, The Color of Money and the Queen’s Gambit.

  5. @Intelligent Dasein

    “Thanks for wasting my time.”

    Now you’re wasting our time.

  6. @Joe S.Walker

    “There’s nothing worse than a writer who wants to sound hard.”

    The writer of this lively piece is having fun with a subject he knows and enjoys. His voice matched the material.

    • Replies: @Mark Gullick PhD
  7. “in a truly equitable world Michael Caine would be on the … 50 note.”

    The variety of roles accepted by Caine throughout his long and successful career should provide inspiration for nascent actors. He was first and foremost a working actor. And now the aforementioned variety: a transexual murderer in Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, a cuckold in The Quiet American, the suave Italianate lover of Laurence Oliver’s wife in Sleuth, the aristocratic army officer in Zulu, a seedy pimp and blackmailer in Mona Lisa, the irrepressible Peachy Carnahan in John Houston’s classic The Man Who Would Be King, the squirmy and neurotic Elliot in Hannah and Her Sisters, blue collar MI6 operative Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin, The Billion Dollar Brain. In the 70s and 80s Caine built up his bankroll with a series of cheesy but fun films like Jaws 4, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, The Swarm, and The Island. His filmography is deep.

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Replies: @anon
    , @Rich
    , @Mike Tre
  8. anon[361] • Disclaimer says:

    Dunno, there was this time where this kinda sheriff type pulled up a hundred yards from my home and sitting there watching me shoveling snow with pretty good aluminum shovel. I can see he wants to serve me papers and I just kept shoveling snow. Practicing. And said, ‘If you are going to serve me those papers just walk on right up, and I will take your head off with this lousy aluminum shovel. Your call.’
    I usta been a lot more violent than I am now.

  9. Anonymous[794] • Disclaimer says:

    Uh, you have to kill someone to be “made”.

  10. Things I Learned From British Gangster Films…

    1. In the British juvie jail system depicted in SCUM the ages range from 12 to 30 y/o.

    2. Everyone will fear you if you bring a “Tool” to a fistfight or blindside homo rapists with improvised weapons…including the Borstal jailers.

    3. The prison guards will goad their relatively docile youth inmates into riots for no reason in British Borstals according to SCUM.

    4. Top echelon gangsters like Ian McShane rob banks by sodomizing high-class old money wasters at orgies where the participants ages appear to all be over 55 in SEXY BEAST

    5. When the crime is work “a monkey can do” there is no option but to fly to Spain to attempt to terrorize a retired criminal into participating.

    6. After you have been detained for threatening Spanish citizens on a plane you can easily turn around & be permitted to reenter Spain moments later.

    7. In 1969 male relatives still wanted to kill people who put their niece in a porn film instead of bragging about it.

    8. When you want to remake a British gangster film cast East Coast-sounding New Yawk tough guys like Stallone or Rourke & set the film in Seattle.

    9. When controlling all the vice in Seattle or Northern England the only “female talent” available will be the daughter/niece of widely-feared kneecapping “hardmen” like Caine or Stallone.

    10. After avenging your brothers death you will break out into an ecstatic joy jump on the beach so that a sniper can shoot you.

    • Thanks: Rich
    • Replies: @al gore rhythms
  11. I recently watched a YouTube video billed as the “top ten British gangster movies” and, although there were some great films in there, they were not all gangster movies. In Bruges is a brilliant comedy noir starring the supreme British (mostly Irish) acting triumvirate of Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes, but it is not a gangster film. There is no gang.

    Even if the whole gang isn’t shown, it can still be a gangster movie if it’s about characters who are gangsters. Hitmen work for the mob. It’s like you don’t need entire armies to have a war movie. HELL IN THE PACIFIC is about one American and one Japanese stranded on an island. But they are soldiers representing enemy nations. Thus, it can count as a war movie.

    The Godfather movies were gangster movies, Pulp Fiction was not.

    Travolta and Jackson’s characters are hitmen who work for black mob boss. They dominate the movie. So, PULP FICTION can qualify as a gangster movie.

    A gangster movie needs the family, the mob, the pack, to bring out the most primal behavior in bad guys.

