AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The House of Fear
Alternate Title: The Murder Club
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Mar 1945
Production Date:   9 May--early Jun 1944
Duration (in mins):   66 or 68-69
Duration (in feet):   6,235
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Cast:   Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes)  
    Nigel Bruce (Doctor [John H.] Watson)  
    Aubrey Mather ([Bruce] Alastair)  
    Dennis Hoey ([Inspector] Lestrade)  
    Paul Cavanagh ([Dr.] Simon Merrivale)  
    Holmes Herbert (Alan Cosgrave)  
    Harry Cording ([Capt.] John Simpson)  
    Sally Shepherd (Mrs. Monteith)  
    Gavin Muir (Chalmers)  
    Florette Hillier (Alison MacGregor)  
    David Clyde (Alex MacGregor)  
    David Thursby (Village sergeant)  
    Wilson Benge (Guy Davies)  
    Leslie Denison (Sergeant Bleeker)  
    Alec Craig (Angus)  
    Doris Lloyd (Barmaid)  
    Cyril Delevanti (Stanley Rayburn)  
    Dick Alexander (Ralph King)  

Summary: Famed private detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend, Dr. John H. Watson, are visited by Chalmers, an insurance agent, who tells them of the mysterious happenings at Drearcliff House, a seaside mansion in western Scotland. The mansion is the new home of a seven-member private club known as the Good Comrades, and Chalmers explains that one night, after receiving a mysterious envelope containing seven orange seeds during dinner, club member Ralph King was killed in a fiery automobile accident. A few nights later, member Stanley Rayburn received a similar note with six seeds, only to be found drowned ten days later. Chalmer's interest in the matter stems from the fact that the club members have made each other beneficiaries to their substantial life insurance policies. Holmes agrees to take the case when he learns that Dr. Simon Merrivale, a surgeon he once suspected of murder, is a member of the club. Holmes and Watson arrive in Scotland just in time to learn that Guy Davies, a third member of the private club, has been incinerated. Despite the presence of Holmes, Watson and the newly arrived Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, club member Alan Cosgrave's exploded body is found near a shed filled with dynamite. Soon thereafter, club member Capt. John Simpson receives an envelope with three orange seeds, and his mutilated body is later found on the beach, identifiable only by his tattoos. That night, Lestrade receives a note from the local tobacconist, Alex MacGregor, who believes that he has found a clue to the Drearcliff mysteries. When Holmes and the inspector arrive at his shop, however, they find the merchant murdered. Later, Holmes has Watson exhume MacGregor's grave, and they discover his casket is empty. The two men then rush back to Drearcliff House, where they learn that Merrivale has been killed, having been crushed to death by a boulder. The only surviving member of the Good Comrades, Bruce Alastair, is arrested for the six murders. Watson disappears soon after, and Holmes and Lestrade search the mansion for secret passageways, finding one which leads them to an old smuggler's cove. There, they find the abducted Watson, along with Merrivale, Cosgrave, Simpson, Davies, Rayburn and King. Holmes then explains that all of the six had faked their deaths in order to collect the insurance money, having used the corpses of recently deceased villagers in their place. Back in London, Chalmers congratulates Holmes for his work on the case, but the detective insists that the reward money be given to Alastair, as his last-minute warning saved Watson's life. 

Production Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.  
Director: Roy William Neill (Dir)
  Melville Shyer (Asst dir)
Producer: Howard Benedict (Exec prod)
  Roy William Neill (Prod)
Writer: Roy Chanslor (Scr)
Photography: Virgil Miller (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: John B. Goodman (Art dir)
  Eugene Lourie (Art dir)
Film Editor: Saul Goodkind (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman (Set dec)
  E. R. Robinson (Set dec)
Music: Paul Sawtell (Mus dir)
Sound: Bernard B. Brown (Dir of sd)
  William Hedgcock ([Sd] tech)
Country: United States
Series: Sherlock Holmes

Source Text: Based on the short story "The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Strand (Nov 1891).
Authors: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Universal Pictures Co., Inc. 6/12/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP13029

PCA NO: 10243
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Recording

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
Subjects (Major): Clubs
  Insurance fraud
  Private detectives
Subjects (Minor): Abduction
  Fathers and daughters
  Mutilation of corpses
  Police inspectors
  Scotland Yard (London, England)
  Secret passageways

Note: The working title of this film was The Murder Club . For additional information on the series and other films featuring the Arthur Conan Doyle characters, consult the Series Index and see the entry below for Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror , and the entries for Sherlock Holmes and The Hounds of the Baskervilles in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4020 and F3.2009. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   24 Mar 1945.   
Daily Variety   12 May 1944.   
Daily Variety   15 Mar 45   p. 3.
Film Daily   23 Mar 45   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 May 44   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 44   p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Mar 45   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   30 Dec 44   p. 2250.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   24 Mar 45   p. 2374.
New York Times   19 Mar 45   p. 23.
Variety   21 Mar 45   p. 10.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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