Friday June 29, 2018
1987. An idle afternoon spent at the local video library, searching for any diversion from revising A Level Government and Politics. And lurking in the increasing dust covered Betamax section, between Confessions of a Driving Instructor and Carry On England, is a film that you hardly believed existed – The Boys in Blue, starring Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball. Well, it might be worth the £1.50 rental fee...
That same evening as you slump before Filthy, Rich and Catflap on BBC2, you reflect on the 90 odd minutes of your life that has been wasted on a remake of the 1939 Will Hay comedy Ask a Policeman.
In both, a tiny rural police station run by incompetents is threatened with closure by the Chief Constable before the staff discovers themselves involved with smugglers. The significant differences are that the former was shot in black and white, it does not have scenes that look as though they took place in the middle of a Force Ten Gale and was generally devoid of glum-looking support actors.
In short, the earlier picture is a classic of British cinema while possibly the sole redeeming feature of The Boys in Blue is the appearance of several excellent BL PR fleet cars.
In many respects, Cannon & Ball’s only cinematic vehicle was both of and after its time. By the early 1980s, it was very unusual for a British comic double act to make a film as that era seemed to have ended when the last of the Rank Organisation's three Morecambe & Wise films was released in 1967.
By contrast, the Austin Mini Metro Panda and the fleet of jam-sandwich and unmarked police Rovers precisely date the year of shooting. In 1982 both models were heavily promoted in the press, and although The Boys in Blue is often as hilarious as a Public Information Film about pylon maintenance, it is a chance to see the last of pre-facelift SD1s in all of their glory.
The background traffic is equally representative of a pre-Maestro and Montego Britain, with its Ford Cortina Mk. IVs, Datsun 120Y Sunnys and Chrysler Sunbeams, and there are also plenty of shots of the Metro on location in Weymouth.
Unfortunately, the rest of the picture is remarkably dreadful, although this is not the fault of Tommy and Bobby. Such a seasoned double act merited a better outing, and the film might have worked well as a one-hour TV special.
As it was, the idea of a Mercedes-Benz W123 ambulance fitting with a US-style light bar being mistaken for an alien spaceship is an idea that would not have passed muster on Rentaghost.
The ineptitude of the final reel chase had several viewers fondly remembering the back-projected shenanigans of The Saint and while some of the cast members try hard – Jack Douglas is rather good as a Chief Superintendent – others are telegraphing in their performances. The Boys in Blue has the dubious distinction of being one of the only times that Roy Kinnear appeared utterly bored and disinterested on screen.
So – The Boys in Blue; cheap, shoddy-looking and filled with Rover 3500s and a Metro in its prime. That is why I am going to watch it again.