5 July 2009

BRIGHTON ROCK (Dir. John Boulting, 1947, UK) - 'It's like those sticks of rock. Bite one all the way down, you'll still read Brighton...'

Richard Attenborough as the vicious 'Pinkie' Brown

Director, Paul Andrew Williams 2006 crime film, ‘London to Brighton’ borrows most notably from two of British cinema’s most influential crime/gangster films; the Mike Hodges directed ‘Get Carter’ and the Boulting Brothers adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel ‘Brighton Rock’. ‘London to Brighton’ is a very bleak film but it also has a particularly nasty edge to it that can be traced back cinematically to a film like ‘Brighton Rock’. Whilst Hodges film continues to grow in its critical reputation with each decade, ‘Brighton Rock’ is often recognised as featuring what is Richard Attenborough’s most memorable and iconic screen performance as a nasty little gangster called ‘Pinkie’ Brown. Though the film has clearly dated in many respects it still shows considerably inventive use of locations in Brighton. Produced after the war, ‘Brighton Rock’ formed part of a cycle of ‘spiv’ films which seemed to strike a real chord with audiences.

Equally a noir film in the shadows that bounce across the face of Pinkie, ‘Brighton Rock’ depends greatly on the terrifying charm of Attenborough who exudes a psychotic intensity that marks him out as somewhat of a precursor to the schizophrenia of characters like Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ and Hannibal Lector in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. The film also details the corruption of an innocent young girl, Rose (Carol Marsh), who falls for Pinkie and though the way in which the relationship evolves is highly conservative, the ending with the gramophone recording is a bittersweet one. ‘Brighton Rock’ is generally considered to be one of the high points of the Boutling Brothers career but I still value their 1959, ‘I’m All Right Jack’ as one of the great British films of the 50s and one of the most pointed political satires on unionism.


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