    Actually, THE GODFATHER was atypical for the genre. In a way, it’s more a classic family saga but where the business is organized crime. The classic gangster genre is usually about the individual maverick. He comes out of nowhere and does it ‘my way’. He shoots to the top but then combusts by having made too many enemies too fast. PUBLIC ENEMY, LITTLE CAESAR, SCARFACE, and etc are not about teamwork or the pack. It’s about some maverick who defies the established order of the underworld. He’s not a team player. He even bumps off the boss to take over. But he flames out sooner than later. The remake of SCARFACE with Pacino is very much in this mold. Tony Montana just won’t listen and runs roughshod over everyone. His balls are too big. He is defiant and takes over but so dogged in his doing it his way that he’s soon destroyed by the pack system. The more pack-friendly gangster movies are the Yakuza flicks from Japan. They’re more about the group than about the rugged individualist with just enough flunkies to keep it going for awhile.

    The first gangster movie I can remember seeing was Angels with Dirty Faces.

    It has a hilarious copout ending as moral message that the hoodlums aren’t really tough guys but shrieking cowards.

    Martin Scorsese, a genuine American national treasure, made two of the most famous gangster movies in Goodfellas and Casino, both accurate renderings of books by ex-mobster Nick Pileggi, who co-wrote the scripts.

    I prefer to see GOODFELLAS and CASINO as films about gangsters than gangster movies(meaning of the genre). It’s the difference between a musical(genre) and a film about the musical world(TOPSY TURVY). Scorsese’s films are based on reality, not gangster myths. THE DEPARTED, in contrast, belongs in the crime movie genre.

    And money is central to the gangster movie. In the heist or hit-man movie, it is a one-off payment; fireworks money. In the gangster movie it is the oil that greases the family economy, and it needs to be consistent. As Joe Pesci’s character Nicky Santoro says in Casino, “Whaddya think we’re doin’ out here in the desert?”

    But there’s more to Nicky Santoro. Sure, all gangsters are greedy. Like the guy in IDIOCRACY, they all ‘like money’. But Santoro is in it for something else. He likes to steal as a kind of high. Unlike Ace Rothstein who knows the angles and the limits, Santoro plays it reckless because he just can’t help himself. He takes to crime like he takes to drugs and other self-destructive behavior. He’s like his son at the little league game. He has to swing for homerun every time. Indeed, the money he sends to the mafia boss decreases precisely because he’s so out-of-control and impulsive. He got kicked out of every casino because he wouldn’t listen to his friend Rothstein. Pride and thrill are bigger to Santoro than money. He could have made more money had he taken Rothstein’s advice and played it smarter and more patiently.

    In the same movie, when Frank Marino goes back to the bosses with ever-decreasing bags of skimmed cash from Vegas, he finally says, “I didn’t know if I was gonna be kissed or killed.”

    That wasn’t only about diminishing tributes. It was about behavior. The mob bosses cannot tolerate anyone fooling around with another man’s wife. And they’ve heard rumors that Santoro is violating this cardinal rule.

    British gangster movie that changed everything for me was 1971’s Get Carter.

    One of my absolute favorites, not least because of Michael Caine, one of the few British actors I truly love. Britain produced many fine actors, but they tend lack personality and color compared to American actors. Caine is the great exception. Laurence Olivier and Michael Fassbender don’t stick in my mind, but Caine always did. He had in cinema what John Lennon had in Rock. Prince born a pauper with something of the jester. (Albert Finney has a similar quality but was misused so often. But what a grand role in MILLER’S CROSSING.)

    There is a class system even in the underworld.

    This is what sets GET CARTER apart from most gangster movies. While hierarchy, rank, and pecking order are the feature of every gangster movie — after all, organized crime must have bosses and underlings — , it’s almost as if the gangster world in GET CARTER serves as a microcosm and metaphor for the class system as a whole. Unlike in the American gangster movie where some tough guy on the bottom catapults to the top in one bold step, the world of GET CARTER is more rigid and stratified.
    From the very first scene, there’s a sense of class rebellion in Carter actions. He’s not a member of the upper rung. His dead brother was a nobody, so doesn’t matter. As far as the boss is concerned, Carter should let it go. But Carter goes into ‘angry young man’ mode made popular in the late 50s and early 60s with movies like LOOK BACK IN ANGER and SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING. One by one, he takes out the flunkies at the lower rungs and then claws higher to bring down the aristo-gangsters by hook and by crook. He’s somewhat like the ‘working class hero’ of John Lennon’s song.

