As bleak as it is hard and viciously uncompromising, "Get Carter" is one of those films that has become increasingly interesting over time. Just as the new remake is attracting decidedly mixed reviews, the original suffered much the same treatment with one reviewer describing it as being "like drinking a bottle of gin before breakfast".
It was hardly a proud representation of Britain at the time, with the unrelenting seediness of the Newcastle locations being less than glamorous. Despite this, Caine's performance as Jack Carter has gone on to become the epitome of cool, with his measured and ruthless portrayal of a man consumed with revenge.
He's come up North from his London haunts to find out what happened to his recently expired brother. His arrival provokes the type of consternation in those around him that reeks of guilt and foul play. Delving into the seamy local underworld, he's soon embroiled in a web of lies and deceit that leads to one particularly sordid discovery, which sets him out on a trail of destruction.
Jack Carter is a one-dimensional character. Caine plays him ruthless to the hilt with anger replacing any trace of compassion. Elsewhere, John Osborne is unruffled as his silky-smooth nemesis, while Britt Ekland adds a touch of glamour as one of the distinctly throwaway female characters of the movie.
Director Mike Hodges keeps the pace fast, while cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky creates a world as bleak and dark as the tortured souls that scheme in it. It's an absorbing concoction that remains far more effective than the slick and empty gangster films of today.
"Get Carter" is on Channel 5 at 10pm, Wednesday 28 March 2001.