Brighton Rock is an intriguing hybrid of film noir, anti-gangland call-to-arms and Catholic soul-searching (the latter comes courtesy of Graham Greene’s novel). If the pace occasionally lurches, the film is ultimately more than the sum of its parts. Made by the not-yet-famous Boulting twins, it opens with a Warner-esque credits scrawl that introduces us to ’30s Brighton (“now happily no more”), a would-be quiet British resort town overrun by hoods. In an exciting and impressively prolonged sequence, an amusement-park hit is covered up as a suicide. Those involved are pressured into silence, except for a sympathetic pub gossip (Baddeley) who talks so much that even threat of death couldn’t shut her up, if anyone could get a word in edgewise.
The drama revolves around a rising gang leader, the tellingly named Pinkie, played by a young Attenborough in a performance that adds delicate shades of guilt and fear to a character who’s finally cemented as amoral. Cowed into a marriage to prevent a naive waitress (Marsh) from talking, he records a confession, of sorts, onto a record. Its playing provides the film with its final grace note, one of the few times the movie’s grubby beachscape is dappled with sunlight.