Monday, 18 June 2012

Brighton Rock (1947)

Brighton Rock Poster (1947)

Brighton Rock is based on Graham Greene's novel and I've somehow got this this point in life without seeing the film. 

The film starts with an introduction to Brighton, a lovely British seaside tourist resort about a hour or so out of London. You don't expect a criminal underworld to lurk beneath candyfloss and bunting, but we are told in the titles that it was a hotbed of dodgy goings on until the police got their act together.

'Fred' Hale (Alan Wheatley) is a journalist who arrives in Brighton for a newspaper competition. The competition involves a photo of Hale posing as "Kolly Kibber". The first person to spot him and say the appropriate phase would win a money prize. Hale had written an article about a gambling racket in Brighton which led to the death of a local mobster. The new leader of the gang, the teenage, deranged 'Pinkie' Brown (David Attenborough) and his cronies spot Hale in the paper and seek him out for revenge. Hale tries to run away from the gang but is murdered by Pinkie on a ghost train on the pier. Ida (Hermione Baddeley), an eccentric, good natured woman who had met Hale just before his death, doesn't agree with the inquest findings that Hale died due to a bad heart and eventually suspects that Pinkie drove Hale to suicide. Pinkie marries a dopey but sweet waitress called Rose (Carol Marsh) in an attempt to prevent her from disclosing evidence and destroying his alibi. Ida pursues Pinkie, trying to uncover his crime and protect Rose, despite the danger.

The story is a simple moral tale or right and wrong but with religious introspection. Pinkie and Rose are Catholic but morally bankrupt. Ida's strong belief in justice and morality is completely unrelated to any religious doctrine. Having read a biography about Graham Greene, I seem to remember how this story was a comment on how goodness is inherent in a person and not dependant upon religious affiliation.

This film is pretty much perfect from a personal point of view. I think it helped that Graham Greene was involved in writing the screenplay alongside the brilliant Terrence Rattigan, and they crafted a wonderful script with odd moments of humour. This, combined with the direction by John Boulting, makes it exemplary British film noir. Camera angles, bold lighting and shadows are used to create fear and tension. In the scenes with Pinkie, it emphasises his disturbed, frighting persona. Pinkie is the most interesting character, not being a one dimensional bad 'un but a more rounded, tormented sociopath with absolutely no redeeming features. There are some rather violent scenes but the violence is not glamourised. The coldness and silence in which it is dealt out makes it terrifying. Richard Attenborough's performance is very unnerving. It's interesting seeing his acting in this film, and comparing it with his equally brilliant portrayal of the serial killer, John Christie, in 10 Rillington Place, which was made much later in his career.

Just a few screencaps under the cut because I was a bit short on time. I hope these show give you some impression of the cinematography.





Brighton Rock (1947)
Brighton Rock (1947)
Brighton Rock (1947)
Brighton Rock (1947)
Brighton Rock (1947)
Brighton Rock (1947)
Brighton Rock (1947)
Brighton Rock (1947)

And some of my favourite quotes -

Pinkie: Have you ever been in love?
Rose: Oh yes.
Pinkie: “You would have been. You're green. You don't know what it's all about. I've watched it. I know love.”

Pinkie: You're a catholic? I'm one too.
Rose: You believe it don't you? You believe it's true?
Pinkie: Course it's true

Rose: People change.
Ida: I've never changed. It's like those sticks of rock. Bite one all the way down, you'll still read Brighton. That's human nature.

Mother Superior: You or I cannot fathom the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.

Pinkie: You wanted a recording of my voice, well here it is. What you want me to say is, 'I love you'. Well I don't. I hate you, you little slut...

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