The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) Poster

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The film that introduced Basil Rathbone in the part of Sherlock Holmes…
Nazi_Fighter_David17 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
To select just one representative Sherlock Holmes film from the hundred or so made since Sherlock Holmes Baffled is a virtual impossibility, especially as no one actor (including such famous talents as John Barrymore, Clive Brook and Raymond Massey) has yet managed to successfully transfer the true Holmesian character to the screen… But if one has to be singled out probably the best choice would be the 1939 version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles," the most famous of all Conan Doyle's long novels and the film that introduced Basil Rathbone in the part of Sherlock Holmes…

Although no less a critic than Graham Greene found Rathbone unacceptable, complaining of his good humor and general air of refreshing health, the tall, thin British born actor is still the man most people associate with the role… He played in 14 Holmes movies between 1939 and 1946, two "A" productions and twelve double features…

Set in the correct period, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" follows Conan Doyle closely including only one scene, a séance, not in the original story… Its opening sequence on a deserted moor with a man running in terror from the unseen beast and its climax with Holmes going out alone into the foggy night to track down the "Hell Hound" really catches the suspense and mystery of Conan Doyle's story…

The film is most impressive when it convincingly sketches in the streets and fashions of Edwardian London, a remarkable achievement when one considers that recreation of London and English settings has not been one of Hollywood's strongest points over the years…

The final curtain line makes it difficult to believe that the film was made in 1939 with all the restrictions and censorship of that period… References to Holmes' drug taking have rarely if ever been made in Holmes movies but in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" the great detective stalks out of the room calling to his ever faithful companion, "The needle, Watson, the needle."
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Excellent adaptation
tamstrat19 April 2005
I am a huge fan of all the Rathbone/Bruce movies, but this is the best of them all. The atmosphere and lighting casts the perfect mood for the dark, creepy moor where strange goings on interest Holmes and Watson to help the young heir of Baskerville Hall. All the actors do an excellent job, and the movie, filmed some 60 years go does not seem dated. The writing, directing, acting, etc all stand up, even now, some years later. I also liked the 1959 Hammer Version of this story, but Peter Cushing is not the perfect Sherlock Holmes. Basil Rathbone is the definitive Holmes as Nigel Bruce is the perfect Dr. Watson. Watch this sometime soon and enjoy!!!
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Rathbone and Bruce-The Definitive Holmes & Watson
babeth_jr29 March 2006
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" was the first movie that paired the great actor Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as his bumbling yet lovable assistant, Dr. Watson. The two actors embody the characters of Holmes and Watson, and it's a delight to see the interaction between the two. This movie is great on all levels, from the creepy atmosphere of the moors where the "hound from hell" roams, to the performances of all the actors involved. Richard Greene, who plays Sir Henry Baskerville, and John Carradine also give solid performances. I remember watching this movie on late night TV with my sister when I was a kid and being genuinely frightened by the scenes on the moor when Richard Greene is being chased by the hound. For me this is the best of the Sherlock Holmes series of movies that was made in the late 1930's and 1940's. A must see!
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This movie works on every level. Don't miss this film treat!
marxi12 February 2003
This film is a delight! Not only does the story unfold at a fine pace throughout the entire film, the atmosphere is wonderfully ominous in many scenes.

It has been so long since I have read any Sherlock Holmes books that I was able to watch the film without any preconceived notions of what to expect and this film is a near masterpiece. It works as a mystery, as a detective story, a suspense story, a buddy film, a romance, a drama and in places it is as about an effective of an horror film as I've seen lately.

For folks that complain that this movie isn't entirely faithful to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle book it came from, I say, "So What?" Enjoy the book for what it is and do the same with the movie. Very rarely is a movie entirely faithful to an original book and usually for good reason. This movie stands on its own merits as a spectacular film.

Basil Rathbone brings Sherlock Holmes to life vividly. The working relationship between Holmes and Dr. Watson is so well fleshed out on film that it is fun to watch. Holmes disguises are nothing short of entertaining. The young Henry Baskerville is portrayed by a handsome young actor who has screen presence. The spooky "moors" and the Baskerville Estate become a presence just as if they were a character in the film. The entire array of characters introduced to us in this film were all well played and endlessly interesting to watch.

