THE HOUSE OF FEAR. Universal, 1945. Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Aubrey Mather, Dennis Hoey, Paul Cavanagh, Holmes Herbert, Harry Cording, Sally Shepherd. Screenplay: Roy Chanslor, based on the characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Director: Roy William Neill.

   Yet another in the superior “B” series produced and directed by Roy William Neill, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This one — very loosely based on “The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips” — offers a disparate group of bachelors sharing their fortunes at a remote Old Dark House somewhere on the Gothic Coast of England until they start getting murdered one by one, their gruesome demises presaged by anonymous missives filled with orange seeds.

   Purists at the time complained loudly about this — Watson actually solves the case before Holmes does — but I found it charming, with the skillful interplay of the leads set neatly off once again by Neill’s off-noir lighting and intelligent pace.