Cult Movie: Get Carter's brutal and beautiful soundtrack gets the box set treatment

Get Carter features what might be the best performance of Michael Caine's career
Ralph McLean

Get Carter Soundtrack

I'VE no doubt that Get Carter has graced this column before. As perhaps the seminal British gangster movie of the 20th century – a film which defines everything good, bad and indeed ugly about the entire genre – it would be ridiculous for me to ignore it, frankly.

It's a brutal, nasty and endlessly quotable slice of 70s revenge drama. As Jack Carter, the London gangster who returns to Newcastle to investigate the mysterious death of his brother, Michael Caine gives what might just be the greatest performance of his entire career.

Well, some might say it's Jaws 4: The Revenge but let's save that fight for our next meeting in a deserted multi-storey car park, shall we?

While I've doubtless waxed lyrical about Get Carter and the seedy delights of director Mike Hodges' 1971 masterpiece many times in the past, I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to sing the praises of the film's utterly astonishing soundtrack, which stands apart as a work of art in its own right. Until now, that is.

Cherry Red Records have just unleashed a three-CD set and book which gathers every groovy track that backed Caine as he got up close and personal with the well suited and shiny booted gangland goons of the North East. It is, quite honestly, a revelation.

The first thing to note is that composer Roy Budd is a genius. A young jazzer with an innate ability for capturing a mood with a single groovily stroked Hammond organ phrase, his slightly spooky opening theme that rolls out as Jack makes his fateful return north on the train is the best known thing here, having been used in a rash of adverts and been covered by all manner of artists trying to get a little of Carter's cool to rub off on them purely by association.

While that piece is the perfect moody scene-setter for this ruthless tale of bloody revenge, there's a ton of other great music to be enjoyed across these three beautifully presented discs.

Budd's entire score is presented in its full glory on disc one, while disc two gathers all kinds of rare treats from iconic dialogue snippets to little heard remixes and never before released alternative takes.

Disc three gathers up some of Budd's other soundtrack work and brings fabulous tracks from the likes of Fear Is The Key, Diamonds and The Black Windmill together for what is effectively a 'greatest hits' package for the undervalued composer and his craft.

If the music isn't enough to convince you this is an essential purchase, the book should seal the deal. Boasting the definitive story of the movie and its making, it takes you back to the source novel – Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis, in case you're interested – and provides more stunning images and rare poster artwork than you could shake a sawn-off shotgun at.

Like Get Carter itself this is an incredible experience that's both brutal and beautiful in equal measure.

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