Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know Essay, Research Paper
Mad, bad and unsafe to knowThere & # 8217 ; s a disclaimer at the beginning of the Boulting brothers & # 8217 ; 1947 movie Brighton Rock that assures us the town it depicts is of the yesteryear, & # 8220 ; another Brighton of dark back streets and maturating slums & # 8230 ; offense and force and pack warfare & # 8230 ; now happily no more & # 8221 ; . The movie was based on Graham Greene & # 8217 ; s 1938 novel, which in bend, the writer insisted, drew on a background that was already go throughing into societal history. & # 8220 ; The Brighton race packs were to all purposes quashed for of all time as a serious threat at Lewes Assizes a small before the day of the month of my novel, & # 8221 ; Greene wrote in Ways of Escape. And yet the movie, now in a new print, stands up so good because of its prevision about the postwar period. An improbable mix of societal pragmatism and metaphysical guess is synthesised in something particularly powerful and mistily prophetic. And although Brighton Rock seems in portion to be intended as an onslaught on the rise of popular civilization, which Greene clearly disdained, clip has transformed it into a encomium to a sort of melancholic Englishness. Its cardinal figure, the male child mobster Pinkie, is presented as being apart from this modern shabbiness. Evil he may be, but pure of everyday pleasances and inexpensive bangs. As he stalks his quarry, the newspaper adult male Hale, in a barroom saloon that evokes the religious devastation of the saloon in The Waste Land, we hear the vocalizing, the cackling laughter of his Nemesis, Ida Arnold, a wondrous blousy Hermione Baddeley. & # 8220 ; Won & # 8217 ; t anybody shut that brass & # 8217 ; s talk? & # 8221 ; are the first words that Richard Attenborough spits out in his coruscating public presentation. Ida represents the sophistication that Pinkie detests. Like Eliot, Greene had a fright and disgust every bit good as a captivation for the multitudes. He places Pinkie above his ain & # 8211 ; in the universe but non of it. He makes him Other, that is to state Catholic. And although he faces damnation, there is something absolute about his destiny, while Ida is condemned to the oblivion of sittings and ouija boards. There is sympathy for the Satan ( he even makes Pinkie & # 8217 ; s phone figure 666 ) and beyond the coarse fleshpots and amusement arcades there is Hell, an sole cabaret to which merely Catholics are guaranteed entry. That & # 8217 ; s all really good, but it instead betrays Greene as an over-keen grownup convert to the religion. Talking as one Born into it, I have ever found his desire to utilize Catholicism as the driving force in a novel of thoughts somewhat absurd. The Church of Rome and intellectualism are merely incompatible. As Lytton Strachey observed of that other celebrated proselyte Dr Newman and the Vatican & # 8217 ; s misgiving of him: & # 8220 ; It was non the nature of his positions & # 8211 ; it was holding positions at all that was objectionable. & # 8221 ; It would be pointless, so, to take issue with anything theological in Brighton Rock ( & # 8221 ; the shocking unfamiliarity of the clemency of God & # 8221 ; is the decision in both movie and book, whatever that & # 8217 ; s supposed to intend ) . Alternatively we witness something else, something much more interesting. Whether intentionally or non, Greene uses the really contrariness of Catholic imagination to convey a complex psychosexuality. And because so much is bound up in repression, in a light articulacy, this ambiance translates into the screen version. A doll that Pinkie wins on a sideshow and abstractedly pulls the hair out of & # 8220 ; reminds me of church, Bill & # 8221 ; . On his first day of the month with Rose, played with a childlike, about avaricious masochism by Carol Marsh, he mocks her by squealing his childhood voyeurism. & # 8220 ; I & # 8217 ; ve watched it, & # 8221 ; he says. & # 8220 ; I know love. & # 8221 ; At his nuptials to Rise he tells Dallow, his lieutenant ( William Hartnell, as of all time the converting heavy ) that as a kid he wanted to be a priest. When Dallow jeers, Pinkie states in cold blood: & # 8220 ; They keep off from all this. & # 8221 ; Pinkie & # 8217 ; s misogynism and evident disgust at heterosexualism suggest there might be something else traveling on. In the book we learn something of his induction by the older mobster: & # 8220 ; Kite had picked him up & # 8211 ; he had been coughing on the Palace Pier in the acrimonious cold & # 8230 ; Kite had given him a cup of hot java and brought him here & # 8211 ; God knows why & # 8211 ; possibly because he was out and wasn & # 8217 ; t down, possibly because a adult male like Kite needed a small sentiment, like a prostitute who keeps a Pekinese. & # 8221 ; In the movie Dallow states the instance more sidelong in his account of why the pack must kill the newspaper adult male: & # 8220 ; Pinkie loved Kite. Kite trusted Hale. Now Pinkie runs this mob. & # 8221 ; But although Attenborough & # 8217 ; s boy monster freshnesss with contrariness and certain English mobsters might good hold taken a radiance to a spot of unsmooth trade by the wharf, even the & # 8220 ; small sentiment & # 8221 ; between work forces is left unexpressed. We are spared the drab semantics of psychological science. Alternatively we have a enigma narrative, albeit a farcical one where the & # 8220 ; perfect offense & # 8221 ; is for Pinkie to curse Rose & # 8211 ; or, better still, do her darn herself by perpetrating the most mortal wickedness of self-destruction. As Pinkie is unknowable, so he becomes iconic. His background is existent plenty & # 8211 ; the racecourse packs of the 1930s, the postwa
