Caught by the Fuzz: Sentimental police drama with a shocking twist.
Although Ealing Studios is synonymous with comedy it’s output was more diverse. Alongside genteel fun fare such as Passport to Pimlico, The Ladykillers, Whisky Galore, I’m Alright Jack, The Maggie, and The Man in the White Suit, it produced costume dramas, documentaries, war and crime films. Founded in 1902, the studio’s golden period began in 1938 when Michael Balcon took over as chief executive and steered the company away from escapism and embraced realism. During the 1950s Ealing Studios took inspiration from the British documentary movement and produced realistic depictions of post-war life, most notably Pool of London and The Blue Lamp.
Seen from a twenty-first-century vantage point, The Blue Lamp offers a view of policing far removed from today’s impersonal and target-driven forms of crime enforcement. As “everyman” police officer George Dixon, Jack Warner created a role which would influence screen cop shows for decades. The character and his portrayal were etched into the hearts and minds of a generation and Warner was asked to reprise the role for a TV series (Dixon of Dock Green) which ran 21 years. At his funeral officers from the police station featured in the film acted as pallbearers.
Crime rose in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. Police Constables were the first line of defence in the war against a new breed of criminality. Long-serving officer George Dixon takes new recruit Andy Mitchell (Jimmy Hanley) under his wing and tutors the youngster in what it takes to be an effective member of the force.
Driving home the dangers officers face when they pound the beat, the shooting of George Dixon by a young hoodlum played by Dirk Bogarde still has the power to shock nearly seventy years after the scenes were filmed.
Filmed in a style which came close to approximating the then-current trends in documentary, The Blue Lamp may seem occasionally stagey to modern viewers but to its original audience it was thrilling stuff. Well paced and with a terrific performance from Bogarde this is top-flight stuff from the UK’s most famous studio.