COI Collection: Volume 1 - Police and Thieves DVD
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Directed by Various (Documentary)
Produced in 1956
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
A fascinating BFI set of films from the archives of the Central Office of Information, about crime and punishment in postwar Britain. Graeme Hobbs takes a look.
Arriving on the back of their superlative collections showcasing British Transport Films, the GPO Film Unit, and latterly the National Coal Board Film Unit, the BFI here turns its attention to films produced by the Central Office of Information, established in 1946 as a successor to the wartime Ministry of Information. This first volume of COI documentaries looks at aspects of crime, from policing and punishment to prevention and rehabilitation.
The first film, Jack Lee’s beautifully photographed Children on Trial, looks at two Liverpool slum children’s experiences at ‘approved schools’. For them, things eventually turn out well, but in other films here, such as Probation Officer – made for the Home Office to encourage people to take up the profession – there is a level-headedness about the amount of dogged hard work, insight and sympathy needed to make even small inroads into behaviour brought about through desperate poverty and lack of opportunity.
Not that there is any set ‘criminal type’, as films such as the unsentimental docu-drama Four Men in Prison shows, while Youth Club, as its title suggests, takes a look at that very institution, and its attempts to nip temptation in the bud by attracting young men away from the lure of smoke-filled pintable halls to more wholesome pursuits of table-tennis, reading and carpentry in the parish hall. And if temptation does prove too much, then innovations in policing (such as hand-held radios) are detailed in the films British Policeman, Unit Beat Policing and Anything Can Happen, which look at the many roles policemen must adopt in their daily work.
Of obvious interest because of the films’ incidental details – panda cars and flashing police pillars, gas lamps and posters about the hydrogen bomb in the police stations – the set is also distinguished by some beautiful monochrome cinematography, from notable practitioners such as Chick Fowle, Martin Curtis, Wolfgang Suschitsky and Fred Gamage.
Graeme Hobbs on 27th January 2010
Author of 276 reviews
Established in 1946, the Central Office of Information (COI) was a successor to the wartime Ministry of Information and was responsible for producing thousands of films which celebrated Britain, its people and their achievements. With the majority of them previously unseen on DVD, these films provide a fascinating and often poignant record of British life in a seemingly more innocent age.
Volume 1 of the COI Collection spans 1944 - 1977 and tackles crime, juvenile delinquency, policing and the justice system. A variety of styles and genres - story documentary, drama, public information shorts, cinemagazines, etc - are employed to deliver crime prevention messages and bolster recruitment in this area.
Disc one: Children on Trial (1946), Children of the City (1944), Probation Officer (1950), Youth Club (1954), A Chance for Brian (1977); Disc two: Four Men in Prison (1950), Help Yourself (1950), Transatlantic Teleview 26: Man on the Beat (1956), British Policeman (1959), Unit Beat Policing (1968), Anything Can Happen (1973), Bicycle Thefts (1974), Snatch of the Day (1975) and Challenge for a Lifetime (1975).
Length: 295 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Cat No: BFIVD860
Format: DVD Colour
- 2 discs
- 25 page booklet providing comprehensive film notes from academics and film historians.