The scene is quintessentially American, and I doubt that any previous English crime movie had included anything comparable. Moreover, Hodges and Caine knew they were bringing an American sensibility to British moviemaking; check out the book Caine's character reads on the train from London to Newcastle.
But as obvious and as bracing as the American influence is, the movie conveys a strong sense of place. Streets crammed with rows of attached houses are dwarfed by a mammoth, steaming, exhaling industrial complex. And the camera lingers on silent, time-worn faces in the local pub, in the manner of a good documentary. I don't know if this picture of Tyneside in the early '70s is accurate, but it is convincing, and that's what matters.
I also don't know how big Newcastle's Irish population was at the time, but if my uneducated ears don't deceive me, the movie is full of Irish accents, and not bad ones, either. This, too, makes the setting all the more convincing and convincingly English.
This naturally puts me in mind of the debt that current Irish crime writers acknowledge to Americans who went before. Perhaps the strongest such acknowledgement comes from Ken Bruen, who has said that "All my influences are American. That's how I learned to read. That's how I learned to write." And that doesn't make Bruen or Declan Hughes or Declan Burke or any of them any less Irish in my eyes.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010