With hoodies lurking on every street corner and knife crime all the rage, the Boulting Brothers’ chilling chronicle of razor-wielding spivs running wild on the South Coast looks less like a venerable post-war classic than a cautionary social document. For while Graham Greene’s adap of his own novel is compromised by a lily-livered disclaimer (“Brighton today is a large, jolly, friendly seaside town, exactly one hour’s journey from London”) and a softened ending, there’s a streak of noirish nastiness here that hasn’t dated a jot.
Dickie Attenborough is one hard bastard as ‘Pinkie’ Brown, the young Scarface whose murderous lunacy is only intensified by his puritanical Catholicism. As terrifying as he is, though, it’s the town of Brighton itself that’s the real star here, its faded glamour and seedy decadence providing a faultless backdrop for one of British cinema’s most menacing and corrosive masterpieces. The lack of extras, excuse us, is a crime.