Mike Hodges, British director known for ‘Get Carter,’ dies at 90


Mike Hodges, a British filmmaker whose diversified profession ranged from brutal crime motion pictures resembling “Get Carter,” one of many nation’s most acclaimed gangster movies, to the campy area opera “Flash Gordon,” a would-be blockbuster that grew to become a cult traditional, died Dec. 17 at his dwelling in Durweston, a village in southwestern England. He was 90.

The trigger was congestive coronary heart failure, stated his pal and collaborator Mike Kaplan, a movie producer and advertising and marketing strategist.

Mr. Hodges was a grasp of the crime movie, a style that gave him the liberty to carry out “an post-mortem on society’s ills,” as he put it, whereas analyzing characters who attained cash and energy by way of manipulation, exploitation or the explosive power of a double-barreled shotgun.

“His thrillers are distinctively unsettling: they’re as somber and as menacing as ghost tales,” movie critic Terrence Rafferty as soon as wrote in the New York Times, “and their results are as exhausting to shake.”

Not like the ruthless, gun-toting males who populated so lots of his movies, Mr. Hodges was by all accounts mild, soft-spoken and persistently good-humored, even when his motion pictures flopped on the field workplace or have been by no means launched to theaters within the first place.

“He all the time stated his movies have been like messages in a bottle that you simply’d throw into the ocean,” Kaplan stated in a cellphone interview. “After which they’d pop up someplace, in Japan or the U.S., and folks would lastly see them.”

Mr. Hodges, who was additionally a playwright and novelist, wrote lots of his personal movies, starting together with his 1971 debut, “Get Carter,” based mostly on Ted Lewis’s novel “Jack’s Return House.” Shot on location in Newcastle upon Tyne, the film adopted gangster Jack Carter (performed by Michael Caine), who returns to his hometown in northeastern England to research the demise of his brother.

The movie shocked critics with its naturalistic scenes of violence, with Caine portraying Carter as a remorseless legal who — in contrast to a extra conventional film gangster — was neither silly nor humorous. Pauline Kael of the New Yorker declared that the movie was “so calculatedly cool and soulless and nastily erotic that it appears to belong to a brand new style of virtuoso viciousness.”

The film was later praised by administrators together with Man Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright, and in 2004 it was ranked the best British film of all time by Total Film magazine. It additionally impressed a poorly acquired Hollywood remake starring Sylvester Stallone, launched in 2000 with out the involvement of Mr. Hodges.

Mr. Hodges reunited with Caine for his follow-up, the black comedy “Pulp” (1972), which reworked noir tropes whereas telling the story of a hard-boiled novelist employed to ghostwrite the autobiography of a mob-connected film star (Mickey Rooney).

His later movies included the Michael Crichton adaptation “The Terminal Man” (1974), which went unreleased in British theaters however drew the admiration of administrators Stanley Kubrick and Terrence Malick, and “Flash Gordon” (1980), a comic book strip extravaganza that starred Sam J. Jones because the heroic title character and Max von Sydow because the villainous Ming the Cruel.

Produced by Dino De Laurentiis, who employed Mr. Hodges to interchange director Nicolas Roeg, “Flash Gordon” featured music by the rock band Queen and was a modest field workplace success in Britain, even supposing Mr. Hodges went into the movie having “no thought what I used to be going to do.”

He settled on a tongue-in-cheek strategy that went in opposition to De Laurentiis’s imaginative and prescient for a honest sci-fi and fantasy franchise, and stated he needed to order his crew to not snigger whereas watching footage throughout the producer’s visits to the set.

Quickly after the film got here out, Mr. Hodges’s first marriage collapsed, and his well being faltered. He grew to become “severely ailing,” he stated, and located himself “at all-time low” after his marriage to Jean Alexandrov led to divorce.

It might be practically 20 years earlier than he returned to prominence as a filmmaker, following the discharge of thrillers together with “A Prayer for the Dying” (1987), which he disowned after it was re-cut by the studio, and “Black Rainbow” (1989), which was critically acclaimed however by no means obtained a full theatrical launch in Britain or america.

Partly, his declining fortunes have been self-inflicted, in line with his pal Malcolm McDowell, the star of Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” “Mike doesn’t like compromising very a lot,” McDowell advised the Guardian in 2003. “Now that’s a fantastic power as I see it, however it doesn’t assist while you’re making an attempt to work throughout the studio system.”

After Mr. Hodges’s neo-noir movie “Croupier” (1998) died on the British field workplace, he believed his profession was over, and determined he would shift his focus from making motion pictures to rising greens and baking bread. However the film acquired widespread acclaim in america and helped elevate actor Clive Owen to stardom, portraying a on line casino employee struggling to jot down a novel. “Croupier” obtained a second life, returning to theaters in Britain.

Writing within the New York Observer in 2000, movie critic Andrew Sarris proclaimed Mr. Hodges “one of the underappreciated and just about unknown masters of the medium during the last 30 years,” noting his “beautiful craftsmanship.”

Mr. Hodges went again to work, making one final crime thriller — “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” (2003), starring Owen as a Carter-like character trying into his brother’s suicide.

Michael Tommy Hodges was born in Bristol, England, on July 29, 1932, and grew up in Salisbury, frequenting the town’s three film homes to look at movies by Billy Wilder and Elia Kazan. His father was a cigarette salesman, his mom a homemaker, and his mother and father instilled a conservative worldview of their younger son, sending him to a Catholic boarding faculty in Bathtub and inspiring him to turn out to be an accountant.

For his obligatory nationwide service, Mr. Hodges joined the Royal Navy, serving aboard a minesweeper that traveled between poor fishing communities alongside the British shoreline. The expertise left him remodeled.

“For 2 years, my middle-class eyes have been compelled to witness horrendous poverty and deprivation that I used to be beforehand unaware of,” he recalled this 12 months in a letter to the Guardian. “I went into the navy as a newly certified chartered accountant and complacent younger Tory, and got here out an offended, radical younger man.”

Mr. Hodges went into tv, working as a scriptwriter after which a director for the general public affairs sequence “World in Motion.” After directing feature-length thrillers for the anthology sequence “ITV Playhouse,” he was employed in 1970 to make “Get Carter.” He later signed up for paycheck jobs that included an uncredited stint directing “Damien: Omen II” (1978).

As he advised it, he left the horror movie after one of many producers pulled out a handgun throughout an argument concerning the design price range. “I wanted the cash, and the entire thing was a catastrophe,” he recalled. “The gun was incidental.”

He later directed “Squaring the Circle” (1984), a TV film about Polish dissident Lech Walesa, from a script by Tom Stoppard; the science fiction satire “Morons From Outer Space” (1985); and the documentary “Homicide by Numbers” (2004), which examined the historical past of serial killer movies. Lately he was engaged on “All at Sea,” a documentary about his life.

Survivors embody his spouse, Carol Legal guidelines, whom he married in 2004; two sons from his first marriage, Ben and Jake Hodges; and 5 grandchildren.

Lengthy after the discharge of “Get Carter,” Mr. Hodges was nonetheless marveling on the movie’s success, in addition to its speedy manufacturing course of. The film took 45 days to shoot and got here out the 12 months after he was employed to direct.

“I assumed filmmaking was all the time going to be like that: selections rapidly taken and rapidly acted on, intuition all the time within the driving seat,” he stated in an interview with British writer Maxim Jakubowski. “9 characteristic movies over the subsequent forty years exhibits how mistaken I used to be. Conserving intuition alive in an business run largely by committees of incompetent and frightened executives is not any straightforward matter.”

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