Special Branch: Set 1

Special Branch

On DVD: 
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Special Branch is a British cop show from 1969 that has just had its first series released on DVD by Acorn Media. It stars George Sewell as DCI Alan Craven, a hard boiled detective whose mind is clever enough to put all the clues together but whose temper sometimes gets the better of him, sometimes. Along for the ride he has occasional partners and of course his nurse girlfriend. According to a U.K. source touted on the cover, the series is “Hard-Hitting”. Don’t let this quote mislead you. The show has it’s moments, but hard hitting, far from it.

The main objective of Special Branch is to get coppers who fight against terrorists and espionage in London. While that would seem enough cause to give headway to tough cops bending the rules to get results, instead we see a lot of standing around on stakeouts talking and being rather drab. In one episode Sewell throws a bad guy up against a dresser with some force issuing some very harsh words indeed, but as for hard hitting action, we see very little. It really felt like you were getting a birds eye view of the paperwork aspect of being a detective.

I do have to hand it to the show, it does seem to have been one that pushed the envelope. First off, the opening sequence of the show has a stripper, the film is in it’s negativity state providing a colorless, almost definition-less quality, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s a stripper. Another shocker, for the time the show was released, is that Craven’s girlfriend is black. That had to have raised a few eyebrows back in the day when racism was alive and well. In one episode Craven and his mates go to a gay bar and watch a man in drag belt out a tune. It’s not for an investigation, they just went for the fun of it. Yet another move I can see causing an uproar back in the late sixties. Despite all the envelope pushing the show does I really would have expected a bit more of a rouge cop scenario. I guess we can’t have it all.

Set 1 comes with 13 episodes on 4 discs and stars, alongside Sewell (Get Carter), Patrick Mower (Callan) and Richard Leech (Doctor Who). The picture is in a 4:3 Full Screen only option so expect side bars and the film quality makes no attempts to hide the shows age. Special Branch is neither here nor there, in my opinion, in contrast with other cop shows. It’s no Dark Blue or Wire but not clever enough to be Midsomer Murders or creative enough to be Life On Mars. The show simply is what it is. For me, it was extremely boring, for others it might be something else. Best of luck to you if you want to give it a shot. Enjoy.


AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook