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  • A. E. W. Mason's Inspector Hanaud was one of the great detectives of early mystery fiction. There are at least five British films featuring Haunad. Sadly, this is the only one known to exist. And what a great little treat it is. Hanaud is called in by a jealous heir to probe the death of his wealthy sister-in-law. The complaining heir suggests his sister-in-law was murdered by her adopted daughter, the beautiful Betty Harlowe. Hanaud's probe quickly dismisses the brother-in-law's claim. The man, upset at being shut out of his sister-in-law's will, created the story in the hopes of getting his hands on the estate.

    But the mystery is not over. Although the brother-in-law's charge has been dismissed, Hanaud has come to believe that the old woman was indeed murdered. Oscar Homolka is fantastic as the eccentric, extroverted Inspector Hanaud. He takes command of the scenes he is in and displays an extreme confidence that is consistent with his character. Not to be missed by lovers of British mysteries.
  • 'The House of the Arrow' was a successful murder mystery novel published in 1924 by the popular author A. E. W. Mason (1865-1948), and was the second of five novels written by Mason which featured his whimsical French detective named Hanaud. If you go into a secondhand bookshop in England, unless it is a very expensive one, you are liable to find many old novels by Mason, who was very widely read between the Wars. Of course, the secondhand bookshops are closing rapidly these days because of the high rents, largely finished off by a severe recession, so the days of finding piles of Mason novels for sale are coming to an end, and soon they will only be an abstraction for sale on the internet, where you cannot handle anything or smell the paper. This novel was filmed three times, in 1930, 1940, and finally in 1953. I don't know if the two earlier film versions survive. This one was directed by Michael Anderson, who was not one of the more inspired British directors in cinema history, and so I was frankly puzzled by the imaginative camera angles, framing and composition so evident in the cinematography for this film. One can only conclude that this was all due to the cinematographer, Erwin Hillier, who started in films by working for F. W. Murnau and Fritz Lang in Germany. Hillier, of mixed German and English parentage, was cinematographer on 51 films and only died in 2005 at the age of 94. Michael Anderson as director is best remembered for the huge hit 'Around the World in Eighty Days' (1956), 'The Wreck of the Mary Deare' (1959), and the highly successful 'The Quiller Memorandum' (1966). He directed this particular film very well, but as I hinted earlier, he was never one of the geniuses of his profession, and was often turned to as 'a safe pair of lenses' because everyone knew he could deliver, even if it lacked that 'something special'. I remember producers discussing him in these terms when trying to choose a 'safe' director for a large-scale film project. Oscar Homolka, a rascally and amusing actor with a face so ugly he makes the most of it by grimacing a lot with it, just to tease us, positively shines in a rare leading role as the detective Hanaud. When an actor who is not a handsome leading man gets the chance to play the lead in anything, he must grab it with both hands, or as in this case with both eyebrows. It all goes to show that character actors are often the best, given half a chance. (Bill Nighy proves this today.) Homolka, who was an Austrian born in Vienna, was nominated for an Oscar in 1948 for his performance in the film 'I Remember Mama'. He appeared in 98 films and died aged 79 in 1978 in England. He is generally remembered for playing Russian generals and spies when he was older. In this film, the handsome male love interest is Robert Urquhart, who plays a British solicitor (one of the rare occasions when the legal profession has been given such a romantic opportunity, as he gets to flirt with not one but two pretty women in the story). The two pretty women are Yvonne Furneaux and Josephine Griffin, one of them a villain and one of them an innocent, though I must not say which is which. This is a good sound murder mystery, well worth watching for that reason, and extremely amusing because of Homolka's impish and impudent portrayal of Hanaud the detective. There is an arrow in the story, hence the title.
  • Pretty good mystery movie from a pretty good writer in A.E.W. Mason ("The Four Feathers", "Fire Over England"). The big surprise here, though, is Oscar Homolka as Insp. Hanaud, a charismatic, urbane figure unlike any Homolka has ever played. He is cleaned up, shorn of bushy eyebrows, hair combed back and dressed like a fashion plate instead of his usual rumpled old self.

    He carries the picture by himself and the producers probably spent most of their money on his salary, as the rest of the cast are unknowns and the whole production looks to have been made at the British equivalent of one of Hollywood's Poverty Row studios.

    I didn't read the book but I think Mason shortchanged his story by leaving us with only three suspects to choose from. The plot is a good one and it keeps you guessing right to the end, which comes up on us rather abruptly. If you get a chance, see it, you will like it. And, like me, you can wonder what could have been if it were made at a bigger studio.
  • rollingpix29 April 2018
    This is a fun and enjoyable little mystery film, with a terrific performance by character actor Oscar Homolka, giving him a rare opportunity to play the leading role, Inspector Hanaud.

    Homolka appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows throughout his career, including a recurring character in both Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain, Mr. Sardonicus, War and Peace, and a number of projects with Hitchcock on both big and small screen. I've always enjoyed his work, but he's a standout in this, simply first rate.

    He's joined by the actress Yvonne Furneaux, so memorable in Polanski's Repulsion as well as in Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Hammer's version of The Mummy.

    The story is good with some nice twists and turns and the production is excellent. Recommended.
  • Oscar Hamolka was one of those actors who dominate films.He outacts everyone on the screen by virtue of his personality and his acting tricks.It is therefore strange that his performance in this film is so little known.The beginning of the film has certain linguistic difficulties.Chaeacters constantly start their speecehes in French and are then told to speak in English by Homolka,who clearly speaks excellent French.Homolka was Austrian but played many nationalities including as here ,French.This murder mystery is well developed with a number of hidden surprises revealed at the denouement.Certainly worthy of greater recognition.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I must say that after reading the synopsis of this film that it might be an interesting British old dark house mystery where the young heroine accused of murdering her benefactress must go out of her way to prove her innocence even though all the evidence points at her. Yvonne Furneaux is the pretty and seemingly innocent adopted daughter of an old lady who was found dead in her bed one night and is accused instantly of having poisoned her to get her hand on the estate. It is up to detective Oscar Homolka to either prove or disprove her innocence and over the next 80 minutes, it becomes a strain to get past the extreme French accents in trying to figure out who is who, what is going on and who else possibly could be the killer.

    There are not really many suspects so the outcome is not really a surprise. The constant use of organ music outside a nightclub scene when a full of is heard becomes hard to tolerate as you begin to think that you are on a never-ending carousel ride rather than watching a Gothic murder mystery. It is tedious and quite boring and it became quite difficult to retain my attention even though the title and premise it sound promising to me, as well as the history of the original book which had been previously filmed two times. I'd actually be interested in seeing the 1940 version to compare as based on available reviews it does appear to be available somewhere although it has not been reviewed on the IMDb.