Admit it, you kind of want to see this movie already. It's that title. There's no messing about, no metaphor. There's a strangler. In Brighton. Job done.
It's a fairly half-baked plot. A generally kind and noble actor, Reginald Parker, is appearing in a smash hit play called 'The Brighton Strangler' in the West End, about a murderer called Edward Gray. Through a scene filled with some of the most shockingly crowbarred-in exposition at the beginning, we find he's also engaged to the show's writer, and that he's had enough of playing the role.
One night, during an air raid, he gets a blow on the head, and when he wakes up, something's changed. Now fully convinced he's Edward Gray, he journeys down to Brighton to fulfil the real-life revenge murders he's been spending the last 12 months enacting on the stage.
Firstly, if this film was made today, it wouldn't be called 'The Brighton Strangler'. It would be called 'The Struggle Within', or 'The Hand Of Man', or 'Behind The Stage Curtain'. It wouldn't be 67 minutes long. It'd be 117. The poster would contain the following. The bottom third a silhouette of the skyline of Brighton at night. The top two thirds would be a blown up, over-Photoshopped picture of Brad Pitt's moody face staring into the middle distance. The tagline would be 'No man can control the darkness forever'.
Can you see it?
Now look at this.
Man's hands tightening rope. Frightened looking starlet (boss-eyed) adjusting earring? Maniacal man who looks like he's zipped his flies straight up through 14 ration points worth of genitals. Whole thing tinted green. Big red words: The Brighton Strangler. There's a strangler, and he's doing the strangling in Brighton. See you in 67 minutes.
I love that. I love that I don't have to spend 120 minutes until I finally understand the metaphor that the title is referring to. If I want to see people strangled in Brighton, it takes that checklist from my inquisitive hands, clicks its pen, and ticks every box.
It's also pretty good at not giving too many fucks about how it gets from point A to point B. By fifteen minutes in we're pretty much there, in Brighton, watching him strangling.
When he gets hit on the head at the beginning, we're subjected to five minutes of him clutching a hand to his head and closing his eyes. These actions denote that he is A) in pain, and B) is confused about his identity.
The whole sequence consists of him approaching people in a daze, whereupon they begin a conversation with him, and he does nothing except shakily repeat the last couple of words of their sentence. Example:
Unimportant character: 'Are you all right, sir?'
Reginald Parker: 'All right... sir...'
Unimportant character: 'I'm glad to hear it. You didn't look well for a moment'
Obviously, the man staggering in front of you and repeating your last couple of words is perfectly well.
2nd unimportant character: 'Nasty weather, eh?'
Reginald Parker: 'Nasty... weather...'
2nd unimportant character: 'It certainly is, mate'
Somehow, this goes on until he arrives at a train station.
Someone else: 'Do you need a train, sir? This one is going to Brighton'
Reginald Parker (Clutching his head, closing his eyes, and SWAYING): 'Going... to... Brighton...'
Someone else: 'I thought you might be, sir. That'll be two and six'
I really love that whole part I just told you about. I love that he spends five minutes triangular-walking with a hand clutched to his head, and not one solitary fuck is given by any passerby.
What I don't love, is that with all this wonderful set-up, it really loses steam about 40 minutes in. The plot insists on there being a love angle, and whilst it has the balls to not centre that part around the strangler, it does throw precious minutes at a completely forgettable U.S. soldier character, who stomps around mocking the British for not knowing all about American slang, basically just takes up room in the plot. More strangling, please. Preferably Forgettable McYankeesoldiertrousers.
It's frightening just how uninteresting the film suddenly becomes after that 40 minute mark. With his strangling done, he just kind of meanders around for a good 20 minutes until the rooftop denouement, which is another problem. In order to stop him from committing another murder, his fiancee from the beginning magically shows up and instructs the assembled policemen to applaud, hoping that this will snap him out of his amnesia, and back into normality.
It works, but too well. Forgetting the strangling for a moment, he takes a bow, imagining that he's back in the theatre for a moment. Then he takes a step back and walks off the roof.
He walks. Off the roof.
It's not a deal-breaker or anything, it just feels rushed, and I know how that sounds, considering that I love the first twenty minutes, when he's being rushed to Brighton, but seriously? He walks off the roof?
Look, I'm genetically wired to love B-movies, so this movie is manna to me. I have actually watched it over twenty times now. I watched it yesterday. I love that it's 67 minutes long. I love that the acting is more wooden than Long John Silver's shin. It suits this kind of movie. If you want to see a man get hit on the head and turned into a strangler, who then goes to Brighton to do some of the aforementioned strangling, then you don't want moody, introspective, horribly lengthened scenes of inner torture, interspersed with sweeping music swells and navel-gazing.
Look at his face again.
You want that guy.