Brighton Rock Screen 7 articles

Brighton Rock

1947

Brighton Rock Poster
  • Seemingly paradoxically enough, where it achieves any sort of greatness at all it is...as a case study. In Richard Attenborough's performance... an apotheosis of sorts is reached. It is this blandly, matter-of-factly menacing portrayal, mashed up with Olivier's cinematic Richard III and various British television comics and boiled like head cheese in the roiling pollutants of mid-'70s Britain, that gave rise to one Johnny Rotten.

  • There’s something near farcical about the burdens Pinkie has to bear, which culminate in his marriage to a naive waitress (Marsh) so that she’ll keep quiet about a key piece of evidence. Brighton Rock is too often compromised by a muddled Catholic moralism—see the overemphatic botch of a final sequence. Yet the future Lord Dickie’s sinister stylings are what linger, especially the vitriolic audio recording he makes for his betrothed, done as if damnation were the most casual of enterprises.

  • More Dickensian than usual for Greene, there's colorful, larger-than-life supporting players aplenty, and the location shooting is even stronger than in Rialto Pictures' last British exhumation, It Always Rains on Sunday. The demerits are slight: Boulting strains too visibly for "art" status with some overly pushy compositions, and Greene's got his usual monomaniacal fixation with Catholic guilt and redemption—though here, for once, it's worked into the plot, and rather neatly at that.

  • The first thing that stands out about BRIGHTON ROCK are its sets: dirty windows that throw light in geometric shapes, wallpaper that resembles a cavern wall, mirrors that seem to foretell danger. The people seem like sets, too. Richard Attenborough’s cocked hat throws a shadow over his face. Every figure looms in the frame like a hundred-foot living statue.

  • I'm upset by how tightly Catholic guilt, courtesy of writer Graham Greene, is wound around the character of Rose, played with the utmost devotion by first-time actress Carol Marsh. Her performance, coupled with Richard Attenborough's display of mesmerizing sociopathy, makes this essential (and especially powerful) Brit noir. There's this shot of her gazing through the glass of a soundproof booth while Pinkie engraves his voice onto that record for her, and god, it tore my heart right out.

  • Extroverted surface, introverted plot, finally hinging not on solving a crime but working through the spiritual consequences of a suicide pact; Carol Marsh seems a weak link at first, playing what looks like the simpering ingenue role - but only because I'd forgotten, after >20 years, what a touching performance she gives.

  • In Brighton Rock, a distinctive 1947 British feature, the slums that harbor such murderous criminality are kept under wraps, cloaked by the blinding, warm, soaking sun. Based on Graham Greene’s 1938 novel of the same name, and directed by John Boulting (producing duties went to Boulting brother Roy, though the two would often switch roles for other films), this superb picture discloses with penetrating clarity an emotional street life teeming beneath the veneer of amusement park gaiety.