Brighton Rock [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (26th December 2020).
The Film

Based on a novel by Graham Greene published in 1937, "Brighton Rock" is a notable film noir but it is not as well known as Greene’s later efforts such as "The Third Man" (1949), but fans of noir should definitely seek out Kino Lorber’s release immediately. The film begins with an on-screen “crawl” that tells viewers that this bleak gangster populated vista of Brighton from the 30’s is no longer a reality and that modern-day Brighton is a safe haven for fun seekers. The film begins with a shot of a man asleep on the rocky shore of the beach with a newspaper covering his face; the camera zooms in to the headline which describes the finding of a corpse of a former gang leader in a gravel pit along with the details regarding his demise because he spoke with a journalist. The film continues from there as we are shown several small-time hoodlums having breakfast in a run-down rooming house. The gang consists of Cubitt (Nigel Stock), Spicer (Wylie Watson) and Dallow (William Hartnell). One of the thugs rushes into Pinkie Brown’s (Richard Attenborough) room to show him the headlines, but Pinkie is not amused. Displaying a fierce psychopathic stare on his expressionless face, Brown is the ringleader of this two bit band of criminals and even though he is a mere seventeen years of age, he is a hardened, razor toting killer and he rules the gang with a resolute will. We are not given any additional information about Brown and this somehow makes his character seem even darker and meaner than if we were privy to his early years. The camera cuts to a scene of a man exiting a train; this is journalist Fred Hale (Alan Wheatley); he was the reporter that gang leader Kite had last spoken with before he was killed. Pinkie was previously second in charge, but with Kite out of the picture, he is now the main man and he wants Fred to be silenced as well. Hale is working for the newspaper as ‘Kolley Kibber”; his job is to be working the resort of Brighton, distributing promotional cards to lucky tourists. Because his photograph appeared in the paper, Pinkie is out with his lads in hot pursuit and they will not be satisfied until their brand of rough justice is served.

Mostly filmed on location, the film possesses a freshness that speaks to a semi-documentarian style of filmmaking. When Fred is approached by the thug, he is aware that his time is quickly running out. He approaches a middle-aged woman Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley) in a pub in the hopes that she will accompany him and thus act as a distraction to Pinkie and his men, but unfortunately the two become separated and Pinkie quickly intercepts Fred when he boards a fun house ride. With the camera adapting a subjective POV, we the viewer are now in the place of Fred and we see the various spook show effects as they whiz by. When the ride is extended out over the ocean, Pinkie quickly shoves Fred to his death and the matter is finished. Pinkie returns back to the flat but he is informed that what he thought was an air tight alibi is actually flawed and that Cubitt had hidden a card under the tablecloth at a café; Pinkie storms off to reclaim the card himself but a twist if fate intervenes. Rose Brown (Carol Marsh) is a waitress that had found the card and Pinkie, even though he despises her and all females, frantically begins to court Rose simply for the fact that a wife cannot testify against her husband. Rose is a fragile soul and she immediately falls for Pinkie’s lies; she has no idea that he is a cold-blooded viper and watching the innocent girl is both horrifying and thrilling. Rose reveals to Pinkie that she too is a Roman Catholic and a firm believer, but to Pinkie, the church only means hell and damnation.

There is a scene where Pinkie meets with the head of the larger and more powerful gang that runs the real action in Brighton; Colleoni (Charles Goldner) is an older, wiser man that portrays himself as a businessman and he offers Pinkie a chance to fold up his operation and leave town, but Pinkie is too egotistical to accept the offer and he childishly storms out of the meeting. After the local constable pulls Pinkie in for a face to face chat, Pinkie is even more hostile, and his ego gets the best of him. Pinkie feels that this admonishment was an embarrassment to him, and he vows to make a bigger splash than before. Pinkie decides to eliminate a weak link in his chain of command and that link is the elder Spicer. The two men attend the racetrack and Pinkie lures Spicer to his attempted demise at the hands of Colleoni’s thugs; this bold move is filmed in broad daylight and Harry Waxman’s cinematography captures the melee completely in frenzied series of shots of the crowd closing in on their prey. However, Pinkie is not spared from the gang’s enthusiasm and he is left with a large scar on his face from a straight razor. Returning to the flat, he is confronted by one of his men and Pinkie’s rage is freshly stoked. Finding Spicer still alive afterwards, Pinkie coldly executes the man by pushing him through an unstable railing at the top of the stairs. This scene is rather chilling as we witness Pinkie’s casual disposal of his former running mate. Attenborough is perfect in the role of the twisted psychopathic killer; his performance setting the precedent for many other villains to follow in his cinematic footsteps.

