The House of Fear (1945)

Article 4075 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 11-11-2012
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Aubrey Mather
Country: USA
What it is: Holmes in an old dark house

When a society known as the “Good Comrades” begins being knocked off one by one in horrible ways, an insurance investigator calls in Sherlock Holmes to look in on the case.

I thought I was done with the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies, but, for some reason, this one got lost in the shuffle and I didn’t really catch its omission at the time. That’s a shame; most of the series is pretty light on the fantastic content, but this one places Holmes in what amounts to a variation of the “old dark house” pattern, with residents in a spooky old castle being knocked off one by one. Though it is mainly a mystery, we have hints that the castle is haunted, there’s a scene of a coffin being dug up in a graveyard, there are secret passages in the house… yes, there’s a lot of horror atmosphere in this one. It’s partially based on “The Five Orange Pips”. It is one of those movies, though, that makes me appreciate why many Holmes purists can’t stand Nigel Bruce’s interpretation of Dr. Watson; he seems particularly dim in this one, though he does at least have the instinct to recognize when he’s stumbled across an important clue at one point. The mystery itself isn’t too difficult; I had a strong inkling of what was going on after the third murder. Still, this is a pretty entertaining entry in the series.


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