I recently stumbled upon an interesting adaptation of Brighton Rock, one of my favourite books, on late night television. It was the 1947 version in black and white! Immediately I was inspired to go for the newer take as well!
Pinky, far to young for the job, is the leader of Brighton gang. When they murder Fred Hale he has his hands full trying to cover everything up. Most of all he needs to take care of Rose, a young waitress who is a witness…
Let’s start with the novel. Graham Greene paints a gloomy picture of old Brighton. Set in the 1930’s it is a fascinating time. Pinkie is your textbook sociopath. He totally gave me the creeps. Although a few points in the book felt a little far-fetched, his thoughts and moves are absolutely intense. There are many chilling moments throughout this novel and tons of quotes that will stick with you. Especially the end send shivers down my spine.
The 1947 adaptation sticks very close to the novel although the ending is slightly different. First of all, let me say that the casting is absolutely on point. The black and white matches perfectly with the atmosphere the book evoked and gives an intense picture. It’s exactly the way I imagined it to be! Especially Carol Marsh was the perfect frail and naïve girl.
However, after I checked out the new adaptation I was rather disappointed. For some reason the story now takes place in the 1960, and believe me it doesn’t do the story any good. The mods and rocker riots sometimes appear in the background but are never addressed or incorporated into the plot. So it ends up being more irritating than atmospheric. The entire setting, clothing and music didn’t really match with the original story.
Although Sam Riley gave a good performance he doesn’t seem like a teenager at all. While Richard Attenborough had just the right nervous attitude you would expect from a teenaged gangster, Riley was to slick and stares you down. Even Rose has basically no depth at all. So you end up with an off-balance wanna-be noir film with no characters to relate with.
Summing up I have to say that neither one of the adaptations is as good as Graham Greene’s novel. However, the 1947 version comes really close, while the 2010 take on it is nothing but a big disappointment!
Did you see the film? Let me know in the comments what you think!