Monday 20 May 2024

Knock On Any Door

For those expecting the next instalment of 'Probation as Social Work' by Professor Rob Canton, I'm taking a short break in order to talk about a remarkable film I caught on TV yesterday afternoon and that 'blew me away' as they say. 

Knock on Any Door is an American film from 1949 starring Humphrey Bogart and it caught my eye from the opening sequence because somewhat intriguingly it gave credit to the American Probation and Parole Association in its making. 

Without giving away the plot, (and don't spoil it by looking it up on Wikipedia) all I will say is that anyone who has an interest in 'Probation as Social Work' will find the time spent seeking this film out highly rewarding. I found it a tough watch, skilfully crafted but with what many will feel a surprisingly contemporary message some 70 years on. I've seen it described as 'left wing', features a social worker and I'm pretty sure would seriously anger today's right wing press. 

Although it seems the film was 'hugely successful', it didn't cut much ice with the New York Times film critic who was positively fulminating in a manner not unlike todays Daily Mail would be:- 
Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, called the film "a pretentious social melodrama" and blasted the film's message and the screenplay. He wrote, "Rubbish! The only shortcoming of society which this film proves is that it casually tolerates the pouring of such fraudulence onto the public mind. Not only are the justifications for the boy's delinquencies inept and superficial, as they are tossed off in the script, but the nature and aspect of the hoodlum are outrageously heroized."

On the other hand it's not difficult to imagine what the Guardian might make of it:- 

The staff at Variety magazine was more receptive of the film, writing: "An eloquent document on juvenile delinquency, its cause and effect, has been fashioned from Knock on Any Door...Nicholas Ray's direction stresses the realism of the script taken from Willard Motley's novel of the same title, and gives the film a hard, taut pace that compels complete attention.

Bogart's performance is impressive and was reported as saying thus:-

"Knock On Any Door is a picture I'm kind of proud of, and I'll tell you why," Bogart the producer said in a press release trumpeting the film. "It's a very challenging story; different; off the beaten path. The novel (by Willard Motley) was brutally honest. We've tried to be just as direct, just as forceful, in the picture. I think you'll like it better that way."

Unfortunately Knock on Any Door doesn't seem to feature on the Talking Pictures TV catch-up service 'Encore', so we either await a repeat showing or seek it out via YouTube or other similar platforms. Along with the British film I Believe in You from the same era, it's a must watch. 



Dear Jim,

Thank you so much for taking the time to email us, I am so pleased you have found Talking Pictures TV and are enjoying the films and series. The channel is very much a labour of love for us, so emails like yours mean a great deal to us here.

Sadly, we don’t have the rights to put ‘Knock On Any Door’ on our catch-up service, TPTV Encore, for free. It will definitely be shown again, but unfortunately, we don’t have a confirmed date just yet. I highly recommend signing up for our FREE Sunday newsletter, sent to you by email every Sunday, so you can be the first to know when it airs again. Sign up via by entering your email address in the box that says 'subscribe'. In it we list what's coming on the channel, a weekly quiz, series premieres, film premieres and news relating to film and TV from the eras we all know and love.

Also, our website,, has at least 4 weeks' worth of listings ahead on there for you to browse and plan your viewing, and for a list of this week's films available with subtitles please do click here:

Many thanks for your support, please spread the word in any way you can.

Best wishes,
For and on behalf of Sarah, Noel and Neill


  1. There seems to be very few films about probation officers. Straight Time (1978) is good- but probation or parole are shown to be completely officious and oppressive. He Got Game (1998) is another shown in a negative light and Tarantino has a recurring character called Skegnety who is a a probation officer but whom you never see and is often derided. Made in Britain (1983) has some interesting takes on the criminal justice system. To Encourage the Others (1972) based on the book of the same name, explores the Derek Bentley case directed by 'Scum's' Alan Clarke. It's an interesting contrast to the 1991 retelling of the same story 'Let Him Have It. Perhaps someone should do a blog post on interesting criminal justice and crime films, as Jim has already started. There's a great book called British Crime Film by Barry Forshaw which lists the great and obscure of this fascinating of genres.

  2. Never heard of it but will try to watch it somehow. Frankly I have never understood why no one does a film or drama with a Probation Officer as main character. TV and film are obsessed with Police instead as they are more visible and the public assume they know what they do. Have been several dramas based in prisons and dramas featuring social workers ( not always very believable when you in the know) Probation Officers are in a unique position to get inside the head of people who commit serious crimes, we (hopefully) have an understanding of what may lead to someone committing something like murder or serious organised crime. We get to know the individual, their families, the professionals around them, the environment and systems in place, the impact in the victims being all apparent. It is not glamorous but a drama obviously seeks to make it look that way. We are impacted by the knowledge and experience of what comes with the job, often to the detriment of our mental health. We are frequently compromised as we work within a failing system, having to recall someone back to prison in the knowledge they could die there, commit suicide or be further dragged down into the revolving door, no rehabilitation. I would love to see a realistic drama focused on the relationships between Probation Officer and the person supervised. I think it would be fascinating and could help to inform the public as to why people choose to do the job and the complexities that surround offending.

