This review is for the brutal British gangster movie, Brighton Rock (1948)
What’s going down?
Devious and psychotic small-time gangster, Pinkie Brown, sets out to end the life of a journalist who’d unwittingly strolled into town. The reporter had published a story exposing the brutal gang wars of Brighton on the south coastal town of England. The newspaper article had, in some way, resulted in the death of Pinkie’s gang boss, Kite. Now this teenage hoodlum was now pushed to the forefront of this small gang of racketeers, and he wanted to make his mark. He’d push fear and intimidation. If that didn’t work? Not a problem for him, he’d slice and dice with razor blades. Without hesitation to kill, yeah Pinkie was ready to make his way to the top. Who would find themselves caught up in this twisted hoodlum’s murderous ways? A naive young girl called Rose and the brash and brassy middle-aged cabaret singer, Ida Arnold…
The main players
Carol Marsh plays Rose Brown
Hermione Baddeley plays Ida Arnold
William Hartnell plays Dallow
Harcourt Williams plays Prewitt
Wylie Watson plays Spicer
Nigel Stock plays Cubitt
Tagline – Raw! Brutal! Razor Gangs in Action!
Sure I’ve seen them in something?
A young Lord Richard Attenborough reprises his role here, as Pinkie Brown, that had him receiving rave reviews whilst the stage play was on West End. I’ve always liked Richard’s work. He seemed equally apt at playing twisted characters, like his portrayal of John Christie in 10 Rillington Place (1971) or Billy Savage in Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964). He could easily jump into the role of a working class every man caught in union strikes, in The Angry Silence (1960) or stiff upper lip officer in the World War Two classic The Great Escape (1963). Even showing his comedic side when playing a posh old Commander having a blast of fun with the gung-ho American cop, John Wayne in the likes of Brannigan (1975). However, to most, he will be remembered as the dithering old geezer opening up a wonderland of death and destruction of the prehistoric kind, in Jurassic Park (1993). With all his various performances, I don’t think I’ve seen him with so much raw hate in his heart?
Truth be told I didn’t know Hermione Baddeley as I began watching Brighton Rock. She plays the brash and feisty cabaret entertainer, Ida Arnold. A lady not afraid to speak her mind. At first I thought she was there for comic relief, well she is really, but as the films plays out she becomes an amateur detective and a thorn in the side of our villain Pinkie. I grew to like her character the more she appeared. Reading her film bio after, it dawned on me, of course I’d seen her before! She’d been Mrs. Cratchit to Alistair Sim’s version of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1951) and again with him in The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954). Also she played the maid in Mary Poppins (1964). She was also in the Hitchcock-esque thriller Midnight Lace (1960). So here’s to you readers, could you recommended other Hermione performances? I’ve taken note of Passport to Pimlico (1949) and Room at the Top (1959) which I see she starred alongside Laurence Harvey. An actor she married and had this priceless quote to say about him when they divorced. “I think I shall risk the halibut. It can’t be too awful, can it? After you’ve lived with Laurence Harvey, nothing in life is ever really too awful again.” Hehe it did make me laugh.
There’s plenty of actors I could highlight here, however I can’t do them all, so for the last one I’ll pick William Hartnell. He plays Dallow, like a second-in-command to Pinkie. He’s actually quite a complex character. He has a vicious streak and ready to go when asked but he’s more restraint and composed. His experience makes him wiser though he’ll still jump to Pinkie’s word. I enjoyed watching him act. William Hartnell will always be cemented in every kid of a generation as the first Dr Who. Whereas my first memories are with my Doctor Who, the wonderful Tom Baker, any big fan of the classic time traveling sci-fi series knew the different incarnations and that Grandad Who was the OG, the original gangster. Some great films of his to check are Hell Driver (1957), Odd Man Out (1947) and Carry On Sergeant (1958) three movies I really need to see again, soon. Feel free to recommend others. One TV movie I can fully recommend is in fact a bio on William Hartnell himself and how he became Doctor Who. It’s a truly fantastic experience with the brilliant David Bradley playing the part to pure perfection. A dead ringer you could say. If you can find it to watch please give An Adventure in Space and Time (2013) a go, I’m sure you would love it.
Notes on production?