    GET CARTER is also about the cultural degradation of the working class, especially by youth pop culture. Though Carter the gangster is hardly a model citizen, he does have a sense of where he came from, a sense of blood loyalty. And relatively speaking, a sense of injustice about what men-with-privilege to do men without. Like Toshiro Mifune’s character in BAD SLEEP WELL, he smolders with rage that the guys on top treat their inferiors as expendable.
    Also, the rise of libertine culture has in some ways made it easier for unscrupulous men to exploit the young devoid of family bonds, sense of roots, and code of manners. Rising libertinism, far from emboldening rebellion against privilege, has rendered the young more conducive to being manipulated with promises of sex, drugs, and hedonism.

    Carter is something of an avenging angel but also doomed. No matter how hard he strikes at the abuse and treachery of the guys on top and their flunkies, he too is part of the filth. There’s an element of self-loathing though his gangster pride can’t admit to this. In the end, it’s only right that he also joins the body count.

    • Thanks: Miro23
  12. anon[361] • Disclaimer says:

    Dunno, there was this time where this kinda sheriff type pulled up a hundred yards from my home and sitting there watching me shoveling snow with pretty good aluminum shovel. I can see he wants to serve me papers and I just kept shoveling snow. Practicing. And said, ‘If you are going to serve me those papers just walk on right up, and I will take your head off with this lousy aluminum shovel. Your call.’
    I usta been a lot more violent than I am now.

  13. Hard to take seriously anybody who calls Bowie a bad actor. If his entire public life wasn’t enough evidence of his commitment to roles, check out his performance as Pilate in Last Temptation. In a film in which nearly everybody was laughably (or intentionally?) miscast, he played the quintessential Roman.

    • Disagree: Rich
  14. I’ve never felt quite the same about Caine after Carter. He was dead-set Evil in that film.

  15. Paladin says:

    The article, and a number of the comments, comes across as little more than pretentious bovine excrement.

  16. Ross23 says:

    Ben Kingsley was brilliant in sexy beast thanks for the link

  17. Ned kelly says:

    Organized crime is of course a major, critically important subject not to be trivialized by Hollywood and it’s British sublet. Hollywoods Mob history is a outrageously scandalous history in itself.
    Can you name the biggest gangster in the world today? Hint, he is a Jew.

  18. Look out for The Reckoning from 1970 starring another charismatic British actor, Nicol Williamson. He isn’t a gangster but a sociopathic businessman, so same difference.

    An IMDB review –

    Move over, Michael Caine! Your “Get Carter” might very well be acclaimed around the world and listed as one of the most virulent British cult thrillers ever made, but this obscure and undiscovered (and, at one point, even considered lost) drama/thriller with very reminiscent themes predates your film with nearly two years AND it’s a lot more ambitious in terms of character study and social criticism!

    • Thanks: Servant of Gla'aki
  19. Thanks for the article, proper stuff.
    Get Carter is a brilliant movie, Caine is a brilliant actor.

  20. padre says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    And that considering, you have so little time to waste! Be smart next time, just read the first paragraph, and waste the rest of your time for something of a value!

  21. Z-man says:
    @Jed Evnull

    Yeah, I lost interest when the writer made such an easy mistake to check & correct.
    I never saw the original in its entirety, but I saw the remake with Stallone. Not bad, syrupy ending but Stallone looks good in shark skin suits and a goatee.
    Best thing Caine did was when he worked with John Huston and Sean Connery in The Man Who Would Be King. (Another one that I don’t remember seeing completely, but a lot more than the original Get Carter, LOL)
    The one I’ll always remember Caine in is Sleuth which he did with Lawrence Olivier and that I saw on opening night at the Ziegfeld in NYC when I was in high school. I also remember him for his funny turn in Hannah and Her Sisters.

  22. Tom F. says:
    @Joe S.Walker

    LOL! There is a scene in ‘The Sopranos’ where a screenwriter (played by Timothy Daly) who is trying to incorporate ‘the mob’ into his own work, has returned to Los Angeles where he teaches a university course. In the middle of his lecture, he gets braced by Tony’s wiseguys. After getting slapped around and humiliated, he turns to the class and says “a roomful of writers, and nobody did a thing!”

