Mike Hodges: A British genre legend
Just a man, with a man's courage...
It’s Christmas tomorrow, so I’ve spent a fair bit of the day tidying and making sure we’re all ready. I guess we’re as ready as we’ve ever been, although I did drift into some melancholy earlier. I think perhaps that’s a sign the illness is nearly gone; the black dog is showing signs of life again.
A genuinely sad thing to hear recently was the news of the death of British filmmaker Mike Hodges. Hodges made many interesting movies over the course of his career; several of them are out-and-out classics. The obvious one is “Get Carter,” his 1971 British northern-noir with a grim Michael Caine coming back to his home turf for his brother’s funeral. What’s funny is that the British critics hated the picture when it came out, and now it’s rightly held up as a masterpiece of our film industry.
Hodges has always been in my vicinity, so to speak. As a young kid, I ate up anything that came along in the wake of “Star Wars,” and Hodges’ beautifully effervescent and energetic “Flash Gordon” was a film I latched on to and have never let go. Like Lucas’ film, music is so intrinsically important to its effectiveness, and Queen, with Howard Blake, was a great choice. The end of the prologue, with Max von Sydow’s laugh echoing over those switches that say things like “Hot hail” and “Meteor storm” before John Deacon’s bass intrudes like a doomsday clock, is still burned in my mind. As is the dreamy space-rock as the capsule floats through space, and Flash making QB throws at Ming’s minions to Brian May’s synths.
Hodges was also partly responsible for another of my favourite films, the 1978 horror sequel “Damien: Omen II.” While the final picture is credited to Don Taylor (who also directed the fantastic “Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Hodges was originally at the helm and kept screenwriting credit. Some of his work is still in there, too, notably the opening sequence and some of the military academy stuff.
And then there’s Carter. “Get Carter” has a fantastic score by Roy Budd, a grimy journey through pubs and clubs with that harpsichord theme at the centre of it all. I’ve been lucky to write liner notes for two soundtrack releases of Budd’s score, the 2019 Cherry Red Records 3-CD set - for which I wrote a ten-thousand-word essay - and the forthcoming LP by Korean label Beatball Records. While I tried and was unable to reach Mike Hodges to ask him about the music, I still had great fun working on them, and it’s a privilege for sure to have my dumb name attached to something that is considered a genuine pop culture milestone.
And all of that was down to Mike Hodges.
Have a safe holiday, everyone.
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