The first of our ‘real classics’, described by Time Out as ‘one of the finest British thrillers ever’, with a superb performance by a very young Richard Attenborough. Recently shown on television, we know, but well worth seeing again on the big screen.
UK 1947, 92 minutes
The least you can say about Brighton Rock is that it is a well-made, competent thriller, beautifully photographed and acted by stalwarts of the British film stable (including William Hartnell, Nigel Stock and Harcourt Williams as Prewitt, the lawyer) who never did a shoddy job in their lives. If that were all it would still be worth seeing. But it’s a Graham Greene story, with all sorts of undertones running through it: the post-war spiv culture, which he deplored, compared with Ida’s harmless, cheery but no less deplored vulgarity and Rose’s innocence. There’s a hint of an improper (for the time) relationship between Kite and Pinkie. And, as you would expect from Greene, there’s Pinkie’s ingrained Catholicism.
The film revolves around Pinkie, one of the most disturbing screen villains. Nowadays he’d be called a sociopath: he’s not so much rejected society as decided it’s irrelevant. There’s a nihilistic purity about him, aloof from life’s everyday concerns and pleasures. But he has nothing to put in their place. Hannibal Lecter at least got a few good meals out of his evil ways, but there’s no joy in Pinkie’s life. Rose has an almost masochistic naivety that makes you want to shake her, but in the right circumstances she could be happy, while for Pinkie the world is a kind of Purgatory that won’t save him from Hell. Richard Attenborough gives a superb performance, showing his anger and viciousness, but also the blank-faced emptiness of a truly lost soul, and just keeping our sympathy without suggesting for a moment that Pinkie deserves it.
Pinkie: Richard Attenborough
Rose: Carol Marsh
Ida: Hermione Baddeley
Director: John Boulting
Screenplay: Graham Green, Terence Rattigan
Photography: Harry Waxman
“Brilliantly paced and acted. Pity about the odd lapse of accent.”
“Fifty years have not slackened the tension.”
“The gramaphone record a McGuffin? Very noticeable was the lack of bad language – but probably a comment on changes in censorship since 1930 rather than society (in general).”
“Had its moments…”
“Some VERY yucky moments but gripping most of the time (how long before the nun pushed the needle on?)”
“Both films equally scary!”
“I need a drink after this one!”