The House of Fear is, I think, my favourite of the Basil Rathbone films.
As pointed out by Dr. Amanda Field, it is one of the temporally ambiguous films. In her excellent book on the series, Field points out that the films went through a number of distinct phases. Firstly we had the two “Victorian” films with 20th Century Fox; when Universal picked up the franchise we moved onto the Nazi films, the temporally ambiguous films and, finally, the borderline horror films.
|Buy it now! Winner of the 2010 Tony & Freda Howlett Award|
Returning to this particular film; it is loosely based on The Five Orange Pips and adheres to the lonely house, fixed group of suspects formula so loved by Agatha Christie. It is its temporal ambiguity that makes it for me and the obvious parallels it shares with Agatha Christie’s story And Then There Were None. Even though it is set in the 1940s, the absence of any real technology of the time (there are no telephones in the house for example – not that telephones are particularly a 1940s item - and no electricity) leaves us with only the sartorial standards as any indication of a time period.
I also think that the fact it is black and white also makes a huge difference. I do not think for a second that this film would have the same impact in colour (and that applies to all of the Rathbone films).
If by some chance you've not seen it, put it on your "to do" list.