Being a Brit, I am not ashamed to admit my love and adoration for our rich cinematic past. From Thrillers, to Comedies, to Horror and Science Fiction movies (as regular readers may be able to tell my personal favourite sub genre in British film) British movies have conquered each genre with their own unique feel and style. This adaption of Brighton Rock is quite simply one of the most famous British Movies of all time, one of the great classics. One doesn’t really have to wonder why, it’s a great movie with a great performance by a young Richard Attenborough, superb direction and visuals and most of all a fantastic and disturbing story that is still relevant today. So in short, it’s bloody brilliant.
17 year old Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough) is the head of a Brighton Mob, a Mob that has found itself in a heap of trouble, loosing respect due to being led by someone the rest of Brighton views as ‘Just a kid’ and loosing territory to Collioni’s (Charles Goldners) more powerful gang. After murdering reporter Fred Hale, Pinkie slowly loses his grip and things spiral out of control as he involves the naive Rose (carol Marsh) in his devilish plans.
The film opens with a fantastic chase through the streets of Brighton, easily my favourite scene in the entire film. John Boutling’s direction here is top notch and he somehow makes it appear that poor Fred has half of Brighton after him. The tension slowly builds and builds until it all ends in a shocking climax on a fairground ride and then straight after we have another build up of tension that takes us into the next scene. The city of Brighton itself is really shown off here and the visuals are superb, particularly Fred’s demise on the ghost train. Pinkies introduction is also great simply staring glassy eyed whilst Dalow, William Hartnell in another great performance does all the talking for him, it’s a simple technique but one which makes him seem all the more sinister. Alan Wheatly as Fred, the driving force in this opening section is often cruelly over looked and this is unfair as much of the tension is derived not only from Boutlings direction but also from his perfect representation of absolute fear. It’s blatantly obvious that his character is doomed from the start but the audience feels nothing but pity for him as he desperately tries to save himself and time and time again failing.
Wheatly's is not the only great performance in the film, indeed nearly every actor delivers to the best of their ability and the only one who I felt let the side down somewhat was Carol Marsh, although admittedly she failed to impress me as Lucy in Dracula (1958) so maybe its just a matter of personal taste? Much has been said of the young Attenborough as Pinkie and rightfully so, his performance is easily one of the most chilling in Cinema history let alone British Cinema History. Psychopaths have been portrayed time and time again and usually with some measure of success, obviously Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs (1991) and more recently Heath ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). It’s a testament to Attenborough’s performance then that even after 60 years and with countless other performances to rival his, it has dated one bit and is still as chilling today as I imagine it would of been although those years ago.
I must however give special praise to Hermione Baddeley as Ida Arnold, the Pier entertainer turned detective. If there’s one thing I love about this period of British cinema and indeed British Noir it’s that they expertly manage to mix both comic relief with plots that are usually dark and gritty (as the plot of Brighton Rock is) without making it stand out or seem silly. As well as being the primary female Protagonist, Baddeley is also on hand to deliver some much needed light hearted moments, for example during the superb scene where she does a mock séance in a pub whilst dressed as a Clown after coming back from doing one of her Pier shows. Both the script and the actress resist the temptation to go overboard with the comedy here and instead we get a charming little scene that doesn’t make you roll your eyes with embarrassment or instead burst your lungs with laughter, both of which would ruin the tension the film is building, but instead brings a small smile to your face and takes a welcome break from the darker elements of the film for a few brief moments.
As a film noir, Brighton rock really is one of the best, the final chase along the pier at night being a highlight. Earlier in the film there have been several shots of the reflection of the water across pinkies face so when the climax takes us there we know something is going to happen. The monochrome film suits the story perfectly, especially during this final chase when the water appears as a black abyss and white reflections dance across the actors and actresses faces. Personally I am not surprised that the 2011 remake has had less than rave reviews as I think with Brighton Rock the lack of colour works in its favour. This is a dark and gritty story that was meant to be filmed in black and white, the script and the camera work take advantage of this fact, utilising it to great effect.
I was expecting to be plagued by an interest to see the 2011 version after this, expecting to wonder if it holds up or not, however after seeing this version I know that it won’t. Brighton Rock is a classic of the genre and a classic of British Cinema that holds up incredibly well today. I urge anyone interested in seeing an adaptation of Greene’s novel to skip the more recent one and instead track down a copy of this, it’s widely available and after all its screenplay was written by Greene himself, which must make this the closest to his original visualisation out of the two.
Welcome one and all- Please leave sanity at the door
A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.firstname.lastname@example.org. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.