Brighton Rock was first a novel written by Graham Greene in 1938 and subsequently turned into a West End play with lots of the original cast reprising their roles for the film. Graham Greene is known for many classic movie adaptations from his novels, screenplays and short stories, like This Gun For Hire (1942), Ministry Of Fear (1944), The Fallen Idol (1948), The Quiet American (1958) and Carol Reed’s masterpiece, The Third Man (1949).
The screenplay was worked on by Terence Rattigan who had wrote the superb drama starring Michael Redgrave and a film I had nothing but full on praise for called The Browning Version (1951). It was directed by Anthony Asquith. One other film of Rattigan’s I have reviewed is The Way to the Stars (1945).
Brighton Rock is credited to John Boulting in the directing chair however John and his twin brother Roy Boulting would often flip between director and producer. No doubt each having equal input in the film process I would imagine. Sometimes they would be billed as a pair but overall Roy would go on to have his name listed as the director on most of the brothers body of work.
Brighton Rock was remade in 2010 and re-imagined in the 1960’s. I haven’t seen it but spied it doesn’t get rave reviews. I’d like to see it one day just to see how they tackle certain scenes. Sam Riley plays Pinkie with Andrea Riseborough as his Rose. Helen Mirren steps up in the Ida role. There’s a big curve ball turn for Hartnell’s Dallow character who’s played by the giant Nonso Anozie, who by the way was excellent in the recent Sweet Tooth live action adaptation.
Hits like a sledge hammer
There’s many intense, dark and suspenseful moments, of course, all featuring the sly sinister smirk of one Pinkie. There’s a moment at the top of stairwell that with have you gasping. An innocent looking race coarse instantly turns to shock and awe with razors and a close up camera shot full of thugs moving all so much nearer. However the sledgehammer for this film has to go to Rose asking sulky Pinkie to record his voice for her as a gift. It’s a neat scene featuring a recording booth that presses your words on to a single sized record. The following quote and words will contain spoilers… Rose looks through the booths window at Pinkie as he begins to talk. Her doting, besotted eyes look on as her beloved starts his “love verse”…. It goes…
Pinkie Brown “You asked me to make a record of me voice. Well, here it is. What you want me to say is ‘I love you.’ Here’s the truth. I hate you, you little slut. You make me sick.“
Anyone who’s followed this here movie blog of mine might of noticed I have some what disappeared. It had been nice having a break and I’ve really missed it, however, it’s proved difficult to return. Then I watched Brighton Rock, and you know what, it was just the injection I needed. Those dark and dingy lit sets and purposely framed noir scenes from impossible angles that directors, writers and actors are all willing to go that extra mile to push the boundaries. Brighton Rock has tough scenes. I read on Wiki that a Daily Mirror critic at the time denounced the razor slashing scenes as “horrific” and concluding, “This film must not be shown.” Nowadays such horrifying headlines are thrown on the front page in big large type to sell their newspapers. Back then, not long after the war, it must of been shocking. To me on this my first viewing, it was exciting, thrilling and reminded me how much I love watching film.
Wolfman’s rating 9/10 IMDB 7.3/10
Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf
2 thoughts on “Brighton Rock (1948) Psychotic Pocket Rocket Slashes And Intimidates”
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I would definitely like to see this again. Thanks to you, I think I’m moving it up my watchlist now, especially as I like the Boultings generally. I was looking to see if there’s a book on them recently, but there doesn’t seem to be much – only “The Family Way”, which I think is essays by different people.
I did think Attenborough was very good in this and Hartnell too. I also like Hartnell in The Way Ahead (which I remember you wrote about before) and This Sporting Life. I did watch some of his old Doctor Whos recently and, TBH, he’s far from my favourite. You can tell he was having trouble with his lines, it’s rare for him to get a sentence out without tripping over it. I think he’s much more effective when he has to be a tough bugger in his crime films and war pics (and which he does sometimes in Who as well) than as a doddery old geezer. When he has to play a nice old gentleman I can tell he’s acting it, but when he’s being a mean SOB I think it’s for real. I suspect he was a tough old bugger in real life.
The Brighton Rock remake is a bit so-so. Interesting if a little flat. I’m not sold on Sam Riley anyway. I saw him in the BBC version of SS-GB as well and he just seems to me to be a very dull and boring actor.