Monday, 22 September 2014

Brighton Rock (1947)

I was very sad to hear the news of Richard Attenborough's death, and at the same time slightly unnerved that LoveFilm had delivered Brighton Rock not long before.  Hopefully it wasn't some strange premonition by the Amazon company; anyway I felt that watching the movie would be a fitting tribute.  Based on the novel by Graham Greene and directed by John Boulting, Brighton Rock is the story of Pinkie Brown (Attenborough) a small-time gangster in Brighton who has just become the new leader of a small-scale mob gang.

Make sure you're paying attention from the start, if you're still making a cup of tea/pouring a pint you'll miss the lightning pace exposition.  However, once the intro is over it slows right down, as Pinkie and his gang follow their primary target, charting his every move around town before disposing of him in Dante's Inferno (a ghost train ride!).  It's a beautifully choreographed scene, and you might be forgiven for thinking that nothing goes unnoticed in Brighton by Pinkie's gang.  The film settles down when Pinkie meets Rose (Carol Marsh), though the relationship is driven by Pinkie's need to suppress any evidence Rose can give against him.

I admit that the only time I've seen Richard Attenborough in front of the camera before is as Richard Hammond or Big X in The Great Escape.  So to see him as a devious gangster takes some getting used to; this is helped by the fact that he's so great.  Sometimes he may not say much, but his thoughts are conveyed via the medium of shifty eyes!  He often reminds me of Al Pacino in The Godfather.

Pinkie never really seems in control but Dickie's brain is always working behind those shifty eyes, looking to exploit a situation or looking out for anyone that may cross him.  At the start of the film it is actually a while until Pinkie finally speaks, and then he suddenly explodes, all the stress of suddenly being de facto leader boils over.

Surrounding him are characters that trust Pinkie as much as Muldoon trusts a Velociraptor, who are all played by an accomplished but unknown to me cast (apart from a pre-Dr Who William Hartnell).  Carol Marsh is pitch perfect as Pinkie's naive and scared girlfriend; always jittery, but drawn to the sharp-dressed bad-boy image.  Hermione Baddeley seems to have got lost on the way to a Carry On film, but she is functional enough in her sleuth role.

The first time I watched Brighton Rock I enjoyed it, though I was very sleepy.  I watched it a second time yesterday and loved it.  Richard Attenborough is fantastic, I was able to follow the exposition better, and everything flows smoothly.  Some may find the final scene a little cheesy, but for me it works perfectly.  But, well, you know, that’s just, like, er, my opinion, man.