RELEASED: 1950, Cert. PG
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 82 mins
DIRECTOR: Basil Dearden
PRODUCER: Michael Balcon
SCREENPLAY: T E B Clarke
Dirk Bogarde as Tom Riley
Peggy Evans as Diana Lewis
Patric Doonan as Spud
Jack Warner as PC George Dixon
Jimmy Hanley as PC Andy Mitchell
Bruce Seton as PC Campbell
Meredith Edwards as PC Hughes
Robert Flemying as Sgt. Roberts
Clive Morton as Sgt. Brooks
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Set and mostly filmed in and around the Paddington area of London, The Blue Lamp begins with PC George Dixon and a few of his colleagues looking for a 16-year-old girl, Diana Lewis, whose parents have reported that she has vanished from home. However, Diana has become involved with Tom Riley and his friend Spud, a couple of young wannabe crooks.
Diana gets a job at a theatre, which Tom and Spud see as an opportunity to rob the place due to her being able to give them information on how to gain access to valuables.
However, during the robbery, Tom (who has a gun) shoots PC George Dixon, then legs it with Spud who is acting as getaway driver.
PC Dixon is taken to hospital with his life hanging in the balance, but when he dies, the police realise that their hunt for robbers Tom and Spud, has turned into a murder investigation.
Shot in black and white, The Blue Lamp is one of these very typically British films from the late 1940s/early 1950s era where everybody is so polite and well-behaved. Even the crooks seem tame compared to what we have since become used to, but in this film Tom Riley actually is very nasty.
There doesn't appear to be a musical score to The Blue Lamp - well at least I didn't notice one - and being as nobody has received any credit or been mentioned as responsible for such, perhaps I'm not wrong about its absence.
The acting quality is good for a film of this type from this era, yet my favourite was definitely Dirk Bogarde as Tom Riley, Patric Doonan as Spud being a fairly close runner-up. Both actors managed to effectively portray a spiv-like borderline sinister attitude, yet due to Tom being one of the principle characters, Dirk Bogarde had more chance to immerse himself into the role and come across as a very convincing, budding young criminal who is scared due to being out of his depth after murdering PC Dixon, yet still in tough guy mode, putting a brave face on things. Tom possesses a very cruel streak which Diana frequently becomes the victim of, and I can't off the top of my head think of an actor from that era who could have characterised Tom better than Bogarde.
One member of the cast really did get on my nerves though, and that was Peggy Evans as Diana Lewis. Well, it wasn't so much Peggy Evans herself, but the character of Diana has a penchant for screaming hysterically each time Tom turns nasty towards her, and I found that to be highly irritating, as well as unpleasantly ear-splitting.
The actors who played the policemen did pretty well in portraying the image of the old helmet-wearing 'bobby on the beat' and I found that quite heart-warming. Jack Warner as PC Dixon is exactly the same as he was in the late 1950s/early to mid-1960s TV cop programme Dixon Of Dock Green, they actually in both the film and the TV drama being the same character. I found that odd, as in The Blue Lamp, Dixon was murdered - yet he went on to police the fictitious area of Dock Green some years later. Apparently, Dixon Of Dock Green was a deliberate follow-on from The Blue Lamp, which to me makes the issue of Dixon being the same character in both, somewhat ludicrous.
One thing I particularly loved about The Blue Lamp is watching a London which over the decades has vanished, virtually having become an alien entity. Around the residential areas, there are no tower blocks, and the little terraced two-up-two-down houses still suffer the scars of bomb damage from WW2. As a child, I distinctly recall being taken to Bow in the East End of London visiting extended family, and it always used to fascinate me when I'd see the odd house here and there, often in the middle of a terrace, being held up by wooden planks due to it becoming unstable from bomb damage. In The Blue Lamp (although it is filmed in a completely different part of London), there is no shortage of these propped-up houses, and I found that rather charming in a nostalgic sort of way.
Other things I loved are scenes of bedraggled children playing in the streets....yes, actually playing, not bombing around on bikes aimlessly, shrieking at the tops of their voices. I also flipped over into a deeply nostalgic mood watching the cops use what were those dark blue coloured police boxes perched at intervals on street corners, so that they could quickly and easily contact their desk-based colleagues, and how charming to be plunged back into a time when 999 service vehicles had a bell affixed just above the bonnet which jangled relentlessly when they were on their way to an emergency call.
All in all, The Blue Lamp is an easy and mostly enjoyable film to watch, but it is definitely from another era, far far away (or so it seems), and may not appeal to people who prefer things closer to home time-wise. The behaviour of the police, both to the public and to one another, is impeccably polite tinged with a rather stiff formality, yet they do manage in this film to have a bit of fun as one of their Welsh colleagues is teaching them how to sing in a choir. The style of speech is typical of films from that era, where conversation tends to be barked out rather than reflected upon and iterated slowly, but manners and respect are high on the agenda when it comes to social and employment situations. There is quite a good car chase about two-thirds of the way through The Blue Lamp, which did surprise me, as it came across wilder than I would have expected....but, it is tame compared to what we have more recently become used to.
Although I for the most part enjoyed The Blue Lamp myself, I'd guess that it may only appeal to people who can slot their brains back into the era in which the film was made, and to accept it for what it is. There are a couple of moderately boring stretches, but they are short-lived, consisting mostly of scenes set inside of the police station.
At the time of writing, The Blue Lamp can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.47 to £39.99
Used: from £3.82 to £28.39
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~