City of Vice - Series 1  [DVD] 
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Welcome to the dark underbelly of London where crime is rife and only the City's watchmen exist. Enter the Fielding brothers who created the Bow Street Runners, the precursor to todays CID. This series, created by using accounts from the time show that the Fieldings had enough trouble to keep getting a budget as they did fighting the criminals of the day. In an age where to even mention a police force in London would have been seen by the Mob to be despotism, this series shows the fine line that had to be trod by the Bow Street Runners just to solve a case, let alone bring someone to the Tyburn Tree.
Let us hope that another series wil be made, as this is really a gem, and the kind of series that has kept myself and others enthralled.
** Directed by Justin Hardy and Dan Reed
** Screenplay written by Clive Bradley and Peter Harness
** Musical score composed by Richard Blair-Oliphant
** Historical consultant: Hallie Rubenhold
** Run time: 5 x 48 minutes = 240 minutes
The cast includes the following:
** Ian McDiarmid as Henry Fielding (1707-1754) – magistrate
** Iain Glen as John Fielding (1721-1780) – magistrate
** Francis Magee as Saunders Welch – runner
** Steve Speirs as William Pontlow – runner
** Alice O’Connell as Mary Fielding – Henry’s wife
** Sam Spruell as Lord Newcastle – politician
The force known as the Bow Street Runners was established by the Fielding brothers in 1749. It was active for almost one hundred years, until 1839. It was London’s first police force. The Metropolitan Police of London was established by Robert Peel in 1829. When this happened, the Bow Street Runners were gradually phased out.
Henry Fielding was a published and popular author when he decided to do something about the crimes that were committed in the city of London. His younger half-brother John, who was blind since the age of 19, continued as the leader of the force when Henry died in 1754.
In this drama we follow the two brothers and some of their first operations as magistrates in charge of the Bow Street Runners. Henry and John lived in a house in Bow Street. Hence the name of the force they established. Each episode covers a new case and a new type of crime. What we see is not always pleasant, but realistic. We are in the underbelly of London.
What do reviewers say about this historical movie? On IMDb it has a rating of 80 per cent, which corresponds to four stars on Amazon. If you ask me, this average rating is too low.
On Amazon UK there are 33 reviews of this product. The average rating is 4.7 stars. If you ask me, this average rating is much more appropriate. Why do I say this? Because the script is well-written and the actors play their roles well. The movie is captivating, dramatic, and emotional. In addition, it is based on a true story. I want to go all the way to the top with this product. I think it deserves a rating of five stars.
PS # 1. For more information about the topic, see the following book: The First English Detectives: The Bow Street Runners and the Policing of London 1750-1840 by J. M. Beattie (2012, 2014).
PS # 2. A Harlot’s Progress – an unusual historical drama set in London around the year 1731 about a harlot and a painter - is a somewhat similar product. Directed by Justin Hardy; screenplay written by Clive Bradley; musical score composed by Richard Blair-Oliphant. It was shown on British television (Channel 4) and released on DVD in 2008.
Ian McDiarmid displays his usual consummate acting (well from someone who ranges from the evil emperor in Star Wars to the butler in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels- what would you expect?) Iain Glen ably supports as his blind brother John. What is so fascinating is how totally out of their depth they are when faced with murderers and scary Irish gang leaders. I really like the touch of using a 3D map of the contemporary city to set the changes of scene in context. Worthy historical drama.
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Many have done excellent reviews of this so I will not go into details but it is...Read more