Spies, rival neighborhood newspapers and a mystery from the past figure in this 1930s boy’s adventure. “Mystery of the Puzzle,” based on a book and popular but short-lived comics series, is a somberly hued, energetic film akin to a less than spanking-clean Hardy Boys escapade. Slightly gritty story pits a small band of nice boys against a committee-dominated gang of hooligans. Film should appeal on both sides of the Atlantic, especially to boys.
The Fleet Arrows are five upstanding pre-teens who hand-print the “Tom-Tom,” a news sheet for kids. On the other side of town, the leather-jacketed Vonts rule the streets. Chalk drawings of their secret symbol, a mystery puzzle, appear on stone walls. The Fleet Arrows, having discovered the diary of a boy who died under suspicious circumstances years before, set out to find the puzzle and learn the message it holds. When their discoveries are printed by a rival paper, the Fleet Arrows expel one of their members as a suspected traitor.
In a series of grainy black-and-white flashbacks, the story of the hapless orphan boy unfolds through the pages of his diary. The plan of his wonderful invention, a bike that flies, is hidden inside the mystery puzzle. Chases through back alleys and church catacombs ensue, as the Vonts try to steal the diary, which reveals that the orphan was stalked by the unknown M.
Non-violent chase scenes, plenty of adventure and a mystery to think through have a universal appeal for grade-schoolers not yet past the age of innocence. The appealing urchin quality of the orphan boy draws sympathy and interest in his fate. Music and camera work turn this into a film noir for kids.