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Film / The Blue Lamp

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The Blue Lamp (1950) is a famous British Police Procedural film that topped the total UK box office charts in its year of release and spawned the long-running TV series Dixon of Dock Green. In a celebrated example of Spared by the Adaptation, the character George Dixon, played by Jack Warner, was the protagonist of the TV series despite being murdered in the film.The film is a rare example, and one of the best-remembered, of a serious, dramatic work by Ealing Studios. In an atmospheric setting of post-war West London, with rationing still in force and the city scarred by bomb sites, it tells the parallel stories of two young men, New Meat police constable Andy Mitchell (Jimmy Hanley) and Delinquent Tom Riley (Dirk Bogarde), whose criminal career will climax and end in PC Dixon's murder.

The Blue Lamp contains examples of:

  • The Alibi: Tom and Spud attempt to set up an alibi for themselves by suggesting that they were at a music hall performance, by ordering a drink at the bar and then returning to have it after the cinema robbery.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: The implied reason for Diana to be attracted to Tom, although the "bad" part turns out to be more extreme than she can handle.
  • Book Ends:
    • The film has a Batman Cold Open depicting a car chase which is irrelevant to the rest of the plot, and climaxes with a nail-biting car chase as Tom and his partner-in-crime Spud try to escape from the police.
    • The film opens with Dixon directing a passer-by to Paddington station and ends with Mitchell doing the same thing.
  • Cop Killer Manhunt: The iconic British example, seen as incredibly shocking when it was released in 1950.
  • Curse Cut Short: A little girl tells two detectives that her father told her never to talk to the police and that "All coppers are - [she is interrupted]".
  • Darker and Edgier: Although the film looks quite stodgy by modern standards, it has the first-ever use of the word "bastard" in a British film, a strongly-implied prostitute minor character, and the relationship between Tom and Diana is quite disturbing. Also, the depiction of the death of a police officer was considered very shocking at the time.
  • Delinquents: Tom and Spud are a couple of unstable young hoods who are disdained by more experienced criminals like Mike Randall.
  • Domestic Abuse: Tom is cruel to his girlfriend Diana, threatening her with a gun for (implied) sadistic sexual kicks, hitting her several times, and trying to strangle her to death at the end of the film because he's afraid that she'll crack and inform on him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Spud is disapproving of Tom's abusive behaviour towards Diana.
    • The gangster Mike Randall organises the greyhound-race bookies to help the cops to capture Tom at the end, although it's implied that this is partly an example of this and partly so that they'll owe him.
  • The Great British Copper Capture: Dixon is shot by Tom when he tries to intimidate him into dropping the gun. Later, the eight cops who arrest Tom at the end are still unarmed, he is holding them at gunpoint when he is nearly trampled by a crowd trying to get out of the stadium and then overpowered by Mitchell.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Tom's downfall begins when he over-confidently walks into the police station thinking that he can talk his way out of trouble.
  • Karmic Death: Spud is probably killed (although it isn't explicitly stated) when he crashes the car at the end of the chase.
  • London Gangster: Mike Randall is a stereotypical example.
  • Lost in a Crowd: At the end of the film, Tom tries to lose himself in a crowd at a greyhound race at the White City Stadium.
  • Meaningful Background Event: In the first part of the film, there is a poster in the police station canteen about a concert by the station choir. After Dixon (who was a member) is murdered, the poster has a "Cancelled" sticker across it.
  • Narrator: The early scenes of the film have a narrator moralising about crime and the evils of juvenile delinquency.
  • National Stereotypes: The Welsh cop is voluble and directs the police station chorus.
  • New Meat: Mitchell is fresh out of training at the beginning of the film.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Dixon and Mitchell, until Mentor Occupational Hazard happens.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Dixon is the idealised version.
  • Ominous Walk: By two groups of cops as they trap Tom between them at the end of the film.
  • Police Procedural: One of the most iconic British examples.
  • Retirony: Unbuilt Trope example — although the film is often regarded as an example of this, Dixon has decided not to retire when he is killed by Tom.
  • The Runaway: Diana has run away from home, unhappy about her father's obnoxious behaviour and being expected to look after her rumbustious three younger siblings.
  • The Sociopath: Tom is an obvious one, being sadistic, over-confident, amoral, and, by his own boast, excited by danger.
  • Special Guest: Real-world comedy singer Tessie O'Shea appears and is credited as herself. Tom and Spud attend a performance by her as part of their attempted alibi.
  • Street Urchin: Queenie is an obnoxious one who finds the gun used in the murder.
  • Tap on the Head: "Taffy" is knocked out after disturbing Tom and Spud during the jewellery store burglary, and is fine afterwards.
  • Vocal Dissonance: In the chorus rehearsal scene, a large, fat, balding copper has a very high falsetto/counter-tenor voice.