Friday, 1 May 2015

The Police (1990)

The Police was a 1990 Screen One film from the pen of Arthur Ellis, an intelligent somewhat subversive writer who had previously been responsible for the meta look at TV and film's previous representations of the police force The Black and Blue Lamp and for Alan Clarke's Christine.

Edgar is a clever, polite 11-year old boy from an affluent yuppie family, though he is clearly somewhat disturbingly precocious, given that his bedtime reading is a book on Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. He  attends Great Middleton C of E Junior School and hopes to secure a place at the Grammar School next year, especially as his father has promised to pay him £100 if he passes the exam. But all isn't rosy in Edgar's school life - he's had enough of the school bullies that make his friends lives hell. In retaliation, he organises the other children into a police force, from an abandoned derelict pub which becomes their Scotland Yard, and they set out to bring justice to the school employing the quirks and mockney tough guy vernacular they have seen from the police procedurals on TV like The Bill or The Sweeney - complete with ID badges, detective ranks, warrant cards, and files on the usual suspects. Their law-and-order game proves to be such a success, though by increasingly nefarious means, that the bullying problem is eradicated and there are soon no more 'criminals'. 

So far so Bugsy Malone you might think. But the subversive nature of Ellis' writing means he isn't simply interested in kids playing at being at adults for peculiar comedic effect, he wishes to explore the nature of the corruption power brings people and uses the school and its pupils as a study in microcosm on the systematic corruption within London's Met, which was headline news in the 1980s.  As a result, the innocent make believe the children have established is soon shattered and the story takes an irrevocable, deeply sinister turn when an unpopular teacher, Mr Acheson (Oliver Ford Davies) having publicly humiliated Edgar in class, is targeted for a horrible revenge. 

You can argue that the film jumps the shark a little here -especially as Edgar manages to drive a car all by himself in some key scenes - but the direction from Ian Knox means The Police remains a gripping, sobering affair.  Whilst being quite amusing, it is also played dead straight in an often unsettling manner by a cast of talented child actors who perform with absolute integrity, especially Guy Faulkner who is suitably chilling as Edgar. Look out too for Derek Martin playing a real detective, who of course played the daddy of all bent coppers in GF Newman's Law and Order.

On a personal note, The Police brings back memories of my own childhood. I was about the same age as Edgar and some of the other kids and the school looks similar to my own junior school. They even sing hymns from the same hymnbooks we would have - a book I hadn't seen in fourteen years. It immediately took me right back. I'm not actually sure if I didn't watch this back in 1990 actually.

The Police is available to view on YouTube but has never been released to VHS or DVD, like many great single play dramas of yesteryear. If you do seek it out on YT, you could do worse than to watch it as a double bill with that BBC film Coppers which stars Tim Roth and Reece Dinsdale as two bored guys in their late teens/early 20s who play at being the police with similar disturbing consequences.

To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic Screen One plays please sign the petition I started here


  1. EDIT: It seems The Police has been taken down from YT. So all the more reason to sign the petition to see these gems again!

  2. EDIT: I've uploaded it to YT myself. Watch it here