The House of Fear
Roy William Neill for Universal
directed by Roy William Neill
starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Aubrey Mather, Dennis Hoey, Paul Cavanagh, Holmes Herbert, Harry Cording, Sally Shepherd, Gavin Muir, Florette Hillier, David Clyde, Richard Alexander, Wilson Benge, Cyril Delevanti, Alec Craig, Leslie Denison, Doris Lloyd, David Thursby
screenplay by Roy Chanslor, based on the story The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle, music by Paul Sawtell
Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone), Universal's Sherlock Holmes
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The members of an exclusive club are killed off one by one in
mutilating accidents, and since they have all policies with the same
insurance company, Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) is called in to
investigate. He, his trusted friend Watson (Nigel Bruce) and inspector
Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) from Scotland Yard are soon invited to stay at the
mansion the surviving clubmembers are staying at, as sort of bodyguards,
but the members still seem to drop like flies. Worst of all, Holmes can't
make heads or tails of it, there are too many suspects, too many
contradicting clues, too few actual leads. The decisive turning point in
his investigations comes though when a local tabacconist is killed, and
Holmes later has Watson dig up his coffin to find it empty.
meantime, the whole club has shrunken down to one member, Alastaire
(Aubrey Mather), whom Lestrade quickly arrests as the killer, claiming he
wanted to collect the insurance money on all his deceased friends. Makes
perfect sense, but Holmes begs to differ, finds a secret passageway in the
mansion the club was meeting, and finds all the deceased members of the
club very much alive. Turns out they, who were all more worth dead than
alive, were conducting a big time insurance scam by faking their own
deaths by using fresh bodies from the local graveyard, and they were using
Alastaire as their scapegoat. However, a few too many mistakes (like using
the taboccanist's body in one of their "deaths") brought Holmes
onto their track, and now he sees that justice is served.
Holmes-mystery that tells quite an interesting (if not entirely
believable) story ... but makes the mistake of giving away its game way
too soon (about 10 minutes into the film) when (of all people) Watson asks
how the identity of a horribly burnt body could be determined quite so
quickly. Still, the whole thing is well played and is better paced than
quite a few of Rathbone's other Sherlock Holmes-movies to
avoid becoming plainly boring.