COI Collection Vol 1 - Police and Thieves [DVD]
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THE COI COLLECTION VOLUME ONE
POLICE AND THIEVES
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.
This first volume in the COI Collection explores the subjects of policing, crime, delinquency, and the justice system. A variety of styles and genres - including story documentary, public information shorts and cinemagazines - were employed to delivery crime prevention messages and bolster recruitment. Highlights include: Children on Trial (1946), an approved school drama set in a progressive and enlightened system; Youth Club (1954), which proposed a solution to keeping Britain's young people out of trouble; Help Yourself (1950), a no-nonsense crime prevention film; Man on the Beat (1956) and The British Policeman (1959), in which the local bobby comes armed with a friendly smile. Together, these films provide a wonderful record of British life in a seemingly more innocent age.
- Fully illustrated booklet including comprehensive contextualising notes and essays from academics and film historians
- Dolby Digital mono audio (320kbps)
UK | 1944-1977 | black & white and colour | English, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | 291 minutes | DVD9 x 2 | Original aspect ratio 1.33:1 | Region 0 PAL DVD
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Each film considers an aspect of the judicial system, whether it's court sentences, approved schools, life in prison or a Bobby on the beat. It's in sharp contrast to current attitudes towards reforming the recidivist or young offender. Probation service roles have altered significantly and as a comprehensive slice of very recent social history, this set is a real gem. From the overtly patronising do gooders of the 1940s to the more liberal and informal approach of the early 1970s, each film examines a particular aspect of the justice system.
I suspect many will find the contents laughable, but it's difficult to ignore the genuine will behind each film. Times and attitudes are ever changing and given that this set covers a period of only 30 years, it makes for interesting thought about the effectiveness of differing approaches. I've enjoyed the two discs over a few evenings and the quality and content is first rate.
The first film "Children On Trial" was made in 1946, during the first year of the fledgling COI, which itself was created to replace the wartime ministry of information, in this 60 minute film, the message is that rehabilitation is the way forward in addressing the problem of teenage delinquency.
The 1950 "Probation officer" is in part a recruitment film, aimed at enlightening prospective recruits to the service, by pointing out the modern and progressive aspects of the profession.
Also in 1950, the film "Four Men In Prison" shows the effects of prison life on four different offenders, one is a first time offender serving a short sentence, another is a hardened criminal who is familiar to prison life, while another is a mentally sub-normal youth who steals, and the other is facing corrective training to prevent him becoming an habitual criminal.
The 1959 film "The British Policeman" follows a police constable on his 8-hour shift. From the early 70's "Anything Can Happen" is a 20-minute film that was shown in schools, to help improve on the shortage of police officers at the time.
The 1975 film "Challenge For A Lifetime" is another police recruitment film, which emphasises the more exciting aspects of police work, rather than the more mundane side.
This collection of films is another fine example of the many informative and educational collections released by the BFI, filled with nostalgia, the films are a fascinating social history record.
The picture and sound quality is good.
Here is a list of the films with brief details:
Children On Trial (1946,B/W,60 mins).
Children Of The City (1944,B/W,30 mins).
Probation Officer (1950,B/W,33 mins).
Youth Club (1954,B/W,17 mins).
A Chance For Brian (1977,colour,7 mins).
Four Men In Prison (1950,B/W,40 mins).
Help Yourself (1950,B/W,12 mins).
Transatlantic Teleview 26: Man On The Beat (1956,B/W,7 mins).
The British Policeman (1959,B/W,17 mins).
Unit Beat Policing (1968,B/W,22 mins).
Anything Can Happen (1973,colour,20 mins).
Bicycle Thefts (1974,colour,45 secs).
Snatch Of The Day (1975,colour,1 min).
Challenge For A Lifetime (1975,colour,24 mins).
*Fully illustrated 23-page booklet including comprehensive contextualising notes and essays from academics and film historians.
*Dolby Digital mono audio.
*Optional English subtitles.
Further films, such as Unit Beat Policing from 1968 is quite revealing, showing that more than 40 years ago it was already understood that just putting more and more police on the beat had almost no effect on reducing crime. More recent films like the Public Information Film "Snatch of the Day" provide a bit of comic relief - any child of the 70s can remember this one being shown endlessly on TV.
All in all this is a great collection of COI films that show how well they were made and how Britain has changed over the decades. They are an essential document in our social history. Highly recommended.
Really hope the BFI continues to release more and more of these documentary series from the 40s through to the 80s - there must be zillions of films / documentaries moldering away in the archives