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The Blue Lamp (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

Two teen delinquents kill a veteran cop during the course of his regular duties and his rookie trainee launches a search for the killers in this classic British crime noir from 1950.

The Blue Lamp Blu-ray Cover (Kino Lorber)The Blue Lamp is one of the classic film noir crime thrillers of post-war Britain. Originally intended as a screenplay to promote the good image of the police department, the film, directed by Basil Dearden (Dead of Night), also happened to tap into a rise in post-war teen delinquency that was occurring in the UK and was in fact a product of a society broken by the war.

Story follows smalltime delinquents Tom Riley (Dirk Bogarde, The Mind Benders) and Spud (Patric Doonan, The Man in the White Suit) who murder a veteran police officer. The rookie who was training under him, Andy Mitchell (Jimmy Hanley, Radio Cab Murder) begins his search for the perpetrators even getting help from veteran underworld figures who don’t take kindly to the youngsters who don’t know how to play by the rules.

Dearden’s film is a film noir, but also incorporates a semi-documentary style that delves into the everyday lives of the police as we see them at home, doing choir practice, and generally goofing off. It is a style, for American audiences in particular, that will be reminiscent of The Naked City, and a precursor to the hard-boiled crime noir, a proto-noir film if you will. Cinematographer Gordon Dines presents a beautiful noir palette, using the technique less in a Hitchcockian “pure cinema” way and more as accents to the story and to add energy to action sequences such as the car chase in the final act.

By today’s standards and certainly by American standards The Blue Lamp seems like a somewhat timid crime drama, but there is still a lot to be enjoyed and experienced in this film that shocked and alarmed Britain and foretold a shocking police killing at the hands of a teenage criminal that was only to happen two years after this film’s January 1950 release.

The Video

The Blue Lamp is not a new restoration or remaster from Kino Lorber, but the provided master from StudioCanal, presumably from their 2016 restoration of the film, looks tip-top all things considered. On my LG CX OLED display, the black and white noir cinematography shows beautiful contrast with inky blacks and bright whites. The film grain looks natural without being overwhelming and source damage is minimal although some tramlines random hairs or scratches remain. I’d rather see some of those light flaws than have the image scrubbed excessively with DNR and turned so smooth there are no textures left – this restoration certainly does not do any of that.

The Audio

The original monaural audio mix for The Blue Lamp is provided in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. It provides clean and intelligible dialogue and reasonable clarity in the sound effects given the limitations of the technology of the era.

The Supplements

There are two excellent audio commentaries included, a very interesting locations featurette and a BBC Radio 3 audio essay on the film that provides a much deeper understanding on the film’s social implications at the time of its release.

  • Audio commentary by entertainment journalist and author Bryan Reesman
  • Partial audio commentary by writer Jan Read and academic Charles Barr
  • Locations Featurette with film historian Richard Dacre (1080p; 00:13:35)
  • BBC Radio 3 The Essay: British Cinema of the 40s – The Blue Lamp Audio Featurette (1080p; 00:14:23)

The Final Assessment

A thrilling crime noir that is offered up in a sumptuous, stark, and organic black and transfer on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. This is a must for film lovers.


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The Blue Lamp is out on Blu-ray June 1, 2021 from Kino Lorber


  • Studios & Distributors: J. Arthur Rank Organisation (presents) | Ealing Studios | StudioCanal | Kino Lorber
  • Director: Basil Dearden
  • Written By: T.E.B. Clarke (screenplay) | Jan Read (original treatment) | Ted Willis (original treatment)
  • Run Time: 85 Mins.
  • Street Date: 1 June 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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