A "teutonic" Holmes in a post-expressionistic thriller
During the 30ies, Czech director Carl Lamac directed a number of mystery-thrillers in Germany; most of them being adaptations of the works of Edgar Wallace - like "Der Zinker" or "Der Hexer" - and most of them featuring the great Fritz Rasp among the villains. Unlike Fritz Rasp, who had a big comeback after the war in Germany's successful Edgar-Wallace-murder-mysteries of the 60ies, Carl Lamac never received the appreciation he deserved.
"Der Hund von Baskerville" is one of his best films. It takes a lot of liberty with the original story; and it is not set at the end of the Victorian era, but in contemporary present. Actually, this is very usual for any Holmes-adaption of that period or before - ask Roy William Neill about that.
Yet, to be honest, Bruno Güttner as Holmes IS a problem. And I respect the many good reasons why most of the real Holmes-Fans will not be able to accept him as the "real" Holmes whom they know and love. To make it short, Güttner's Holmes is anything but "canonical". Pretty much like Margaret Rutherford's interpretation of Agatha Christie's "Miss Marple", he has absolutely nothing in common with the character presented in the books. Well, all three are creative thinkers, and that's the way how they solve the crime - as it should be. But: like Mrs. Rutherford, Bruno Güttner portrays a PROLETARIAN character. He does not "deduct", he "kombiniert"; a much less sophisticated and much more common (German) expression pretty well fitting the character Güttner portrays: he wears a sailor's overall instead of the Inverness-cape, and instead of the deerstalker a workers cap which actually was a very common peace of cloth in Berlin during the period. Obviously, the Germans did not get the message: the "real", canonical Holmes as described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is neither common nor proletarian. He'd never wear a common cap, if not for disguise.
Anyway, this was the way the Germans saw or wanted to see the character. Hans Albers' Wannabe-Holmes from the great comedy-masterpiece "Der Mann der Sherlock Holmes war" looks almost the same. It is the way Holmes was portrayed in a series of German pulp-fiction-novels "Aus den Geheimakten des Weltdetektivs" written before the 1st World War and reissued some time after it. (You can see many of those during the opening credits of "Der Mann der Sherlock Holmes war".) Few Germans could have told you the difference between German Pulp-Holmes and Conan Doyle's.
But, taken as a mystery-thriller with creepy atmosphere and some inventive and effective studio-shots, it is a good movie nevertheless. Like Fritz Lang's "Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse", it is a thriller in the best tradition of the German silent-movie-expressionism, which has influenced about every important American Horror-movie of the 30ies, 40ies and 50ies, containing its typical effects of light, fog and shadow - and, taken just as a thriller, the Bruce-Rathbone-version does not compete with it.
Erich Ponto from Carol Reed's "The Third Man" remains in my mind as the best Stapleton I have ever seen (despite of William Shatner J), and Fritz Rasp gives a real creepy performance as the servant Barrymore.
(In the German version of 1929, the last silent "Baskerville" ever made, Fritz Rasp had played Stapleton instead. By the way, I don't understand, how that 1929 version got a 2-star-rating, or any rating at all. Actually, it is still reported to be lost, so, pray tell me, WHERE THE HELL IS THE SENSE OF RATING A MOVIE THAT DOES NOT EXIST? And how can you possibly rate a movie, that does not exist any more except you had gone to hell and watched it there? Well, why don't you just stay and save yourself the long way back there?)
2 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?