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Hull Noir Ted Lewis film season – in partnership with Hull Independent Cinema

As Hull Noir celebrates the life and work of one of the most influential of noir authors, we screen a short season of films which relate to Lewis and his writing. 


Dir. John Boorman, starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson

As a three nights a week cinema obsessive, Ted Lewis had sought a route into film making. Studying illustration under the influential artists William Sillince and James Neal at Hull School of Arts and Crafts, Lewis regularly skipped classes to take in a morning showing at the Regal before nipping across the road to the Cecil for a matinee.

From an early age, his heroes were the actors with a ruthless streak, chief among these was Lee Marvin. Each part the young Marvin played – Vince Stone in The Big Heat, Hector David in Bad Day at Black Rock and Lewis’s early favourite, the short order cook, ‘Slob’, in a red peril B-movie, Shack Out on 101 – became a study in callous disregard for anyone who stood in his way. Hardly surprising, then, that when Marvin played Walker in Point Blank, adapted from hardboiled revenge novel, The Hunter, by Donald Westlake (writing as Richard Stark) Lewis was first in line and loved it.

Released in the US in 1967 – it wouldn’t have reached UK cinemas until 1968 – Lewis, by then working as animation clean up supervisor on the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, was collecting ideas for a crime story, based on the characters he was meeting in the pubs and clubs of Soho. There’s no doubt Point Blank was an influence on the writing Lewis embarked upon in the next few months. In Jack Carter, he created a character who, as Westlake once said of Parker (renamed Walker for the movie), would: ‘pound through one book and goodbye’. Ring any bells?


Monday 13 November, Vue Cinema Hull, 7:30pm
Dir John Boorman | 1967 | USA | Cert 18 | 92 mins | English language


Dir. Mike Hodges, starring Michael Caine

Writing in the Chicago Sun Times in 1971, film critic, Roger Ebert, observed that Michael Caine had been ‘mucking about’ in a series of potboilers which were ‘undermining his acting reputation’. ‘Get Carter,’ he wrote, showed him as ‘sure, fine and vicious’. The film exhibited a ‘feel for the underbelly of society, like the good American detective novelists have always had.’ Much of this was down to the source material. Largely overlooked, Lewis’s 1970 novel, Jack’s Return Home, had been optioned before it hit the bookshop shelves.

The novel had arrived in the post to Mike Hodges’ out of the blue in January, 1970 with an offer to adapt and direct his first feature film. Filming began five months later.

Originally entitled Carter’s the Name, Hodges’s script made structural changes to Lewis’s novel, cutting the Carter brothers’ backstory and removing any trace of ambiguity from Jack Carter’s fate. It shifted the location from Humberside (unnamed in the book) to Newcastle. But Lewis’s writing is at the heart of Get Carter. The core of the plot is intact, along with most of the characters and, in several key scenes, the dialogue. Hodges keeps the punch of some of Lewis’s one liners. Doreen always doused Eddie Appleyard for saying Frank had been a ‘bloody good bloke’; Eric’s eyes were always ‘pissholes’; and Cliff Brumby was always a ‘big bloke’.

When Get Carter was released in March 1971, reviewers acknowledged the power of Caine’s performance and the quality of Hodges’s script and direction, though many found the film’s amoral tone troubling. To coincide with the release, Lewis’s novel was republished as Carter and later, Get Carter.

In October 2004, Total Film Magazine voted Get Carter the greatest British film of all time. Heading a list which included A Matter of Life and Death and The Third Man, it was keeping high company, belying its status as the film one critic had dubbed a ‘revolting, bestial, horribly violent piece of cinema’. 


Wednesday 15 November, Vue Cinema Hull, 7:30pm
Dir. Mike Hodges | 1971 | UK | Cert 18 | 112 mins | English language


Dir. Shane Meadows, starring Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch, Toby Kebbell

Whether by conscious design, or as a result of becoming ingrained in the DNA of British film and fiction, the passing years have seen plenty of examples drawn from, or influenced by, Get Carter and Lewis’s nihilistic creation of British noir characters.

Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes (2004), co-written by Meadows, Paddy Considine and Paul Fraser with a stunning performance from Considine in the lead role, is an unsettling take on the gritty revenge thriller which reinvigorates Lewis’s blueprint.

Writing in the Guardian, Rob Mackie declared it a ‘remorseless revenge tale which starts like Mean Streets but turns into more of a Straw Dogs/Get Carter hybrid’. In an interview for Film Four, Meadows explained how he was motivated by a return visit to his home town of Uttoxeter a decade after the suicide of a close friend who had developed a drug problem, largely as a result of having been bullied. ‘I couldn't believe that, going back ten years later, he had been totally forgotten in the town – it was as if he had never existed.’

In the post-industrial, semi-rural Derbyshire town of Matlock, Meadows focused on the relationship between Richard and his brother in a series of guilt-ridden conversations, just as Jack had with Frank Carter. Dead Man’s Shoes comes close to demonstrating, notwithstanding the pressures on the original Get Carter production, how a Scunthorpe set Get Carter might have been filmed.


Thursday 16 November, Vue Cinema, Hull, 7:30pm
Dir. Shane Meadows | 2004 | UK | Cert 18 | 90 mins | English language

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