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15
4.2 out of 5 stars
Special Branch - Complete 1973 Series  [DVD]
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2004
I have no memory of this show from childhood but I do love a good cop show. This show starring George Sewell best known for 'UFO' and 'The Detectives' as DCI Craven. The plots are pretty run of the mill and bare comparison with 'The Sweeney'.The action is quite good in a 1970's way as are the basic storylines.Patrick Mower who is DCI Haggerty comes across as a brash 'Bodie' like person.Set against the plodding by the book Craven who won't rock the boat.They drive around in a lovely mk1 Ford Granada and stick out like a sore thumb.The Dvd's have been re-mastered and offer good quality at a resonable retail price.The very 'First' episode 'Troika' from series one is featured.As a purist I would have liked series 1 issued to be followed by the rest in order.However if you like 1970's cop drama to a high standard this is still a good purchase.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2006
Series Four of Special Branch is the last series prior to Euston Films going on to make their TV hit, The Sweeney.
It follows the lives of Craven (George Sewell) and Haggerty (Patrick Mower) two members of the MET's Special Branch unit and in the first episode of this series, it is clear that the less interesting character of DS North (played by Roger Rowland) is finally written out of the show after suffering a nervous breakdown when confronted by and killing an armed suspect. It also now features Paul Eddington as a meddling home office official getting involved in cases and hindering Special Branch investigations. The episodes are livelier than the awkward 3rd series, which showed the transition between stale set based Thames drama and the Euston Films filmed on location series. The episodes are typically more interesting and action packed, they almost appear like some of the season 3 and 4 episodes of The Professionals but by remaining true to Special Branch procedure, lack some of the flare and action that The Professionals had in its scripts, being based on the fictional elite Ci5 department.
All in all a fair series, worth adding to a collection if you're a fan of Euston Films products but it won't excite like the rough and tumble action and social commentary of the now legendary "Sweeney" series.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 28 January 2005
There is a common perception that TV in Britain isn't what it used to be. A magical 'golden age' of TV is often imagined, starting somewhere in the mid-sixties (possibly with the start of BBC2 in 1964) and ending at the start of the 'eighties.
I wonder how many people would consider Special Branch to be part of the 'golden age'. Not many, I reckon. Even the actors who appeared in it - George Sewell and Patrick Mower - interviewed on the DVD set of the 1974 series (also available as a network release) seem to be somewhat apologetic about it. Mower suggests that he was brought in to "grab the series by the balls" after the filming of the first six episodes because the format wasn't working, and Sewell disarmingly admits that it lacked the "polish" of its highly-regarded successor, The Sweeney.
Well, forgive me for disagreeing, but Special Branch - at least the 1973 and 1974 series - certainly deserve to be seen as part of the golden age of British TV. Well acted, well scripted, and the first of Thames TV offshoot Euston Films' productions shot entirely on film and on location, this series is a gem from start to finish.
Chic, it certainly isn't. It's gritty and cynical, an attitude superbly captured by Sewell's portrayal of Detective Chief Inspector Craven, a smoking, swearing, punching copper whose idiosyncratic methods - in a wonderfully cliché-snubbing way - do not always get results. A sense of almost sordid ethical ambivalence pervades the series: you find yourself siding with the 'criminal' as often as with the law, who themselves often wonder why they are pursing their latest hapless victim.
London in the 'seventies - a far grubbier and decaying city than that of today - is superbly captured on film, as is the dullness and dimness of Special Branch's office. The dialogue often displays its 1970s heritage - girlfriends are 'birds', gays are 'queers'. Yet, Craven - an archetypal East Ender - has a West Indian girlfriend, and becomes prickly when racism rears its ugly head. This on-screen relationship must have been quite a novelty on early 'seventies TV, and I bet it did far more to highlight the absurdity of racism than any number of episodes of the 'ironic' 'Till Death Us Do Part or the ghastly Love Thy Neighbour.
In a series of 13 episodes there will always be the odd dud script and there is one here - Episode 9, Threat, is absolutely dire. But the rest are uniformly excellent. Some stand out as superb television drama, especially A Copper Called Craven, Round the Clock and Inquisition. The latter, in particular, sums up the essential virtues of this series - a great script, superb dialogue, and down-to-earth, believable actors who can carry it off. The pace of such episodes is also interesting - slower than contemporary TV drama, but all the better for it. Absolutely wonderful stuff.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2005
Series Three of Special Branch is the first of the series to be made by the more radical Euston Films department, and as such it took the stale set based format of Special Branch used by Thames Television, and filmed it on colour film on location instantly setting a new standard in TV production and introducing new characters to the show.
However the show can be slightly awkward, particularly DS North (played by Roger Rowland) through no fault of the actor, his character was just not made interesting or deep enough. Patrick Mover was brought in mid way through the series to liven it up a bit by being a more rebellious and macho character, which seemed to ignite the show a bit. Many of the episodes are based on espionage plots, much like the later episodes of The Professionals, but by staying true to replicating Special Branch procedures it almost limits itself to the amount of action it can include in the show.
It was a ground breaking series, when we look back to set based shows like Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green, but it lacked the real punch and grit of its Euston Films brother - The Sweeney so has been overshadowed by The Sweeney's legacy.
Its still very entertaining, and features some good episodes and early cameos from support actors who later went on to be household names.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2008
One of the strangest series ever to grace British television: 'Special Branch' stripped off the glamour often depicted in police series and replaced it with cold hard mundanity and weary cynicism.

George Sewell plays Alan Craven, a dour, seen-it-all 70's cop, taken to walking round in a mac, stubbornly looking at things.
Sewell's performance is so low-key it barely exists - this is no womanising action hero al la Regan from 'the Sweeney' (Incredibly the two shows are closely related; the same production crews and casting, same tv company..), but he's barely awake.
He seems to just drift unenthusiastically from one unpleasant scenario to another, bucking every tv trend and cliché as he goes.

