The House of Fear
(1945), 68 min., b&w

 

"Murder is an insidious thing, Watson. Once a man has dipped in fingers in blood, sooner or later he'll feel the urge to kill again." (Sherlock Holmes, in The House of Fear). Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are together again as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in The House of Fear -- the tenth film in the Sherlock Holmes series.

Atop a craggy clifftop in Scotland sits Drearcliff House, the home of seven friends who call themselves the "Good Comrades." After two of them die under mysterious and gory circumstances, Holmes and Watson are invited by the Good Comrades' insurance agency to investigate, and find out if the deaths are accidental or murder. It is suspicious because each member in the group named the others as beneficiaries in case of his death. Each man is worth a great deal more dead than alive. Holmes is intrigued when insurance agent Chalmers explains that each of the men who died received an envelope containing orange pips (seeds) just prior to their deaths. When Holmes sees a photograph of the Good Comrades, he recognizes Dr. Merrivale in the photo, a man who had been tried for murder.

Upon their arrival in Scotland Holmes and Watson learn of the legend of Drearcliff, that "No man goes whole to his grave." Shortly thereafter the housekeeper from Drearcliff comes to the police to report another death at the creepy old house. The police invite Holmes and Watson to come along. The charred remains of the third victim are found in the furnace. Since the third death is clearly a murder, Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard is called. Together Lestrade and Holmes try to solve the mystery and protect the remaining members of the Good Comrades.

One by one each of the remaining men receives an envelope with orange pips, and later his horribly mutilated body is found, until finally only one man remains. Is he the killer?

The House of Fear is supposedly based on "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips," but, as is usually the case when one of the Sherlock Holmes films claims to be based on a Conan Doyle story, only a kernel of an idea has been taken from the story and a completely different story has been written. The only similarity between The House of Fear and "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips" is that the intended victim receives an envelope containing the orange pips as a warning that he is about to be murdered. Nevertheless, it's a good yarn, with plenty of suspects and a surprise twist at the end.


Holmes and Cosgrave

Holmes, Watson and Captain Simpson

Concerning The House of Fear, the TV Guide Database states "After attempting to move Holmes and Watson into the modern WWII era, Universal decided to return the pair to Victorian times for this [film]." This statement is incorrect. As you will observe in the film, one of the "good comrades" dies when his car drives over a cliff. There are also references to telephones and other non-Victorian things. The story does not, however, involve Nazis or WWII spies.


Lestrade, Holmes and Watson

Alastair and Holmes in a secret passageway.

This popular film is one of the best ones of the 12 Universal Sherlock Holmes films. It has a great cast of suspicious characters and a wonderful sinister atmosphere.

See more pictures from The House of Fear on Pages Two and Three.


 
     

Cast

 

Credits

 
Basil Rathbone............... Sherlock Holmes Production Co. .............. Universal
Nigel Bruce..................... Dr. Watson   Producer.......................... Roy William Neill
Aubrey Mather.............. Alastair   Director........................... Roy William Neill
Paul Cavanagh............... Simon Merrivale   Screenplay...................... Roy Chanslor
Dennis Hoey.................. .Inspector Lestrade   Cinematographer............ Virgil Miller
Harry Cording................. John Simpson   Editor............................... Saul A. Goodkind
Holmes Herbert.............. Alan Cosgrave   Music Director............... Paul Sawtell
Sally Shepherd............... Mrs. Monteith   Art Directors.................. John B. Goodman
Gavin Muir...................... Chalmers   Eugene Lourie
Florette Hillier................ Alison MacGregor      
David Clyde................... Alex MacGregor      
Doris Lloyd..................... Bessie      
Cyril Delevanti.............. Stanley Raeburn      
Wilson Benge................ Guy Davies      
Richard Alexander........ Ralph King
Leslie Denison............... Sgt. Bleeker      
Alec Craig....................... Angus      

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Images on this page and page 2 are from the film The House of Fear.

 

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All original content is Marcia Jessen, 2010