Brighton Rock (1947) Synopsis & Review

Keep your eyes glued to the very end, when the filmmakers added a macabre twist.

Feature by Keir Hind | 13 Sep 2006

Brighton Rock' is a true classic of British cinema. It was made in 1947, long enough after Graham Greene's 1938 book was written for the atmosphere of Brighton to have greatly changed.

Greene, who was one of Britain's best film critics in the thirties, writes in a cinematic way, penning this crime thriller when Brighton was a risky tourist town; ridden with gangs ready to prey on holidaymakers. By 1947 the gangs were gone, and the tourist attractions had changed forever, mainly due to the massive after effects of the war. When the Boulting brothers came to film this story, a lot had to be recreated, and this was done extraordinarily well, with aid of Harry Waxman's superb, grimy, cinematography.

Richard Attenborough stars as Pinkie Brown, a particularly vicious young gang member and the villain of the piece, who opens the story when he kills a traitorous ex-member of the gang. Unfortunately for Pinkie, his victim had sought help from a kindly but tough woman, Ida Arnold, who subsequently investigates his death. Knowing that a waitress called Rose can provide evidence of his involvement, Pinkie wins her trust - going so far as to marry her - so she won't give evidence. But Ida represents Brighton's irrepressible carnival atmosphere just as Pinkie represents the criminal, and she will not be stopped. We know Pinkie is almost certainly doomed - but what about Rose?

This complex, taut plot is all resolved in a dark but neat way - keep your eyes glued to the very end, when the filmmakers added a macabre twist, one which Greene disliked, but one entirely in keeping with the tone of this bleak, uncompromising British masterpiece.

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