Rose is completely enthralled with her new love and is literally blind to his both his reputation and questionable behavior. Ida tracks the naïve girl down and attempts to talk some sense into Rose and Ida’s words fall on deaf ears. Pinkie and Rose are hastily wed in a civil ceremony and Rose, spying a recording booth at the seaside boardwalk, begs Pinkie to make a phonograph recording of him telling her how he really feels about her. This scene is notable for several reasons: the camera is positioned capturing Rose’s face framed by the glass booth as she lovingly gazes at her new while Pinky lets go with a vitriolic narrative of how he really feels about the girl. “What you want me to say is I love you” but then he continues in an emotionless voice declaring that he hates Rose and her innocence. This is Pinkie at his cruelest as he lets slip his mask of sanity to unleash a stream of wretchedness. Ida decides to attempt to interfere by visiting Pinkie’s crooked solicitor Prewitt (Harcourt Williams) in his ramshackle office, but the attorney is much too prejudiced to do anything but quote Shakespeare to the pleading Ida. The amateur sleuth is not quite finished, and she visits Rose in what was the recently departed Spicer’s bedroom. Ida reveals that Pinkie is a murderer with two killings to his name, but Rose is unperturbed by this news; Rose, the romantic dreamer, informs Ida that people are capable of change and can reform. Ida replies with “People never change–I haven’t.”

Since Pinkie is essentially a coward at heart, he devises a cockeyed scheme to propose to Rose that the two of them are doomed and that since he can’t live without her, that they should commit a suicide “pax.” Pinkie reveals his ignorance by telling Dallow that the word is Latin for peace when he actually means pact. Dallow is the only person in Pinkie’s circle that displays a shed of humanity and he is kind to Rose; little does she know that he is going to be the one that saves her life. Pinkie is planning for Rose to kill herself first and then he will have disposed of another obstacle in his way. The final scene takes place on the end of a pier in the pouring rain; the scheming Pinkie thinks that he has talked Rose into agreeing to his murderous plan, but she panics and tosses the pistol into the sea below. As the authorities close in on Pinkie, he recoils in fear and drops from sight over the railing.

The film cuts to a home for unwed teens where a nun (wearing lipstick) councils the distraught and pregnant Rose who feels that she should have died with her husband. Rose clutches the still yet unplayed phonograph and says that “I got his voice-I got proof of his love.” The nun continues preaching about faith and tells Rose “Love can bring about salvation.” When Rose begins to play the record, we hear the beginning of Pinkie’s speech, “What you want me to say is I love you…” but the record skips repeatedly and Rose is left these words as the film comes to a close. The perfect ending to this grim noir. Roll the credits.

The casting of this film was almost picture perfect as many of the cast had been previously featured in a theatrical run of the novel. This is clearly Attenborough’s vehicle and his characterization of the sociopathic killer Pinkie is one for the books. However, everyone is equally as brilliant; Hermione Baddeley as the meddling Ida is remarkable, Carol Marsh is wonderfully cast as the star stuck romantic Rose, and William Hartnell and Nigel Stock round out the small-time thugs. Every actor is artfully utilized, and they all play a part in the doomed machinations on this boardwalk town. The score by Hans May is suitably rousing for the opening credits and he underlines the onscreen action with a subtle impact.

Video

Presented in the film's original full screen ratio of 1.33:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. This is not a pristine standard due to the limitations of the source materials, but this is the best that this film has looked so far. There is a good use of depth and the film demonstrates a reasonable amount of grain. I found this to be a fairly suitable presentation.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono, utilizing a 16-bit DTS-HD Master track the dialogue is clear and concise. The use of English subtitles aids in understanding some of the colloquial criminal slang.

Extras

There's an audio commentary track by film historian and author Tim Lucas, Lucas continues to amaze me as he supplies a wealth of material in this commentary regarding the production, the author’s feelings about the film, and also additional information regarding the cast.

There's an interview with Rowan Joffe (20:11).

A collection of bonus trailers are included for:

- "Brannigan" (2:21)
- "It Always Rains on Sunday" (2:37)
- "The Criminal" (3:03)

Packaging

Comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

Another decent presentation from Kino Lorber of this classic noir film. Based on Graham Greene’s novel with some altered scenes this film is remarkable for its presentation and does not stray far from the source materials.

The Film: A Video: B Audio: A Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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