Whether chasing down bombers, assassins, smugglers or kidnappers, his resolute demeanor doesn't change. He's craggy, his dress sense is uninspired - he's just there, rule book in hand, stoic to the last.

By modern police drama standards (ie, ANYTHING post-'Special Branch'), it's a complete plod.(!)
There's very few car-chases, a sore lack of dementedly sweaty villains, Craven and his bosses get on just fine and the only hint of animosity comes with the introduction of Haggerty, an uppity inspector that represents everything Craven is not.
Even then, once the two of them get to 'understand' each other, the 'mutual respect' thing goes down and we're back to fingerprint-logging and filing cabinets.
Haggerty in his spiv waistcoats and classy flares..Craven in his mac.

So why does 'Special Branch' win? How does it overcome all its surface drawbacks and turn out a fine series?
Well, you don't always need a dashing hero as Hitchcock proved, and while I'm name-dropping, Craven can be seen as some sort of sub-Kubrickian public servant - matter-of-fact and bland. There's more than a hint of William Sylvester's '2001' character in his methodical ungainliness.

It's brilliantly filmed (as opposed to studio); grainy film-stock gives the impression that the London skyline is perpetually gloomy and drizzly.
There's a level of realism not encountered before which works brilliantly - and as in real police work - Craven and co don't always get their man.

And hey, I've just discovered something thrillingly absorbing - Craven has TWO macs. One navy the other beige.
That'll bring the raw-edge excitement to quite a head won't it?

Episodes end weirdly..sharply, leaving you thinking 'What!?'
It reminds of the X-Files, only with bogus Russian defectors and hippy fire-bombers instead of aliens.

Truth is, I hope we do have the likes of Craven, Haggerty and co attending to our country's security, instead of the CCTV obsessed internet sleuths I suspect we really do.

And perhaps that's it.
Craven is a bloke, a real identifiable person despite his faults. Run that Union Jack and he'll salute it, play that anthem and he'll stand...
He'll look tired and completely disinterested, but he'll do it.

AND, he's got a black girlfriend - in the early 70's !?!
Unfortunately, we just don't have enough 'heroes' like that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The investigations of a division of Scotland Yard known as Special Branch, is the basis of this series created originally by Thames Television.
The first two series was had been filmed on videotape with different actors, dull scenes and props, little action, and a pace that was very slow.
However in 1973 the series was brought back with a re vamp and this new look is much superior and the most remembered version.
This is the third series, but it is the first of the new look Special Branch which is excellent. It was made by Thames Televisions offshoot Euston Films and shot on film with the intention of being able to sell the show to other countries. (Clearly a lesson learned from the success of other British TV companies like ITC and ABC)
This new look version is gritty. It has excellent production and direction and some good stories. The series starred George Sewell as D.C.I. Alan Craven and Patrick Mower as D.C.I. Tom Haggerty. They are tough and sensitive. There is action and strong drama.
Special Branch investigates international crime and espionage. They are assigned to high pressure undercover operations.
The production team of this series went on to produce the Sweeney and here Craven and Haggerty are like earlier versions of Regan and Carter from that show.
The location shots and the fashions of the day give a good feel of the early seventies and it is really good to see this series that seems to have been largely forgotten about under the shadow of the more successful Sweeney.
Network DVD have done no restoration work on any of the episodes and the picture quality is not the greatest. There are a lot of film scratches and the colours seem to have faded a bit. But it is good enough to watch.
These are excellent releases of the third and fourth series of Special Branch.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2009
This is the second season of the 2nd incarnation of the series.
Great cast, music and character development.
Patrick Mower appears in every second episode. George Sewell is in all.
Paul Eddington appears as new Superior Strand, adding some acid politics to the dialogue.
Excellent stories well filmed. I actually prefered them to the subsequent series "The Sweeney."
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2004
Well here we have it series 4 of Special Branch in that layed back 1970's style.Again George Sewell as DCI Craven does his best to track the villians as does Patrick Mower as DCI Heggerty.The stories now seem quite dated and weak in places when compared to later cop shows.But the real fault is the lack of a conclusive ending in most of the episodes.The location filming is well done and made on film and not videotape.So it does have a good quality to it unlike most TV shows.The DVD's have been re-mastered and there are good interviews with the two stars.There memories of the series is a little vague but to there credit it was over 30 years ago.There is a very good second series episode 'Inside' starring Darren Nesbit.This is well written if slow paced but one of the best of the whole set !.I would recommed this this series even to catch a slice of the 1970's in one box !.
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on 31 August 2011
The 1974 series of SPECIAL BRANCH and unfortunately the last, was a joy to watch, the characters of Craven and Haggerty played by George Sewell and Patrick Mower had developed into a good partnership, with the additions of Paul Eddington as Strand, Fredrick Jaeger as the commander made it a good solid series. With good scripts and the added bonus of being shot entirely on location. Made by Euston Films which also went on to make The Sweeney. I recommend this to anybody who likes good British drama, a great pity there was not another series made!!
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on 10 October 2012
I WAS BORN IN 1972, SO ONLY VAGUELY REMEMBER SEEING REPEATS OF THE 1973/74 SERIES OF SPECIAL BRANCH IN THE MIDDLE 80S, BUT REMEMBER PREFERING THEM TO THE LATER 70S SERIES THE SWEENEY,
a MORE REALISTIC,GRITTY, HONEST PORTRAYAL OF EARLY 70S POLICING,STRONG WELL ACTED AND WELL PLOTTED STORIES SHOWING THE TURBULENT TIMES THAT THE UNDERPAID 70S COPPERS HAD TO DEAL WITH.

VERY WORTHWHILE BUYS
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