Sunday, January 25, 2009

Film Fun II

Film title: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery Once upon a time, footballers were ordinary young blokes who'd smile awkwardly for the camera and mug it up for the newsreels.

Once upon a time.

Which might be part of the reason why I like The Arsenal Stadium Mystery* It's a curio piece, to be sure, but more than that it's rather fun. It was released in 1940 but is a lot more pre-war than you might expect by the date. No stiff upper lips in the bomb sites. No Dickie Attenborough playing a chirpy Cockney corporal. No air raid sirens or the like. It's all a bit quiet, a bit twee and a bit gentlemen and players. And no bad thing.

Newsreel title: Arsenal to meet Trojans at Highbury An amateur football team -- The Trojans -- are playing Arsenal for no apparent reason. Cue:

  • Lots of wooden acting by the real Arsenal team and George Allison (Lizzie will remember him).

  • Newsreel footage of Arsenal vs. Brentford (Arsenal's last game before the Second World War).

  • Real football with caseys, shirts with collars and centre forwards.

  • Jolly banter between crowd and referee.

  • E.V.H. Emmett providing the commentary for Gaumont British.
George Allison giving the Arsenal team a tactics talk Oh, and a member of the Trojans team gets murdered on the football pitch.

Cue all the usual stuff you'd expect. Plus a bit of love interest (Greta Gynt and Liane Linden, two good looking women with all the erotic appeal of a shop window mannequin).

And a young scientist whose laboratory consists of some glass retorts and a frog in his kitchen (hell, all bachelor pads are like that anyway!).

Leslie Banks asks a suspect if he'll come cleanly

There is motive and opportunity a-plenty and it is the lot of Inspector Slade to untangle the mess and solve the crime in time to allow a replay of the match. And it's not to interfere with the Scotland Yard concert party, which he is directing.

(If ever you get the chance to see this film, make sure you keep an eye on the goings-on in the background during rehearsals.)two footballers share a lady friend in the changing rooms
All this gives Leslie Banks, who plays the Inspector, the opportunity to give us another of his eccentric character turns, boisterously hamming it up with a sequence of hats-for-the-occasion. In lesser hands this could be a running irritant but Banks' performance adds to the overall tongue-in-cheek of the piece which elevates it from the run of the mill detective films of the time.

And they still manage to play fair by the rules of the genre. No deux ex machina explanations, and plenty of clues along the way. Not that the climax of the picture is in any way conventional!

* I'll skip the obvious mysteries about Arsenal Football Club.


Gadjo Dilo said...

Inspector Slade has to solve the crime in time to allow a replay of the match? The TV schedules were governing everything back then as well then! (Arsenal vs. Brentford - hardly seems worth it.)

fairyhedgehog said...

What happened to your post about trices? I liked that one!

librarylizzie said...

Oh yes - a corking film....every true gooner has a copy somewhere!

scarlet-blue said...

What was the crime? Did somebody nick the ball?

Kevin Musgrove said...

gd: twas ever thus in the great metrollopis

Fairy Hedgehog: by gum, you were quick off the mark! I scheduled it for later in the week to make it look like I hadn't dozed off on Sunday night

Lizzie: you can bring us all sticks of rock!

Scarlet: according to Halliwell's the crime was murder but I reckon the real crime was the by-play with the dummy