    • LOL: Z-man
  23. Tom F. says:

    Two opposite moments from ‘Get Carter’ show Michael Caine’s range; 1) he tosses a nonce off a stairwell; and 2) at the end when he gives his neice some encouragement for school, and handful of notes, and says “don’t trust boys!”

    The Stallone version is excellent, and he gave Mickey Rourke \$500,000 (a co-stars salary at the time) for the work when nobody in Hollywood would touch Rourke. Plus, Stallone made that suit look good, a hard man with style, just like Caine. That favor from 2000 is why Rourke did the first Expendables in 2010, and delivered that Shakespearean soliloqy. Nice break from the snappy dialogue, like “Keep it light, until it’s time to go dark. Then go ‘pitch black.’”

    • Thanks: Z-man
  24. “she found it funny that I could watch the same film so many times.
    I simply replied, funny how?”

    Brilliant! Seen THAT movie about 20 times.

    • Replies: @aspnaz
  25. “I simply replied, funny how?”

    Now, that ain’t funny!

  26. kihowi says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    What, you don’t think people’s feelings about the movies they’ve seen are interesting?

  27. @Priss Factor

    Nice comment. Actually, it’s a nice dissertation, with excellent hair splitting (meant in a good way). Unfortunately, you can’t put something appearing in UR on your CV and hope to get a teaching job anywhere in Western world.

  28. GMC says:

    Yep, Once the Bankers saw that Lansky and the Jews were so good at it – they devised a system to take over the unelected USG agencies, State and Muni Govs, the politicians, military etc. They even had Jewlianni take out , what was left of the Italian/Jew Mafia in NY and replaced them with the Russian Jews – there – lol – I wonder if there is a Space Mafia operating in the Galaxy and we are next for Mining out the Planet. Get rid of all the sheep , so they can get to work. Avatar anyone ?

    • Agree: Rich
  29. Talisker says:

    The gangster movie genre is a prime example of Hollywood degeneracy where evil characters are glorified and set up as role models. This genre has thrived in the West after the film code was broken, paving the way for social engineering. Along with pornography, the cult of violence and crime in mass media has had a definite effect on subverting moral standards.

    China today has a film code to protect its vulnerable masses from that kind of programming. Films where an evil character is allowed to triumph are outright banned. This was the standard in the West prior to the destruction of film code, which until the mid-1960s had been enforced by conservative Catholic Americans (you see that code in action in the ending of the James Cagney film above, where his character is portrayed as a psychopath rather than a heroic rebel figure). This subversion of moral standards had been an important goal of those who wanted to destabilize and debase western societies.

    …”To make a co-production with China, you have to follow ever stricter rules: half of the cast and crew has to be Chinese. The censors have the last word. Crime stories cannot have too many details. Stories of corruption must end with the bad guy behind bars. No ghosts. No gay love stories… No nudity.…”
    Can you make a movie with a bad cop in it in China? Of course. But then he has to end up in jail. Can you have much blood? No. A kid is going to see it. Foreigners who want to make movies in China need to understand the country first.”

    ‘No ghosts. No gay love stories. No nudity’: tales of film-making in China.

    • Replies: @aspnaz
  30. weirdly disjointed essay. i like Caine very much and will watch Get Carter, thank you for that. Ipcress is one of the great acting jobs and stories of all time. and this may be wherein lies my criticism of this essay. its the story that matters. its the moral gangster that is interesting and nuanced. like all of us good and bad. but the broadsides against blacks, as non sequitor, was the essay talking about black film or actors, is just another testimony to the redirection of the oligarchic imprimatur…black-white divide. the essay is also poorly written with. joseph brodsky said in one of his books, the only thing that matters in writng is what follows what. i have taught my children this and they score highly on written exams. do not inject things into an argument as support that have not been previously introduced. but the media does this conintually. a continual illogical assault and non sequitor relating two unrelated things. a great white london gangster movie. black looting in san francisco. says everyting and nothing.

  31. profnasty says:

    After you’ve watched your ‘Gangster Movie’, go to an NFL football game.
    THEN, for the hat trick,
    Vote Democrat.

  32. Off topic, perhaps, but on target: In a broad sense gangster movies are metaphors for the ruling Crime Clans, family mobs who work intergenerationally decade upon decade.

