Beginning with a thrilling chase sequence in which newspaperman Kolley Kibber is hounded by a gang of razor-blade carrying spivs through 30s Brighton, John Boulting's adaptation of Graham Greene's classic novel stakes its claim as one of the darkest films ever to be made on these shores.
Following vicious gang leader "Pinky" (Attenborough) as he tries to cover up the murder of his former best friend, "Brighton Rock" exposes the seedy underside of the resort. Forced into a corner by the trail of evidence he's left behind and by the machinations of rival mobster Colleoni (Charles Goldner), Pinky has to marry naïve waitress Rose (Marsh) in order to keep her from testifying against him.
Set in a grimy inter-war Brighton of cheap boarding houses, rumpled suits, Brylcream, and raucous pubs, "Brighton Rock" is a stunning reworking of Greene's guilt-laden novel for the screen. For American audiences the film was re-titled "Young Scarface", but that's a complete misnomer. Poised between a crime movie and a torrid study of Pinky's doom-laden psychosis, this quintessentially British film descends into a homegrown world of damnation and torment.
As the evil, yet painfully tortured, villain, Attenborough is fantastic, so tightly coiled that he looks as though he's ready to jump off-screen at any moment. The complexity of his character is only deepened by Harry Waxman's oppressive cinematography; full of uncomfortable close-ups, and ominous zooms which turns the sunny seaside town into one of the lower levels of hell.
It may well stray from Greene's novel (particularly in its sadistic and ironic ending), but this is one of the finest examples of British cinema ever to grace the screen. Painful, troubling, and unforgettably bleak.