|The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)
Run time: 85 min | Comedy, Crime, Sport
Director: Thorold Dickinson
Writers: Leonard Reginald Gribble, Thorold Dickinson
Stars: Leslie Banks, Greta Gynt, Ian McLean
When a top soccer player is murdered on the field during the most important game of the year, Scotland Yard investigates in the person of inspector Banks, a most eccentric fellow!
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There are several reasons to relish this curio. It was a prentice work by Thorold Dickinson, the Hitchcock assistant and cutter who would shoot "Gaslight" and "The Queen of Spades" before becoming Britain’s first professor of film. It is one of the earliest sports movies to feature real sportsmen- acting very woodenly, as befits stiff-upper-lip soccer stars. It is anchored by a mischievously eccentric performance by Leslie Banks, who a few years later was to be the magnificent Chorus of Olivier’s "Henry V".
Above all, the film lets us glimpse pre-war Britain’s, maybe the world’s, leading football club. Arsenal FC, the "Gunners", had been raised to pre-eminence by Herbert Chapman, Britain’s first modern soccer manager, until his untimely death in 1934. Five years later his team were still on top, coached by his deputy George Allison, who appears in the movie.
Highbury Stadium, the setting for the murder, was state of the art. The scene in the treatment room underlines Chapman’s far-sighted, scientific approach to caring for his players. He was an early advocate of floodlights and numbered shirts, and even got the name of the local Tube station altered to advertise the Gunners. The film was a massive plug for them; alas, soon after its release the Second World War meant that the lads had to pick up real guns and compete in a more dangerous game. Afterwards Arsenal did not recover its top-of-the-tree status for 25 years. Unwittingly this production memorialises its greatest era.
I probably agree with most comments here: a good not great film but still interesting in so many ways, mainly from the historical perspective. The world depicted was on another planet – even though Britain was at war the lunatics would not start to take over the asylum for another 30 years or so.
Professional Arsenal take on the amateur Trojans in special football match attended by millions of blue-chins in macs and hats live on BBC radio, and even commentated by legendary voice E.V.H. Emmett borrowed from Gaumont. One of the Trojans, a bit of a womaniser with a lot of enemies falls down dead at the beginning of the second half and the game is abandoned and is simultaneously on to find out whodunit. Slade of Scotland Yard is on the case, an inspector with eccentric and disconcerting habits played fantastically by Leslie Banks in a variety of appropriate hats. Although thousands of the Arsenal fans who saw todays game at the Emirates probably live in houses built before 1940 the "beautiful game" seems to have changed almost beyond recognition – capitalist business pressures seem to have atrophied everything that was once decent about it. The footballers played and the hordes watched as though it was only a game and didn't matter – the rich thugs who go to work on the pitch today present a completely different picture! Anyone fancy going back and practising heading those leather footballs? Surely they would miss the legalised GBH and sliding about in each others phlegm and spit! The mystery itself was simple but well padded out and entertaining, and the acting abilities veered from adequately professional to woodenly amateur.
I never bothered taping or buying this because it's on UK Channel 4 every few years I assume it's always been bought so regularly mainly as a laugh for hooligans by the schedulers and not just for film fans. Use the chance when they provide it to watch this enjoyable and decent film non-cynically instead.
The Arsenal Stadium Mystery is a largely forgotten black and whiter from the thirties. It covers the murder of a football player in the magnificent Highbury stadium in North London. The twist is that the murder is of a player who collapses during a match therefore making it difficult to work out whodunnit. Interesting for English football fans aswell as it stars some of the Arsenal players of the time; Arsenal being England’s greatest football team of all time.
Arsenal Football Club were the leading lights of English soccer in the 1930’s and this diverting ,and very British ,movie is an attempt to capitalise on the acclaim they rightly had –and still enjoy today.
A star member of an amateur team playing a charity match at the Arsenal ground in North London is killed and Scotland Yard is called in to investigate.The Inspector -played with tongue firmly in cheek by Leslie Banks-is a decidedly eccentric character ,one who sports a range of diverse headgear throughout .His methods are effective however and the case brought to a successful conclusion.
Thorold Dickinson directs with shrewd attention to detail and the movie while no masterpiece works as a murder mystery while the little utilised soccer background adds interest especially for students of the game curious to see how the media of the time treated "the beautiful game"
Guest slots from Arsenal stars of the period add interest.