Movie Review: The House of Fear (1945)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the Sherlock Holmes movie starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Synopsis: A group of gentlemen form a social club and retire to a remote Scottish Castle. When they begin dying one-bye-one (their deaths foretold by hand-delivered envelopes containing orange pips) Sherlock Holmes and Watson are hired by the victims' insurance company to investigate. Since the surviving gentlemen are the soul recipients of the insurance money, they suspect one of the men is a murderer.


I had some time this morning before work and decided to watch a movie until it was time to go for my pre-work walk. Since this particular film was only about an hour in length, I decided to watch it. And, it did turn out to be a decent movie.

As always, Basil Rathbone did an excellent job as Holmes, portraying the fictional character quite well. I especially liked how he was quick on the insults, especially toward Inspector Lestrade (Hoey).

The group of men he was investigating were also quite an intriguing bunch of characters. The fact they had nothing in common, other than the insurance (which made them worth more dead than they were worth alive) made their partnership seem a little fishy. And, the fact most of them started acting suspiciously the second Holmes showed up did make it pretty obvious they knew more than they were letting on.

The part with the orange pips was also interesting, mostly because it was something that was borrowed from the written Holmes' stories but wasn't used in the exact same way. And, since I was fairly confident the housekeeper (Sally Shepherd) wasn't behind the murders, their delivery was as much of a mystery as the murders themselves.

Unfortunately, I did find the mystery in this movie was a bit too easy, especially when I realized how the victims were being killed. The film, to its credit, did do a good job of trying to throw in some red herrings to keep things from being too obvious. But, as the film progressed, I only saw more and more things that supported my theory. So, while I enjoyed it, I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if the mystery would have been a little more complicated.

Sherlock Holmes - The House of Fear

The master detective Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and his faithful cohort Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) are back, preserved and digitally restored in 35mm to original condition b...

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Final Opinion

Overall, I thought the cast did an excellent job in this film and, even after figuring out the mystery, I still enjoyed watching it. I can only assume it is even more entertaining if you have no idea who is behind the murders and do recommend it as a result.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 06/30/2016, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 03/24/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
The library system here does not have The House of Fear among its Blu-ray and DVD collections. So I don't expect in the present to be able to see this, despite your intriguing review.

Would you happen to be familiar with Benedict Cumberbatch's, Robert Downey Jr's and Johnny Lee Miller's recent interpretations of Sherlock Holmes?

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