    Identification of these capos above and beyond even the Meyer Lanskys is simple: Who can stand up to the Rottenchild and Rottenfeller crime bosses? They own highest finance. Bank jobs for them is the takeover of yet another conglomerate by means of calling their loans. When they call a hit, agencies like the FBI, CIA, MI-6 and DHS promptly roll over and lube.

    Four-star generals and admirals, from their soft chairs in the Pentagram swiftly break out into a chorus, chiming “Yessir, yessir, three bags full.”

  33. @Priss Factor

    “Britain produced many fine actors, but they tend [to] lack personality and color compared to American actors.”

    British actors who appeared in films up to the 1960s were usually stage-trained. Sean Connery and Michael Caine lacked that extensive theater pedigree. But both went on to become the UK’s first generation of mass-appeal movie stars.

    “Albert Finney”

    His turn as Hercule Poirot in Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express is worth a second watch.

    • Replies: @Ray P
  34. Agreed it is a significant film. I remember two scenes- a sado-maso sex scene where the Caine character slaps or hits his sex interest & then, we suppose, they go … and the unexpected ending.

    The Caine character is not a typical gangster, he’s more of an existentialist nihilist unleashed.

    Other great British gangster film is, of course, “The Long Good Friday”.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  35. Rich says:

    Another great role was in ‘Shock to the System’ based on a very good novel where he plays a NYC executive with wife problems. Great actor.

    • Agree: SunBakedSuburb
  36. Walter says:

    At the essence of the western custom is a nucleus of organized crime, government, and big business. in this locus these element merge and become indistinguishable. Fascist in nature, it is the natural child of the pirate people of the European peninsula. This fact makes it impossible to make a faithful “gangster movie” However Once Upon a Time in America, and JFK Through the Looking Glass…well, they come close. We of “the west” are by custom and by race, a savage pirate people…like the scorpion. and it was we ourselves that expressed upon the civilized states, ruin, called the collapse of 1177 BCE, see>

    Not that there are not contradictory manifestations, but this pirate fascism is predominant. One manifestation is called colonialism. Another is capitalism. Another “high finance” and so forth.

    The cited film, a lecture on the “sea people” that ruined civilization, is the gangster film of our history.

    • Thanks: simple mind
  37. Rich says:
    @Priss Factor

    What you missed from ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’ is that the priest asked Cagney to act that way so the neighborhood kids would stop looking up to him. ‘Rocky’ is doing his friend a favor, those of us who saw the prior scene know it’s an act.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  38. Fred777 says:

    Nice article.

    Now go home and get your fucking shine box.

    • Replies: @Mark Gullick PhD
  39. @Bardon Kaldian

    Guy who directed GET CARTER later made CROUPIER, which is worth a look.

    The grimmest film about gangsters is maybe John Boorman’s THE GENERAL, made as a corrective to GOODFELLAS.

    I don’t think gangster movies were a thing in the old Soviet Union, but many were made after communism. It struck a chord with the public that felt new Russia was run by gangsters. Also, one had to be a gangster of sorts to survive against the general gangsterism.

    In post-war Japan, the yakuza was often idealized. In traditional Japan, the military caste maintained control, and the merchants served it. But after WWII, the merchant class took over. But merchants don’t have muscle. So, they needed gangster muscle to keep things under control. But mere gangsterism is ugly, and so the yakuza was idealized as men of honor, the standard-bearers of the Japanese spirit.

    Hong Kong is full of gangsters, but then Hong Kong has been a gangster-state and Chinese were never big on trusting the often corrupt police. ELECTION II uses gangster story as a metaphor of turnover of Hong Kong to Mainland Control. The facade of ‘election’ or process is maintained, but whoever is chosen, he must now serve the mainland mob. Zhang Yimou also made a gangster movie released in US as SHANGHAI TRIAD, which strikes me as an allegory of how the Old Guard communist party managed to maintain control.

    • Thanks: Bardon Kaldian
  40. @Rich

    You know you’re right. I forgot about that.

  41. Tom F. says:

    Three great ones. The Limey, with Terrence Stamp. Danny the Dog, with Bob Hoskins. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead with Clive Owen.

    Two more worthwhile but offbeat ones: Hummingbird with Jason Statham, (“Redemption” in the U.S.) not his usual role but he is the hardest of Brit hardment. Yes, including Vinnie Jones. And, Dead Man’s Shoes with Paddy Considine, an amazing film that won’t be understood at all until at least an hour after it is over.

