Brighton Rock (1947) DVD review
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Relevance and modern themes prevail in this classic film noir masterpiece from 1947...
While a newspaper headline reveals the death of gang member William Kite, our attention is soon turned to the arrival in Brighton of one overtly nervous tabloid rep, Kolley Kibber, known to the local mob as Fred Hale (Alan Wheatley). Soon on the run from them, Hale allows the story to show us a fantastic view of 1940s Brighton as he hares through the Lanes and main streets to end up on Palace Pier.
So unwraps the story of Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough) and his hoodlum friends.
Attenborough’s performance from his first appearance is of an OCD-driven, young Catholic gang leader, brooding, demanding and anxious – an odd portrayal for a figure in Pinkie’s position of power. Nevertheless, it’s this devious anxiety that shows him as cold and calculating. But it’s when he meets wide-eyed café waitress Rose (Carol Marsh) that he opens up a little, albeit still hiding behind the façade of gangster culture.
I think it would be churlish, however, to detail the plot for you here. It’s such that giving the story away (assuming you’ve not read Graham Greene’s original novel or not seen this film) would absolutely detract from the enjoyment of this amazing masterpiece of British post-war cinema. The movie twists and probes into all the complexities of Pinkie’s life, providing an increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere of menace and uncertainty as it progresses towards the climax.
The ensemble of characters fit well within the environs of mob machinations – including Hermione Baddley as Ida, determined to find out what happened to her friend Hale, and Colleoni (Charles Goldner), the rival gang leader – more powerful and with more alibis than Pinkie’s lot. While Pinkie is the leader, Dallow (William Hartnell) in the main speaks for him when out and about and dealing with contacts, thereby enforcing the feeling that Pinkie is far more in control than is shown. Dallow in some ways also seems to be Pinkie’s conscience, guiding him and watching his back. It’s a nice, subtle double-act that needs little explanation and is all the more distressing as a result as situations turn upside-down.
Greene’s script (co-written with Terence Rattigan) sparkles with sharp dialogue and quick retorts and the direction by one half of the Boulting Brothers (John, while Roy produced) is tight and smooth, lots of dark shadows nicely contradicted by the bright world of Brighton itself.
Bearing in mind the film is 64 years old, Brighton Rock is a testament to the Boulting Brothers' expertise, in that it really has stood the test of time. Irrespective that it is set in the 1940s, the subject matter of gang loyalty and a twisted love story is as contemporary and relevant now as it ever was, and it's easy to see why this particular story can and has been re-made for a 21st century audience.
The extras include an interesting ‘talking head’ piece with Rowan Joffe, writer and director of the 2011 version of Greene’s novel – talking (rightly so) about the Boulting Brothers' work rather than his own interpretation – and a fascinating 1954 audio interview with John Boulting and Richard Attenborough enhanced with still shots and info text.
Brighton Rock is released on the 28th February 2011
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