Just to continue with late 60s-early 70s soundtracks, another one of my favourites is the soundtrack to 1971’s Get Carter, starring Michael Caine as the titular Carter, a London mob enforcer come to Newcastle to investigate the death of his brother. In addition to the spare, yet striking soundtrack by Roy Budd, this film is one of the grimmest gangster movies you’re ever likely to see, with Carter as little more than a revenge machine, not driven by love or passion in the end, or even by anger, but just driven by an instinct to protect his family honour by seeking vengence on those who have harmed his kin.

Here’s a link of film composer Roy Budd playing the theme to the film, with some of the opening scenes included.

Note the use of the tabla along with the jazz instruments; the tabla takes the place of the drum kit, which leaves some great spaces in the overall sound. Yet, the percussion line is distinctive, insistent. That harpsichord-like instrument is a celesta; a really ghostly sound, ominous, yet delicate at the same time. And that warm, relentless bass line; magic.

The theme remains to be well-known in Britain, as is the film as a whole, with Caine’s take on the character having become established as a national icon. The groans of displeasure across the Atlantic when word of the Sylvester Stallone version hit their shores were deafening. Stallone plays him as a tough guy, not a bad guy. Caine’s take on him is decidedly amoral, a true British anti-hero; for him, “it’s a full-time job”.

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5 thoughts on “Get Carter Theme Music

  1. Havn’t seen all of Mr. Caine’s CARTER but I thoroughly LOVE Stallone’s take on him! I’d much rather see Sly up on the screen. There is simply NO COMPARISON, IMO.
    (No offense to Mr. Caine. He’s a fine actor & I’ve always liked his timing on film.)

  2. Hi Dianna,

    I can only guess that you aren’t British. 🙂

    I’ve seen the Stallone version, and it’s OK. But Caine’s is the one by which all others must be judged. His Carter is the more interesting, more unpredictable character. And in the film, you find yourself siding with him, then wondering by the end if it was such a good idea. It is one of those gangster films where there just isn’t a good guy in sight, so you have to go with the lightest shade of grey there is – and it’s not very light by the end.

    Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

  3. Stallone’s version of Get Carter is simply inferior. I saw Get Carter in the cinema when it came out and it stunned the audience. It really was as if the 60s had died.
    The character needs to be seen as a ‘normal’ bloke in the beginning and he turns uglier as the film progresses. Caine pulled it off magnificently. Stallone isn’t the same type of actor, you expect him to be coming out, guns blazing sooner or later. Perhaps it was that Caine was still the comedy geezer from The Italian Job in most people’s minds.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Marc.

    I think you made an excellent point about Micheal Caine and how he would have been perceived at the time as that guy out of Alfie and The Italian Job – the cheeky chappy. Carter is anything but; he’s a man with no joy or emotions. By the end, he’s little more than a machine.

    By the 70s, Michael Caine had become an actor who would star in a number of genre pictures and you never knew what he was going to do next. With Stallone, as you say, you know he’s up there to take out the bad guys. Stallone’s Carter was always going to make it through.

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