r spiv culture of the black market. He is archetypal of the small-time nastiness of English criminality but also predicts future manifestations of homegrown youth culture. Strangely, he prefigures American icons of juvenile delinquency (Brando, Dean and so on). But without their transatlantic glamour or essential wholesomeness he never quite achieves their virile degeneracy. This callow-faced rebel is not just a troubled teenager – he is utterly nihilistic. His location in space and time is a dreary English saturnalia, part pleasure, part menace, a seaside town, a bank holiday. It is Whitsun weekend by the Palace Pier when Pinkie’s mob kill Hale, the same feast day and the same place that in 1964 mods fought with rockers. “Sawdust Caesars,” a magistrate called the mod boys in their cheap Italian suits and stingy-brim trilbys. Pinkie is the original sawdust Caesar, just as he is the slick-haired ted with a razor blade, Alex in A Clockwork Orange, skinhead, suedehead, casual, any kind of well-dressed hooligan. I remember when Johnny Rotten first appeared, full of anaemic fury; with the shock of recognition we knew at once who this sickly youth was. It was Pinkie. We can feel properly nostalgic for Brighton Rock now. Brighton itself has lost much of its menace and seediness and become much like the film’s description: “a large jolly, friendly seaside town in Sussex”. And the teenage menace seems to have disappeared. Pop culture has eaten its young or forced them through hoops in the dreadful new talent-show world. Pinkie’s image, however, still hovers like the ghost at the feast, a negative image. He is, of course, the Pop Idol from Hell. It’s hard to locate a real tradition of homegrown film noir but Brighton Rock comes close to it. It certainly connects with what Peter Wollen has called the “spiv cycle” of British films such as They Made Me a Fugitive and It Always Rains on Sundays (both also made in 1947), whose wide-boy protagonists drew a certain amount of sympathy from a public now familiar with a thriving black market and weary of rationing and austerity. What divides the novel and the film is, of course, the war. As real-life villain Frankie Fraser noted, “the war organised criminals”, so that they graduated from the racetrack to bigger rackets. Greene has a keen ear for the aspirational hoodlum. Colleoni, the successful gangster, ostentatiously declares in his suite in the Cosmopolitan that his rooms were once used by Napoleon III “and Eugenie”. “Who was she?” Pinkie asks. “Oh, some foreign polony,” Colleoni replies. And Greene had done his homework, too. Colleoni could be based on Darby Sabini, who ran the Italian Mob in Clerkenwell and retired to Brighton in the 1940s. In early editions of the novel, though, he is clearly Jewish. This drew accusations of anti-semitism, and Greene made changes in later editions, but there were Jewish gangsters at that time. Jack Spot was the most notable; in the 1950s he gave a pitch at Epsom races to a pair of ambitious young thugs – Ronald and Reginald Kray. Now that Cool Britannia has killed off much of English subcultural menace, or appropriated its imagery, Brighton Rock is worth another viewing simply as a reminder that gangster films are meant to be unsettling. This brings us to the matter of the ending of the film, which takes quite a different course from the novel. David Thomson recently noted in this newspaper that Greene rewrote Terrence Rattigan’s happy ending, putting a scratch on the record that prevents Rose from hearing the awful message of hate from Pinkie. Greene saw it as a compromise, but a clever one: “Anybody who wanted a happy ending would feel that they had had a happy ending,” he said. “Anybody who had any sense would know that the next time Rose would probably push the needle over the scratch and get the full message.” But is the film version really softer than the original? It has always struck me that it is much more cruel. Rose’s horror is simply postponed. And while the book’s ending merely finds her at confession with her parish priest, in the film she is with a nun in a small room or cell that looks suspiciously like one of those institutions for fallen women we Catholics used to be so fond of. The celluloid ending is darker, too. Brighton Rock’s conclusion seems evocative of the end of Heart of Darkness (Greene always acknowledged Conrad’s influence on him). In both we are left with the lover of a central, yet unknowably monstrous, figure who has just died, and a sense of the legacy of evil he has left behind. For Kurtz it is “the horror, the horror”, for Pinkie “the worst horror of all”. In the novel Brighton Rock Rose goes home to hear the horror but in the film it remains unsaid, like the last words that Marlow dare not tell Kurtz’s fiancee. We are left with something far more potent, an unspoken, unutterable horror. · Brighton Rock will be showing at the ICA, London SW1 (020-7930 3647), from Friday. Jake Arnott’s He Kills Coppers is published by Sceptre.