DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR (aka: THE HOUSE OF FEAR) (director: Roy William Neill; screenwriters: Roy Chanslor/from the story "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; cinematographer: Virgil Miller; editor: Saul Goodkind; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes), Nigel Bruce (Doctor Watson), Aubrey Mather (Alastair), Dennis Hoey (Lestrade), Paul Cavanagh (Simon Merrivale), Holmes Herbert (Alan Cosgrave), Harry Cording (John Simpson), Sally Shepherd (Mrs. Monteith), Gavin Muir (Chalmers), Florette Hillier (Alison MacGregor), David Clyde (Alex MacGregor); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roy William Neill; Universal; 1945)

 
"This was the tenth time that classic actor Basil Rathbone played the famous detective."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Roy William Neill ("The Black Room"/"Black Angel"/"Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man") loosely bases the atmospheric thriller on the story "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but the only thing that remains intact from this very loose interpretation are the orange pips. It's written by Roy Chanslor. This was the tenth time that classic actor Basil Rathbone played the famous detective.

On the tip from an insurance agent (Gavin Muir), Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and his colleague Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) trek to Scotland to the mansion called Drearcliff when it's learned that seven elderly male retirees-- living together as members of a gentleman's club called the Good Comrades--are being knocked off one by one. The motive seems to be an insurance scam, since all the members have no next of kin they have decided that upon a member's death the sizable insurance policy goes to the remaining members.

The bizarre situation has the humorless housekeeper (Sally Shepherd) before each death give the next target an envelope containing orange pips that was pushed under the door. The orange pips represent how many Good Comrades are still alive. 

It's hardly believable, but the ensemble cast play this hokey murder mystery to the hilt and the surprise ending seems to make sense. It's entertaining despite its slow pace and other structural flaws. Of note, for once the buffoonish Watson uses the power of deduction to come up with the major clue to solve the case.

REVIEWED ON 12/31/2009       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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