  3. HMPPS workforce figures to March 2024 show 1,396 more prison officers than last year and 334 fewer probation practitioners. May 16th Workforce figures.

    The probation service

    Unfortunately, things don’t look so good on the probation side of things. Key grades in the Probation Service include band 3 probation services officers, band 4 probation officers (collectively known as probation practitioners), as well as band 5 senior probation officers. Staff who are training to be a probation officer work as a probation services officer during their training, so a proportion of the probation services officers in post will be working towards the professional probation officer qualification.

    As at 31 March 2024, there were 5,857 FTE band 3 probation services officers in post, a decrease of 1,052 FTE (15.2%) over the past year and a decrease of 446 FTE (7.1%) over the quarter. In 2023/24 compared to 2022/23 we saw a lower number of trainee probation officers starting courses (543 in 2023/24 compared to 1,514 in 2022/23), which has contributed towards this net decrease. A contributing factor to the net decrease in probation services officers is the qualification of trainee probation officers, with many qualifiers taking up posts at the band 4 qualified probation officer grade.

    There were 5,139 FTE band 4 probation officers, representing an increase of 718 FTE (16.2%) over the past year and an increase of 386 FTE (8.1%) compared to the previous quarter; and 1,493 FTE band 5 senior probation officers, showing an increase of 61 (4.2%) over the previous year and no substantial change since the last quarter. You can see these statistics summarised in the chart above, reproduced from the official bulletin.

    In the past year, 1,074 probation services officers were appointed, some of whom will be training to become qualified probation officers. This is a decrease of 1,311 (55.0%) compared to the year ending 31 March 2023 and a decrease of 851 (44.2%) compared to the number appointed in the year ending 31 December 2023.

    Within the Probation Service, there were 5,113 FTE Probation Officers in post, a shortfall of 1,680 FTE against the required staffing level of 6,794 FTE.

    3,212 people joined the probation service in the year ending March 2024, a fall of 1,131 or 27.7% on the previous year. 2,360 individual left probation over the same time period, an increase of 262 or 12.5% on the year before. Sickness rates were down slightly on the previous year, falling from an average of 12.8 days lost to 12.5. Worrying more than three out of five days lost because of sickness (60.7%) were due to mental ill health, compared to 55.3% the previous year.

    Recent media attention has been focused on the prison capacity crisis and it shouldn’t be forgotten that more people in prison and more people released early both make for a bigger workload for both prison and probation staff. It remains a national priority to fully staff both services.


    I am told talks are in train with other governments to progress this plan further. The impact on prisoners placed so far from homes and communities, as well as the impact on families and children should not be underestimated.

    1. I wonder if the chattarati get as exercised about offshoring our own citizens as they have been about the Rwanda "initiative ". So much of criminal justice gets past the radar, IPPs, for heavens sake, because justice in the public eye, stops at the point of sentence

  5. what are the chances part 568: today's infected blood inquiry report will have little or no lasting impact upon govt such that satisfactory outcomes for the victims of windrush, post office, indeterminate sentences & other similar scandals/injustices + their associated cover-ups will continue to be protracted & denied.

    1. Agree, trust in the state and other authoritative institutions must surely be at an all time low and is seems to be getting progressively worse. You could add other examples to the excellent and powerful examples given. People are bored of hearing them but we can’t allow ourselves to forget: the MP’s expenses scandal, Covid restrictions on ordinary people whilst MPs partied and carried on with their upper class fun, multi million pound Covid contracts given to friends, the Brexit lies (including the promise of control over borders and an increase in salaries as a result), Operation Yewtree and everything it exposed, ignoring the crisis in our criminal justice system and let’s not forget the failure to reform adult social care (both examples of neglect by the state). Abusive and dangerous men allowed to work in the police service, the abuse covered up by both catholic and Protestant churches! We really need to find some hope and positivity to cling onto. It feels like a long time ago since we were able to feel that. Sorry I know straying off topic but felt need to rant!!!

    2. Back on topic: The only film I could think of was the parole officer with Steve coogan. The bit with the pen lid flying off made me laugh as I knew a colleague that would often say to clients “that’s not important” when in sessions!

  6. I saw Knock on any Door was coming on - and knew I had seen it - so did not bother again - though I do not recall being enamoured with it.

    Anyway it can be streamed via Internet Archive - but do please make a donation to this wonderful archive