Brighton Rock (UK - BD RB)
Marcus heads to Brighton only to get pushed into the sea from a ghost train
Brighton Rock is another of those movie's I’ve heard of over the years but never ventured out to watch. With the remake on our cinema screens, a re-release of the original movie on Blu-ray made it a good time to find out what all the fuss about.
Pinkie (Richard Attenborough) is Brighton’s No.1 wannabe crime boss, but Pinkie’s gang has just left him wide open after they messed up one of their murder victim's false alibis. Trying to cover his tracks, Pinkie meets Rose (Carol Marsh) and after dating/threatening her he thinks he’s in the clear, that is until local entertainer Ida Arnold (Hermione Baddeley) starts putting two and two together about Pinkie and starts turning his cunning into paranoia.
Once I got over that 1940s “common” acting and got into the mood of this sixty four year old movie, Brighton Rock really began to take hold. I wasn’t too keen on most of the performances as such, but the story unravels at an intriguing pace and the more I got to know Pinkie and those around him the more enjoyable the movie became.
Attenborough plays a great psycho but not in an over the top way. He’s cunning, manipulative and controlling, always thinking two steps ahead and always willing to take it to the limits to get out of a tangle. It’s not all that subtle a performance, in fact its outright unsubtle, but there something about the combination of the era, the romanticised use of dialogue and unrealistic but classic movie-perfect interactions with the characters that all added up to what I enjoy about watching old movies.
The film noir style is always so much better in these old flicks and seeing it all take place in Brighton (a town that barely seems to have changed) was a good choice of setting to add a dark underbelly to. There’s a keen sense of timing from all involved and the slow progression to the fairly eventful drama filled ending was really effective, and I don’t know about you but that old school way of thinking where everyone takes it for granted that a character has died because they fell in the sea sort of pleases the nostalgic viewer in me.
Well up against a modern movie transfer Brighton Rock looks... well... terrible. Even by remastering standards it’s not really much to write home about (especially considering how movies like Wizard of Oz look on Blu-ray). Grain is everywhere and in places it even dances. They’re also plenty of artefacts, scratches and the fades between scenes look pretty awful.
After a while, when the grain becomes part of the experience, you can see what this HD transfer has to offer. The brightness to the image and the sharpness in places seems to be the main reason to go HD. Odd shots and sometimes even whole scenes really do look pretty even through the transfer limitations and while it’s not a remaster fans of old movies would rave about, it captures the charm of the era and there are small yet noticeable elements that the HD shows off.
The Mono track sounds like a movie from the forties, albeit with a crisp sound, and some of the pub scenes feeling a little fuller than you’d expect. There are the obvious oldie issues with shrill sound effects and pieces of score in places, but generally dialogue is clear (once you get used to the slang) and the music used in the film holds up for the most part, although there are some issues where it felt a little distant.
To tie in with the remake we get a twenty minute Q&A with the director of the new adaptation, Rowan Joffe. He offers up his knowledge of the book, play and original movie and its history and talks about the themes and of course what he likes about the story.
There's also an audio interview (set to pictures) with John Bouting and Richard Attenborough from 1954, which is just shy of seventy minutes. It’s surprisingly easy to listen to and Attenborough really is on form in it. It a great archival affair and while the presentation could have been slicker it seems like a good extra for fans of the movie.
Brighton Rock is a strong British movie that despite the usual out of date performances holds up very well. The disc isn’t going to please everyone, but for a movie made in 1947 that isn’t an American classic you probably can’t ask for much more in the way of a clean-up.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 28th February 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM Mono English
Extras: Q&A With Rowen Joffe, 1954 Audio Interview
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Boulting
Cast: Richard Attenborough, William Hartnell, Carol Marsh, Hermione Baddeley
Genre: Crime, Drama and Film-Noir
Length: 92 minutes
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