A detective goes undercover as a producer to investigate an actor's murder, which occurred during the performance of a play. The actor's body disappeared shortly after the crime, and his ... See full summary »
A detective goes undercover as a producer to investigate an actor's murder, which occurred during the performance of a play. The actor's body disappeared shortly after the crime, and his ghost is rumored to be haunting the theater. Written by
Although this is often reported as a Crime Club entry in Universal's series of adapted Doubleday novels, it is not officially part of the series. Likely the mistake results from its original theatrical title, "The Last Warning," the same name for an earlier Crime Club series. See more »
Universal's 1929 part-talkie "The Last Warning," the last film for director Paul Leni (1927's silent "The Cat and the Canary") was long thought to be a lost film, and while it remains superior to this 1939 remake, "The House of Fear," the latter need not lower its head in shame. Actor John Woodford (Donald Douglas) dies during his latest performance of the play "Dangerous Currents," in the very theatre named for Woodford himself. The police assume it's just a publicity stunt when the body disappears from Woodford's dressing room, and the case remains open for 2 years, with no solution and no corpse. Arthur McHugh (William Gargan), a detective posing as a Broadway producer, decides to bring together the original cast to repeat their performance of "Dangerous Currents," despite the rumors that the theatre is haunted by Woodford's ghost, who communicates with McHugh through a dead phone line. Also, there is one supremely eerie encounter with a spectre in the darkened theatre, and this too cannot be explained away, so there may actually be a genuine haunting. Both actresses stand out: lovely Irene Hervey (who starred in Lugosi's 1942 "Night Monster") plays Woodford's leading lady, and Dorothy Arnold (who co-starred with Lugosi in the 1939 serial "The Phantom Creeps") is the sluttish golddigger. Fast paced, many twists and turns, and consistently witty dialogue (especially Alan Dinehart); a vastly underrated Universal mystery which is too often confused with the studio's 'Crime Club' series, a total of 7 features that ran from 1937-1939. German director Joe May would follow this with "The Invisible Man Returns" and "The House of the Seven Gables," both 1940 releases featuring Vincent Price. "The House of Fear" made three appearances on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater: March 22 1975 (between "The Ghost of Frankenstein" and "Horror Island"), Dec 17 1977 (following "Cult of the Cobra"), and July 2 1983 (solo).
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