New recruit Andy Mitchell leads the manhunt when his mentor, PC George Dixon is gunned down by reckless crook Tom Riley.
Although it's best known for its mildly subversive comedies, Ealing Studios under Michael Balcon also had a pronounced social conscience. Throughout the war, it had emphasised the importance of community action to defeating the Nazis and Basil Dearden's film takes a similar attitude towards cracking crime. The public provides several significant leads as Inspector Cherry Lee) and his bobbies track down the thugs responsible for shooting George Dixon and it even plays its inadvertent part in Tom and Spud's apprehension at the dog track.
Moreover, the criminal fraternity also does its bit, rallying to shop the outsiders who had dishonoured their code, in much the same way that the Berlin underworld united to capture Peter Lorre's child killer in Fritz Lang's M Yet, there's something quaintly old-fashioned about the scenario by ex-copper T.E.B. Clarke. The intention is clearly to highlight the emergence of a new breed of trigger-happy criminals, who had become enured to violence during the war and whose lack of discipline reflected a dangerous challenge to traditional morality. But what results is a uniquely English police procedural, which has none of the grit and authenticity of such contemporary American crime dramas as Jules Dassin's The Naked City (1948) or Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets (1950). Clarke has little ear for street argot and were it not for Dirk Bogarde's edgy performance, this would have been forgotten as quickly as any quota quickie. The BBC was so impressed with the picture that it starred Jack Warner in Dixon of Dock Green (1955-76), which similarly portrayed plods as ordinary blokes with a pronounced sense of duty. But when Clarke attempted to introduce some moral ambiguity to the policier in Gideon's Day, he succeeded only in presenting the great John Ford with one of his dullest films.
An important and entertaining early British police thriller, with a strong script and smart performances from Warner and Hanley. Its Dirk Bogardes criminal, however, who steals the show.