On 15 February, the BFI releases The COI Collection – Police and Thieves, the first volume in a new DVD series of films made by the Central Office of Information. This release follows previous acclaimed historical documentary collections from the BFI such as Land of Promise – The British Documentary Movement 1930-1950, The British Transport Film Collections and The GPO Film Unit Collections.
Established in 1946, the Central Office of Information (COI) was a successor to the wartime Ministry of Information and was responsible for producing thousands of films which celebrated Britain, its people and their achievements. With the majority of them previously unseen on DVD, these films provide a fascinating and often poignant record of British life in a seemingly more innocent age.
Volume One spans 1944 – 1977 and explores policing, crime, teenage delinquency and the justice system. A variety of styles and genres – including story documentary, public information shorts and cinemagazines – were employed to deliver crime prevention messages and bolster recruitment.
The first film is a moving 60-minute drama from 1946 about approved schools entitled Children on Trial. Other highlights include Youth Club (1954), which proposed a solution to keeping Britain’s youngsters out of trouble; Help Yourself (1950), a no-nonsense crime prevention film; Man on the Beat (1956) and The British Policeman (1959), in which the local Bobby comes armed with a friendly smile.
This double disc DVD is accompanied by a 25-page booklet providing comprehensive film notes from academics and film historians.