This movie is a must see for folks who like good movies. I give it a 9/10, and that may be a bit too low!
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first filmed adaptation of Conan Doyle's novel
disdressed1220 March 2009
this is the first filmed version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's's also the first of fourteen Sherlock Holmes films Starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as his friend/sidekick, Dr. Watson.this is the second version i have seen,the first being the 1959 version starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.i liked that one more.this 1939 version,while good,is slow at times.the acting is good,as one would expect.the story is i said,this is a good adaptation,other than the slow pace.otherwise,i was entertained.interestingly,even though they are the main stars,Rathbone is billed second,and Bruce billed fourth in the film.anyway,it's a pretty good 80 minute or so diversion.for me,The Hound of the Baskervilles is an 8/10
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The best version of a classic novel
ashtree10 March 2001
As a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, I'd LOVE a 100% faithful adaptation of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES; but as a realist, I know that the only way that would happen is if a group of actors read the book word for word on radio or audiotape. After all, what works in a book doesn't always work on screen; and Ernest Pascal's adaptation is faithful to the spirit, if not always the letter, of Conan Doyle's novel (just watch the scene in the hut on the moor when Watson meets up with Holmes, who explains what's going on: 'Murder, my dear Watson. Refined, cold-blooded murder.' The scene as written by Conan Doyle is a bit dry; Pascal expands on it in a way that makes the scene work on film, and in doing so shows that he was clearly in tune with the source material. Yes, some key characters were dropped or had their parts reduced; others were built up so there would be a few more suspects. In the end, however, we're left with what is still the best version of HOUND ever committed to celluloid. Basil Rathbone IS Holmes: even if he had never played the character again, he would still be guaranteed a place among the great portrayers of the detective. Nigel Bruce's Watson is brave and loyal, and not the somewhat bumbling sidekick he became in the later films; and there is a real friendship between his Watson and Rathbone's Holmes which is a crucial element of any portrayal of the characters, yet which is so often missing. As is only natural with a film made more than sixty years ago, it does creak a bit in places; but it's still a wonderful way to spend ninety or so minutes.
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Rathbone's Introduction to the Ultimate Sherlock Holmes!!!
Evan Cyran3 June 2005
1939 was a great year for Basil Rathbone. Not only did he star in Son of Frankenstein, but he began his string of Sherlock Holmes flicks that even now are as popular as ever. For anyone who enjoys mystery, suspense, good vs evil, or just a fun, intelligent film, The Hound of the Baskervilles is definitely worth a serious look. The film stands out for many reasons. One of them is the classical atmosphere and its mysterious feel. The characters are all excellent and make great suspects in the case (especially John Carradine as the butler). Another thing is that this is one of only two Holmes films that are placed in the Victorian time period, giving it a truly natural feel (the way that Doyle intended). This is before Sherlock Holmes became the victim of anti-Nazi propaganda just like everyone else. Don't get me wrong, I love all of the films for some different and some similar reasons. I just wish that there were a few more from the Victorian period that's all. Anyway, in this film Rathbone is brilliant as Holmes. He is full of life and seems genuinely intrigued and excited in his portrayal. Nigel Bruce is also very good as a competent Dr. Watson (before the funnier but less competent version was invented shortly thereafter). The movie is the most true to its original source (Doyle's novel) as well. I think that its also more of a movie in itself rather than a "Sherlock Holmes" movie, which accounts for Rathbone being credited second under the charming leading man. Finally this movie contains the only joke-like reference to the famous detective's implied cocaine use. To fans of Holmes, Rathbone, mystery/suspense, good acting, and great films I say this: Check out this series starting with this movie!! Oh, and "Watson, the needle".
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An excellent take on the classic Doyle story
The_Void2 February 2005
This classic take on Arthur Conan Doyle's classic novel is a fantastic thriller. Although I prefer the Hammer Horror version, this one is a more than worthy second. The story will be familiar to most people that know anything about classic literature, and it features a family that have been cursed by a mythical hound, due to an ancestor's actions years earlier. After the death of his uncle, Sir Henry Baskerville moves into Baskerville Hall, which is located on the Moors in Dartford, and claims his family fortune. However, the hound may still be a large and Sir Henry's life may be at stake. Enter ace detective Sherlock Holmes. Hired by the doctor and friend of the family, Sherlock sends his assistant, Dr Watson, down to Dartmoor to investigate the goings on down there while he attends to some other business back in London. What follows is an exceptional exhibition of atmosphere, mystery and tension as the enigma of the hound of the Baskervilles unfolds in front of the audience's eyes!

