3. The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)
With its pulp title and English football setting, audiences could have been forgiven for assuming that 'The Arsenal Stadium Mystery' was going to be another run-of-the-mill lazy quickie with an obvious plot. Such a pleasant surprise then to find that in keeping with its own sense of British pluck, it's the little film that could. It had no right to be as well written and downright funny as it is, but with the guiding hand of director Thorold Dickinson (who would go on to direct the classic chiller 'The Queen Of Spades' ten years later), this thoroughly surprising thriller positively sparkles.
Set at Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, then the home of the real Arsenal team, and featuring legendary Arsenal manager George Allison along with real-life players of the time, it's a snappy, ultra-British treat. With the murder of a player occurring on the pitch in front of thousands, Inspector Slade of Scotland Yard is called, and soon the suspects are piling up.
Greta Gynt provides the glamour, but it's Leslie Banks who steals the film. His Inspector Slade, a frustrated impresario with a penchant for hats, who's tasked with solving the murder whilst also trying to organise the police revue, is such a marvellously witty and cunning character that it's a crying shame he wasn't given his own series of films. Indeed, the planned follow-up 'The Denham Studio Mystery' was lamentably shelved at the last minute.
At least we have this though, Slade's one appearance, and what an appearance. For such a little-known and militantly British movie, it's testament to its quality that even Martin Scorsese counts himself a fan.
Slade: "Nice work, Thompson. Never mind the alibi. I'll put you in the chorus on Wednesday"