    • Replies: @utu
  42. Ko says:

    Your story made my week. Now get the fuck outta here.

  43. utu says:
    @Tom F.

    The Hit (1984) with Terence Stamp and John Hurt is a great movie.

    • Thanks: Tom F.
    • Replies: @Priss Factor
    , @Anon
  44. @SunBakedSuburb

    And I am about as hard as Mozzarella.

  45. @Fred777

    Hey relax. I’m just busting your balls.

    • Replies: @aspnaz
  46. @utu

    The Hit (1984) with Terence Stamp and John Hurt is a great movie.

    That is special. Stephen Frears made some excellent movies, esp MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE and HIGH FIDELITY.

    Alex Cox is another one. HIGHWAY PATROLMAN is really good. WALKER is one helluva a satire.

    STRAIGHT TO HELL RETURNS might have inspired Tarantino.

    France made a number of classic gangster movies. Jean-Pierre-Melville was a master.

    One of the most insane gangster movie is BOILING POINT.

    CITY OF GOD is more like street gang movie than a gangster movie cuz the punks are just too crazy. Some of the craziest Negroes on film.

    FRIEND is solid film-making.

    LONG RIDERS has something of the cowboy movie, outlaw movie, and gangster movie. The James and Youngers are not pioneers out in the West but family men with roots in the South. They are part of the clan, like the Corleones are. One of my favs.

  47. Z-man says:

    ‘Legend’, 2015, brutally violent, Tom Hardy was brilliant.

  48. TKK says:

    The immense appeal of Tony Soprano was that he lived as he liked.

    It was a fantasy.

    Gangster movies are odes to sociopaths that can beat someone bloody who deserves it.

    This is why anyone being hardcore in a movie makes me simultaneously wistful and scornful. It is absurd.

    In 2021 America, the power of the State will crush you. I don’t care how big and bad you are, when 30 federal agents kick in your door, or even 10 dumb deputies who have high school diplomas – you aren’t going anywhere but hog tied to a steel cage.

    Flash forward to being locked up in an unescapable prison with thousands of feral, scheming blacks who will bust your face up over a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie.

    If the State wants to take you out, you are done. Being a gangster in America is only reserved for Politicians, Wall Street Equity Creeps and Celebrities. Those are the real untouchable thugs.

    • Thanks: Tom F.
    • Replies: @jeff stryker
    , @Tom F.
  49. Mike Tre says:

    There was an amusing film from the early 1990’s called PCU that espouced the “Caine/Hackman Theory” of which I cannot find a clip, but the theory states that at any given time one flips channels on the TV, a movie can be found playing that stars either Gene Hackman or Michael Caine. The theory is validated when A Bridge Too Far is found playing, in which both Hackman and Caine star.

    • Replies: @Tom F.
    , @SunBakedSuburb
  50. @TKK

    John Gotti DID get beaten up by some feral inmate in “da can” & former mobster Franzese has said that GOODFELLAS is BS-maybe in a few East Coast state pens the Italian-Americans had some juice but that is exactly why Gotti & others are sent to Colorado Supermax.

    Gravano was able to get some protection from the Mexican mafia/Aryan Brotherhood by showing them how to restructure like La Cosa Nostra.

    And HALF of Mestizo/Hispanic USA are gang members. So what are you talking about? I’ve been menaced by Cholos in Arizona & I am here to tell you that cartels are essentially running the streets of the USA Southwest.

    The days when the worst threat to public safety were fat greying imbecilic Italian-Americans like Paulie or Chrissie who sat around boozing at cheesy strip joints & got by on car theft & HUD scams is long gone.

    MS-13 makes them look like Mr. Rogers.

    MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK question: Is there significance too teenage Tony being in Holsten’s when Dikie Montesanti is killed? Is this meant to foreshadow/confirm Tony died there 30 years later?

    MANY SAINTS OF NEEWARK question 2: We know that Ruffalo did not kill Dickie Montesanti but did Tony Soprano know who did kill Dickie? Did he believe what he told Chris or did he know Dickie’s actual killer? And was Haydu the killer? Why kill Haydu then? It has been said that it was in order to cement Chris’s loyalty but by then Chris was already demonstrating signs of being a junkie.

