British director Mike Hodges, known for directing ‘Get Carter’, ‘Croupier’ and ‘Flash Gordon’, passed away on December 17 in Dorset, England. He was 90 years old.
His death was announced by Mike Kaplan, longtime friend and producer of “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”
Hodges’ crime dramas came at the beginning of his career – “Get Carter” (1971) and “Pulp” (1972) – and the end – “Croupier” (1999) and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” (2003 ). In addition to his crime dramas, he was known for his campy, stylized take on “Flash Gordon.”
Andrew Sarris wrote in The Observer in 2000: “Director Mike Hodges has become one of the medium’s most underrated and virtually unknown masters in the last 30 years” and “Mr. Hodges has been hailed by everyone from Martin Scorsese to Pauline Kael as a stylist of the first order.”
Hodges himself adapted “Get Carter” – one of the greatest British gangster films of all time – from a novel by Ted Lewis. Caine plays the London mobster of the title who tries to get some justice after his brother is murdered in Newcastle. Roger Ebert said, “’Get Carter’ is a suspenseful, hard-boiled crime movie that uses Michael Caine for once as the sure-footed possessor of all his unconscious authority. Caine has been messing around in a series of potboilers, undermining his acting reputation along the way, but “Get Carter” shows that he’s sure, good, and mean – a good hero for an action movie.
“Get Carter” was remade with Sylvester Stallone in the role of Caine in 2000, leading many people to go back to discover the original film.
‘Pulp’, Hodges’ second film, was a crime drama of a slightly different kind, with a strong comedic slant. Caine plays a pulp fiction writer who has been asked to write the memoir of a mysterious celebrity who turns out to be the obnoxious Preston Gilbert (played by Mickey Rooney), an aging actor once famous for playing mobsters and, in Frank Sinatra or George Vlotmode, suspected of actual mob ties. When Gilbert is murdered at a party, Caine’s Mickey King decides to find the killer.
Despite little marketing and a small release, “Pulp” was named one of the 10 best movies of the year by Vincent Canby in the New York Times and Jay Cocks in Time magazine.
Twenty-seven years later, Hodges directed the stylish neo-noir “Croupier” (1999), starring Clive Owens as an aspiring writer who takes a job as a dealer in an elegant gambling den who is roped into a heist on the place that doesn’t exist . what it seems. After the initial indifferent reception of “Croupier” in the UK, Hodges assumed his career was over, but the film was marketed more energetically in the US, where it became a critical favorite there, scoring the biggest box office that year for any independent film. , leading to a much more successful re-release in the UK
The film’s success led to another film, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”, a complicated revenge story involving an exiled criminal, played by Owens, who returns to London to investigate the rape and murder of his younger brother (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) at the hands of a mobster played by Malcolm McDowell at his best.
The Guardian called the film “surprisingly bleak; a no-nonsense existential gangster story that exudes the same reptilian menace at best (Hodges) showed on “Get Carter.” It certainly touches on similar themes: honor, revenge, male violence.”
“The Terminal Man” (1974), Hodges’ third feature film and his first as a major studio film producer, was loosely adapted from the bestselling Michael Crichton novel into what Mike Kaplan in the Huffington Post described in a 2013 report as “a chilling movie”. warning of technology gone haywire in the name of humanity. At the trial, (Hodges) presented a burning indictment of medical and scientific arrogance.
The film was a hit at the London Film Festival, but was misunderstood and underappreciated by studio execs. Kaplan tried to enlist the help of Stanley Kubrick, who had said of Hodges, “Any actor who sees ‘Get Carter’ will want to work with him” and called “The Terminal Man” “amazing”, but Kubrick couldn’t touch the minds of the executives of Warner Bros.; then Hodges received a letter of thanks from Terrence Malick, who wrote, “I’ve just come from ‘The Terminal Man’ and want you to know what a magnificent, jaw-dropping picture it is…. Your images make me understand what an image is.” An ad was designed that completely reprints the Malick letter.
Amid the reappraisal of Hodges’ work that followed the success of “Croupier,” retrospectives of the director’s films have been screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s National Film Theater and around the world. , and in the process a new appreciation for “The Terminal Man.”
After 1978’s ‘Damien – Omen II’, which Hodges originally directed but was removed due to ‘creative differences’, for which he only received a co-script credit, he made the fey ‘Flash Gordon’, which has enjoyed a cult following , and the genre spoof “Morons From Outer Space” (1985).
Hodges was brought aboard the laughable 1987 Mickey Rourke Northern Irish thriller “A Prayer for the Dying” just before shooting began, but apparently he didn’t have a final cut and eventually disavowed the results.
In the eerie, well-directed and resonant 1989 film ‘Black Rainbow’, Rosanna Arquette played a fake psychic who travels from city to city with her alcoholic father, played by Jason Robards. In a town, she suddenly starts having real visions of the deaths of people in the audience actually happening, after which a contract is put on her, while a journalist played by Tom Hulce investigates her.
Michael Tommy Hodges was born in Bristol. After meeting the requirements to become what is known in Britain as a Chartered Accountant, Hodges completed his required military service by serving on a British minesweeper. “During these two years,” according to a 2006 Senses of Cinema article, “he experienced formative training on class barriers in the British Navy and the contrast between the images Britain presented itself to and the real experiences of working people living in conditions of poverty akin to Hogarth’s world. These insights would later inform ‘Get Carter.'”
He started out in show business as a TelePrompTer operator for British television. Hodges learned by observation and began writing scripts; an unproduced script for ABC’s “Armchair Theater” led to writing assignments, allowing him to quit his job as a technician.
Hodges quickly rose to become a producer and director, working on such series as ‘Sunday Break’ for ABC Television; Granada Television documentary series ‘World in Action’, for which he made a film about the Vietnam War and interviewed Barry Goldwater; the arts programs “Tempo” and “New Tempo” for Thames Television; and Thames series “The Tyrant King.” For “ITV Playhouse” he wrote, directed and produced two film thrillers, “Rumour” (1969) and “Suspect” (1970); as a result, he was asked to write and direct “Get Carter”.
Kubrick recommended Hodges to Federico Fellini when the Italian director was looking for someone to direct the English dub of his 1983 film And the Ship Sails On.
After making his last feature film in 2003 in “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead”, Hodges made the video documentary “Queen: Greatest Video Hits 2” – the group had contributed the memorable score to Hodges’ “Flash Gordon” for decades rather — and the 2004 documentary “Murder by Numbers,” co-directed by Paul Carlin, discussing the popularity of serial killer movies over the decades.
Hodges also wrote plays such as “Soft Shoe Shuffle” (1985) and “Shooting Stars and Other Heavenly Pursuits” (2000), the latter of which was adapted for BBC radio. There was also the radio play “King Trash” (2004). His first novel, Watching the Wheels Come Off, was published in 2010.
He is survived by his wife, Carol Laws, his sons Ben and Jake Hodges, and five grandchildren, Marlon, Honey, Orson, Michael, and Gabriel.
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