Brighton Rock (1947) was scripted by Graham Greene, from his own novel. It’s about a 17-year-old gangster called Pinkie, played by Richard Attenborough. Pinkie kills a journalist because he holds him responsible for the death of the leader of his gang, Kite. Pinkie has now taken over the gang. The background to the film is the activities of the infamous razor gangs in Brighton in the 1930s, who were active in running protection rackets. The movie can be seen as a gangster film, and as a juvenile delinquent film, and it stands as one of the greatest moves ever made in either of those genres. There is very little blood in the movie, and only a couple of brief scenes of violence, but it still manages to be extraordinarily menacing. Pinkie is a Catholic, he doesn’t smoke or drink, and he’s a virgin. Although he’s a vicious little thug he sees himself as being free of the corruption of modern life. For Pinkie the corruption of modern life means sex or any other form of sensual pleasure. Pinkie is not only vicious, he’s extremely disturbed. Richard Attenborough is absolutely superb in the role, he’s chilling but he also conveys the sense that Pinkie has of being someone who doesn’t really consider himself part of the world that everyone else belongs to. Pinkie’s nemesis is Ida, who is everything Pinkie isn’t – she’s loud, vulgar, cheerful, and she enjoys having a good time (which for Ida means booze and men). She represent everything Pinkie loathes and fears. And Ida (who had befriended the murdered journalist) is determined to see justice done.
Brighton Rock is beautifully photographed – Brighton looks delightfully seedy and vulgar. There are some wonderful close-ups of Ida, where she becomes almost overwhelming. There is a film that has been superbly put together – fine acting (including the first Doctor Who, William Hartnell, as one of Pinkie’s gang), great photography, great editing. There isn’t a wasted shot in the movie. There is only one tiny blemish, a tacked-on epilogue that weakens the book’s cynical and ironic ending. Overall this is a brilliant example of movie-making at its best.