Brighton Rock at Film Forum


If nothing else, 1947’s Brighton Rock marked the first time Graham Greene was pleased by an on-screen rendition of his work—but it’s much more than a Third Man dry run. A seedy noir, equal parts concealed-camera atmosphere and tense set pieces, director John Boulting’s adaptation primarily concerns itself with the last days and maneuverings of young psychopath Pinkie Brown (Richard Attenborough, before the suffocating kindliness and prestige projects). Pinkie wants to be a big-business bookie, but pre-war Brighton (“thankfully no more,” the opening titles assure us) already has its kingpins. Pinkie can’t stop himself from committing quite unnecessary murders, but he’s not as sharp as he thinks; notably, buffoonish-looking drunkard/music-hall entertainer Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley) has his number, and spends most of the movie trying to get people to listen to her. 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.