Monday, 10 January 2011

AFED #9: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (UK, 1939); Dir. Thorold Dickinson

Okay, today's turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Originally I'd intended review the 1973 horror Ganga and Hess but after watching it this afternoon didn't feel able to reach any firm conclusions about it. It might be a masterpiece, alternatively it might be obtuse, meandering and (in some quarters) rather overrated. I need to see it again, hopefully within the next couple of weeks.

So, in what's probably not going to be the last time, and because there have been calls in some quarters to do something football related, here's an undemanding little thirties murder mystery I watched by way of making amends. Or at least try.


The Arsenal Stadium Mystery has acquired something of a cult reputation as one of the first football themed films and for the novelty of featuring the hugely successful 1930's Arsenal team. I must admit to having low expectations of this one; after all it's principally based around a gimmick. It's by no means a bad film, just not especially remarkable.

The plot revolves around the visit to Arsenal of a top amateur team, the Trojans, for a friendly match. After the Arsenal team have made their obligatory cameos at the start it's clear from their RADA accents that it's the Trojans the story is really about. We gather from the pre-match build-up there's some festering ill feeling amongst the team towards philandering star player John Doyce and it doesn't take a genius to see where things are heading.

During the second half, with the game thrillingly poised at 1-1 before a packed Highbury crowd, Doyce suddenly collapses and is later pronounced dead, forcing the match's abandonment. When the cause is revealed to be poison it becomes a case for Scotland Yard's finest, Inspector Slade (Leslie Banks), who gets to work unpicking the mystery whilst sporting a *hilarious* array of hats.

After an investigation in which it becomes clear there are several candidates for Doyce's murder, Slade is on the brink of identifying the killer at the match's replay and then... the dvd cut out.

It was a recording made a few years back from tv and evidently I'd never checked it was actually complete. So in my experience at least it proved to be a wholly unsatisfactory denouement. It could be the finest ending in all of cinema, but I sincerely doubt it.

Normal service resumed tomorrow, hopefully.

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