You’re a big man but you’re in bad shape. Star Michael Caine worked closely with producer Michael Klinger and novice director Mike Hodges to get this absolutely right. The adaptation of Ted Lewis’ novel by Hodges and Lewis himself reeks of authenticity: this was replicated in the decision to shoot in the grim North of Newcastle – a downbeat, gritty, grotty, horrible locale where Caine’s brother has been offed and he returns to bury him and seek revenge. A better visual correlative for 70s desperation, poverty and the vicious pornography of everyday life could not be dreamed up. Crimeland is peopled with characters convincingly played by, amongst others, Caine’s old mate, playwright John Osborne; and Ian Hendry, whose very eyes summon up evil. It’s rare that I mention editing (by John Trumper) but from the start, the title sequence, the train ride, the blue movie shots and the landscape, a pace of relentlessness is established that is reflected in Caine’s hooded eyes and we hear too in the great upbeat score by Roy Budd the arbitrary choices that are forced upon people. The flat shooting style by Wolfgang Suchitzky enhances the nature of the story ‘s settings – all those awful clubs, nasty lino, formica tables and teacups… After it was made, Caine says in volume two of his memoirs, he met the London gangster upon whom he had based his stunning performance (he gives nothing away) and the man thankfully didn’t recognise any similarities but informed Caine that he had no choice in his actions – he had a family to think about. Ain’t that the truth. This is a Great British classic. Listen, I don’t like it when some tough nut comes pushin’ his way in and out of my house in the middle of the night! Bloody well tell me who sent you!