Categories
British Drama

Scrooge

Scrooge is deservedly a beloved Christmas movie. Like the not dissimilar It’s a Wonderful Life, it came by its standing as a beloved film democratically: Long after it was released generations of people fell in love with it on television. And with very good reason.

The heart of this film is Alastair Sim, whose lack of a 1951 best actor Oscar nomination should make the Academy hang its head in perdurable shame. More than any other movie adaptation of Dickens’ novella, screenwriter Noel Langley’s treatment gives Scrooge a backstory that explains his nature and outlook, making him a more fully developed character. Sim must therefore portray powerful moments of grief, cruelty, pity, parsimony, regret, remorse and manic joy, and he does so in a profoundly effective way. He was so damn good in everything he did (e.g., Green for Danger, another of my recommendations) that it’s hard to say which is his greatest film performance, but this may well be it.

Categories
British Drama Mystery/Noir

Brighton Rock

The 2010 remake of Brighton Rock got mixed reviews, so I recommend discovering instead the 1947 original, which is both a fine character study and a solid piece of British film noir. Made just after the war by the Boulton Brothers, this story of razor-wielding gangsters was considered shocking in its day. Though a bit dated, it remains worth watching for its strong acting, emotional impact and truly memorable visuals (particular during some jolting violence).

Scripted by two lions of British cinema, Graham Greene and Terence Rattigan, the plot centers on a small criminal gang led by the cold hearted Pinkie Brown (A genuinely chilling Richard Attenborough). The former boss of the gang has just been murdered and Pinkie is struggling to revenge the loss while fending off internal and external threats to his control. A saintly, pretty young girl named Rose (a pitch perfect Carol Marsh in her film debut) has evidence that can put Pinkie away for a killing, but also, strangely enough, seems to be falling in love with him. Meanwhile he grapples with Catholic guilt at the life he is leading.

Richard Attenborough in "Brighton Rock" (1947) | Brighton rock ...

As in many British dramas of the era, highly experienced actors take every advantage of the smaller roles in this movie. A pre-Dr. Who William Hartnell plays a complicated criminal who is heartless when committing violence yet develops a paternal protectiveness towards Rose. Veteran stage actor Harcourt Williams steals scene after scene as a Shakespeare quoting shyster.

Only quibble: In trying to contrast “carefree tourist Brighton” with the seedy underbelly, the film makers go overboard early in the film with annoyingly upbeat music that detracts from the mood of menace. But that trope fades out after the first 20 minutes or so, leaving the viewer plenty of time to be both fascinated and repulsed by Pinkie Brown and the criminal world which he inhabits.