The Moors serve as an excellent setting for a story like this. As the film is keen to profess, it's location is as rich in life as the story itself and that's what makes the Moors all important for the film's story. The Moors are also extremely atmospheric, with it's many pitfalls creating a foreboding atmosphere and the smoke that protrudes from it's many pores helping to make the horror elements more potent within the story. Sherlock Holmes is, of course, one of the best and most important characters ever written and Basil Rathbone portrays him excellently in this film. It's a great honour for an actor to be given the role of this magnitude, and Rathbone makes Doyle proud. The story is constantly intriguing thanks to the interesting characters, and also due to the fact that the story is very well paced. This makes the film a pleasure to view, as the audience is constantly kept on the edge of their seats for the duration, and that's the sort of reaction that you want when watching a mystery thriller.
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"Mr. Holmes, you're the one man in all England who can help me."
bensonmum225 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Of the half dozen or so different takes on The Hound of the Baskervilles that I've seen, this one is my favorite - just barely edging out the Hammer film from 1959. Why? There are a number of reasons I could cite.

1. Acting – The 1939 version of the Hound of the Baskervilles has to have one of the strongest casts ever assembled for a Sherlock Holmes film. It's a veritable Who's Who of 1930s/40s horror/thriller stars. Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill, John Carradine, Wendy Barrie, and Eily Malyon all give outstanding performances. Even E.E. Clive appears in a small but enjoyable role. And Nigel Bruce, whose bumbling Watson could really get on my nerves, gives one of his best performances as Holmes' sidekick.

2. Atmosphere – If there's something that filmmakers from the 1930s knew how to do and were especially adept at, its creating atmosphere. From the fog shrouded moors to the dangerous London streets, there's enough atmosphere in The Hound of the Baskervilles for two or three movies. The cinematography and lighting go along way to helping create this feeling. It's something that seems lost on many of today's filmmakers.

3. Direction – While nothing outstanding, Sidney Lanfield is nonetheless solid in the director's chair. One key is the pacing he gives to the film. The movie moves along quite nicely with very few moments that slow things down. Sure, this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles may veer away from the original source material, but it's for good reason. The film would have been too slow and, ultimately, quite dull had it stuck too closely to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. I've read the book, but as much as I enjoy it, I realize changes have to be made for the screen.

While there are a number of other things I could mention in The Hound of the Baskervilles that appeal to me, I'll stop here before this thing gets out of hand. In the end, I've always found this a solid production and a very enjoyable film. I've got no problems rating it a 9/10.

Finally, one thing that has always seemed odd to me is the appeal of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Don't misunderstand, it's a good story. But I'm not sure I understand why it has been filmed more often than any other Sherlock Holmes story. Why would a plot that has its main character (Holmes in this case) disappear for about half the movie be the most famous and most often filmed story from the character's casebook? Like I said, it's just always seemed a bit odd to me.
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The classic adaptation
Stanley Strangelove4 September 2005
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's best loved Sherlock Holmes work, The Hound of the Baskervilles, gets a beautifully photographed presentation on the screen by director Sidney Lanfield. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce team in their first Holmes film as the world's original reasoning detective Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson. Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene) returns from abroad to take up residence in the family estate on the eerie moors in west England. But the foggy landscape appears to be haunted by an invisible creature with demonic powers bent on destroying Sir Henry. Holmes must use all his powers of deduction to solve the case. Although other actors have played Holmes and Watson, Rathbone and Bruce are the undisputed kings. Rathbone brings his rapier profile and fiery intensity to Holmes and Bruce plays Watson like an adoring and faithful puppy dog. They made other adaptations of Holmes together but The Hound of the Baskervilles is the strongest Conan Doyle story and makes for the best movie in the Holmes series.
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