Regan starring John Thaw on Blu-ray REVIEW

Rating ★★★★

• REGAN (15) on Blu-ray: Network, released 10 Oct 2011, RRP 19.99, running time 77mins

Forget Gene Hunt and Life and Mars. If you want the original bad copper in no-nonsense flares you should track down Regan, the 1974 pilot for The Sweeney starring John Thaw, which is being released on Blu-ray this month.

This is an evocative blast from the past – and I’m not just talking about the shooters going off, guvnor. It’s the lost era of sheepskin jackets, pub singalongs and derelict docklands. And some bloody ugly cars – anyone remember the Ford Zephyr? What a monster.

Get your trousers on…
We first glimpse one careering round a bend carrying detective inspector Jack Regan. He barges into a house, marches into the suspect’s bedroom and says, “Get your trousers on. You’re nicked.”

The first words out of the Jack’s mouth and the show’s got its still fondly remembered catchphrase.

Regan was shown in ITV’s Armchair Theatre slot and was a body slam to the old school of cop shows, such as Dixon of Dock Green and Z Cars. It was the story of an investigation into the murder of a copper, detective sergeant Cowley (Del Baker), who was caught between two vicious criminal gangs.

Regan was far rougher than Gene Hunt
But the clear star of the show was Jack Regan, a maverick detective who pushed himself to a suspension and the verge of legality to the get Cowley’s killers. We see Regan recruiting detective sergeant George Carter, played in his youth by New Tricks‘ Dennis Waterman.

Carter is reluctant to join the trouble-friendly Regan because he values his marriage too highly. When Regan breaks and enters a property, all Carter’s doubts seem confirmed.

And would Gene Hunt ever get away with telling the German boyfriend of his ex-wife, ‘I don’t like Krauts,’ before going on to call him ‘young Adolf’. He’s violent, aggressive and plays dirty – a bit like many would imagine the hard cases were in the real Sweeney (Sweeney Todd: rhyming slang for Flying Squad).

19 million viewers for The Sweeney
Maureen Lipman appears as Regan’s married lover. When her feller returns and she has to dump Regan, he asks her how her husband was. ‘Not bad,’ she says, ‘seeing as you left a jacket and two pairs of Y-fronts in his wardrobe.’

A bonus feature is some of the vile clothes that passed for cool in the Seventies. Most hilariously is the climax, when Regan faces off with a violent gang while wearing a psychedelic cravat. You have to be genuinely hard to pull that off.

But despite all the machismo, Regan fascinates because he is tinged with sadness. He is someone far too devoted to his grim job for his own good.

Regan hit an audience of seven million, which led to the commissioning of The Sweeney, a series that ran from 1975 to 1978, reaching a peak of 19 million viewers.

Regan edgier than many hit crime shows of today
Seeing that UK crime series usually go soft on the police, Regan still seems a lot more edgy than twee favourites of today, such as Midsomer Murders.

The Blu-ray features a fascinating commentary by Dennis Waterman, producer Ted Childs and director Tom Clegg. There is also an interview with writer Ian Kennedy Martin.

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