L'Assassinat Du Pere Noel (1941)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Mystery, Whodunit  |   Release Date - Oct 16, 1941 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - France  |  
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Originally released in 1941 as L'Assasinat du Pere Noel, this labyrinthine thriller was finally distributed in the U.S. in 1948, five years after its star, Harry Baur, died while in the custody of the Gestapo. Per the title, the film takes place at Christmastime in a small French village where the local children eagerly await the annual arrival of Santa Claus -- actually toymaker Cornuese (Harry Baur) in disguise. This year, however, a pall has been cast on the festivities: a valuable ring has been stolen from a reclusive baron, and another man dressed up like Santa has been found murdered. What, if anything, this has to do with the jovial Cornuese is a mystery that everyone is eager to solve. Meanwhile, a brace of subplots involving a gravely ill child and a mildly addled young girl are neatly woven into the continuity. Who Killed Santa Claus can be described as a "romantic mystery," a specialty of director Christian-Jaque.