    It is strongly suggested Tony is shot in the ice cream parlor in SOPRANOS because New York KNEW he could not tolerate jail (Phil had brought this up a few times) & that he was going to be indicted & become a state witness.

    The few times Tony is in jail like the instance where the black crackhead uses the toilet behind him we can see he would talk to the Feds (He already is cozy with the one).

    The SOPRANOS took place in the 1990’s when DNA was still in its infancy & in any major city 2-3 Italian-Americans were found dead. Check out the Philly mob wars.

    Former capo Michael Franzese himself has said you would have to plan a murder for a month today to get away with it. Cameras everywhere, DNA.

    Towards the end in SOPRANOS Tony flees town because of the Willie Overall hit.

    One reason the Mestizos & blacks get away with it is that prison does not bother them.

    • Replies: @TKK
  51. aspnaz says:

    The older I get, the more frequently I discover “never before watched” films in my film library.

  52. aspnaz says:

    Don’t turn to China for real art. Only turn to China for art money, as they put money into faux art, ensuring that nobody can accuse them of being artless.

  53. aspnaz says:
    @Mark Gullick PhD

    You have PhD in your name: are you one of the vaccine development mobsters?

  54. TKK says:
    @jeff stryker

    If you want to act like a gangster/thug/tough guy in America and take your chances in prison – trying to beg and pay different criminals gangs to protect you from other criminal gangs- knock yourself out.

    No one wins in prison. You can’t be a tough guy when you end up in prison. It is a zero sum game.

    You miss the whole point- as you always do.

  55. Tom F. says:

    Love the Sopranos, came late to it and I wouldn’t have appreciated it contemporaneously. The characters-and-story are all referential to movies and real NY mobsters that came before. The ending is fantastic, never seen anything that can compare, and is not meant to be ‘figured out.’ Creator and showrunner David Chase peppered the series with JFK parallels, intended to let us viewers know that we ‘will never figure it out.’

    One thought about Tony living ‘as he liked’ is that, unlike the pure sociopaths he was surrounded by, Tony had a hint of a conscience and thus felt the need to see a therapist. There are several great websites/blogs dedicated to themes and throughlines, maybe you might enjoy ‘Master of Sopranos.’ Today, I’m starting on a new book, “Woke Up This Morning” by Michael Imperiolli, an oral history of the making of Sopranos. Bottomless choices, I agree with your assessment of Tony’s appeal. Thank you.

  56. Ray P says:

    Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin were both English.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  57. @jeff stryker

    “7. In 1969 male relatives still wanted to kill people who put their niece in a porn film instead of bragging about it”

    Excellent point. This was right at the time when Labour governments had been social engineering with laws in areas like pornography, sex education and single motherhood,, but their effects were yet to be widely felt in working class culture.

  58. @aspnaz

    Is there any market or culture that promotes real art these days?

    How did Jeff Koons become a thing? It’s beyond belief.

    And in the 90s, there was the Damien Hirst whose shtick was shark in a tank of chemicals.

    • Replies: @SunBakedSuburb
  59. Tom F. says:
    @Mike Tre

    Love it, Tre! A Dennis Miller HBO special from 1990 (when they really were special) includes an on-point joke. Caine was in FOUR theatrical releases in 1990, and Miller was doing a bit about getting married. He and his wife sat down and watched their wedding video, and “damned, if Michael Caine wasn’t in it!”

    • LOL: Mike Tre
  60. @Mike Tre

    “The Caine/Hackman Theory”

    This appears to be true to morons like me who are still paying slightly over \$250.oo for a cable package. Good thing I like both actors and 50% of their respective filmographies. I will finally ditch the cable rip-off when the POC equivalent of the Caine/Hackman Theory becomes the norm.

  61. @Ray P

    Yes. But both were thought of as American film stars by the viewing public whereas Connery and Caine were distinctly British (and Scottish).

  62. @Priss Factor

    “How did Jeff Koons become a thing?”

    The high-end art market serves as a money wash for elites. The presence of Koons in the market is testament to elite degeneracy.

  63. Kat Grey says:

    Excellent piece of writing! I really enjoyed reading it. In my opinion the Long, Good Friday was the quintessential British gangster film.

  64. Anon[221] • Disclaimer says:

    A very Merry Christmas and the best for 2022.

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