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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie & the next (Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) were made by 20th
Century Fox, in 1939 & were better than the ones made by Universal in
the 1940's. Let us also remember that Universal was not the big studio
it is now.
In 1939 one of the studios up & coming stars was Richard Greene. (he later became Robin Hood). He is the top billed actor & actually the major role. He always was a good hero,but not that good an actor. The one & only Basil Rathbone is Sherlock Holmes & Rathbone does what he always did, creating a memorable character. Mr. Rathbone had the fantastic talent to play any sort of role, villain or hero.
A few years prior he created the most memorable Pontius Pilate in a Cecil B. DeMille almost forgettable epic, I may have forgot the title BUT not his Pontius Pilate.(this was before supporting actors got Oscars-) over the years he made many unforgettable characters.
This was his first time as Sherlock. Nigel Bruce was a good Dr. Watson, I never could figure why they made Watson a comic character.
Wendy Barrie is the love interest.(this was then & still is a staple character). I do not think she figures into the original Conan Doyle story. The made a few changes to the original.
Sydney Lanfield (a studio director) did his usual good work. The screenplay was written by Ernest Pascal. Look for Lionel Atwill & John Carradine in supporting roles. They both always gave fine performances.
This is no where a great film, BUT is an enjoyable time spent. It is only 80 minutes long..
One more point of information. They made films fast back them. It too less than 90 days from first day of shooting to actual release date.
Ratings: **1/2 (out of 4) 78 points (out of 100) IMDb 7 (out of 10)
I first saw this Sherlock Holmes film a extremely long time ago, I had
heard that Basil Rathbone was in this one, and I was really excited as
to seeing it. And when this film was over, I began to say that Basil
Rathbone should have been there to stay! I have seen several of all of
the actors to play Sherlock Holmes, and Rathbone is probably the
definitive one that I have seen, I mean that he was perfect for the
part, he even looked like Sherlock Holmes in a few of the illustrations
of him that I saw! This is perhaps one of the best Sherlock Holmes
movies that there have ever been, and it is one of my favorites, as
well as my second favorite of the series that had Basil Rathbone
playing Holmes! I have always thought that this film was very fabulous,
not only is it very fabulous, but it is also really a film that is
I remember that when this movie was over, I just wanted to sit down a second time and watch this all over again, because I really thought that this was a fabulous time! There has rarely been at time that when I finished a movie, I could just sit back down and watch this movie all over again, another time that I had that feeling was when I first saw the Godfather, boy that was a really fabulous movie! Now getting back to this film, I was totally thrilled with this, I will probably be buying this movie on DVD!
If you have not seen this totally fabulous movie yet, then I really highly recommend that you do see this movie, because you are really going to be thrilled with this, you are going to be as thrilled as I was when I first saw it!
Probably the best known of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan
Doyle, The Hound Of The Baskervilles gets the A treatment from 20th
Century Fox and introduces the team of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce
as Holmes and Watson. They would only go on to make one other Holmes
feature for Fox before the series shifted to Universal and a
considerable downgrading in production values.
The film is also a chance for Darryl F. Zanuck to exhibit Richard Greene who was being groomed at that time as a possible successor to Tyrone Power as the number one heartthrob on the lot. Power was Zanuck's personal favorite among the stars, but even with favorites you have to have someone to keep them in line. And Greene's British background was more in keeping with the locale of the story. Though I certainly could have seen Tyrone Power playing the young Baskerville heir.
It's not the Baskerville heir, but a doctor played by Lionel Atwill at the Baskerville estate who suspects foul play of sorts in the death of the elder Baskerville who was his patient. Though the man died of a heart attack, Atwill tells Rathbone that near the body were "the footprints of a gigantic hound" corresponding to a legendary killer dog that has stalked the Baskerville family for generations. Atwill hires Holmes to protect Greene who is coming over from Canada to claim the estate.
There is a curse of sorts on the Baskervilles, brought on by the rakish behavior of an ancestor played in flashback by Ralph Forbes. He is the first to meet his end in an unnatural manner on that family tree.
A fine cast supports Greene, Rathbone, and Bruce who in fact are billed in that order which leads me to suspect Tyrone Power might have been originally intended for the role. Besides Atwill we also have John Carradine as the Baskerville butler, Wendy Barrie as Greene's intended, Morton Lowry as a neighboring landowner, and Beryl Mercer who is Atwill's wife with a gift for clairvoyance.
There are never any supernatural solutions in a Sherlock Holmes mystery and when the culprit is revealed the motives are more involved with the present though they are grounded in how the legend came about.
This is the first and best of the Rathbone-Bruce Sherlock Holmes films. Would all of them had maintained this level of quality.
This is the definitive film of Sherlock Holmes. Basil Rathbone is
brilliant in this role but it is the direction that captures the mood
and haunting atmosphere that makes this a period piece worth owning and
playing again and again. How a director approaches making a film that
will captivate an audience is beyond me but most of the time cinematic
failures abound and are the norm for the industry. But when a film like
this comes along and captures the imagination of generations of viewing
audiences then you know the director has created cinematic "gold". Can
this kind of masterful work be achieved by "fluke", I don't know, but I
think in this case luck, good fortune, magic and skill all combined
under the heavens to aid the director in creating a true "masterpiece"
that will stand the test of time.
This is a true haunting and atmospheric thrill ride that will scare the daylights out of you and thrill and excite you at the same time.
See it, buy it, just get your hands on this one and enjoy. A great story that is beautifully rendered here in celluloid, truthfully and honestly, the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have loved.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rathbone was already a star when this was filmed (and indeed did other notable roles such as the bad guy in Mark of Zorro, 1940, also in my reviews) but this was history in the making. As Holmes, he was not just good, he was perfect. The studio was not sure about the effort but the box office was so good that 13 more followed. Rathbone may (OMG) have been the best Holmes of all, physically imposing, naturally intellectual, confidence inspiring, trustworthy, and he made every pronouncement sound like the discovery of the century, whether it was or not. Nigel Bruce pretty much set the template for the affable, foolish, but good-natured Watson. Set it so well in fact that 3/4 of a century later, writers would be jumping through hoops to re-imagine Watson just to show they could -- look at the fun Moffat is having with his ex-soldier, newly married Watson; and the writers in Elementary actually get to use an ex-Charlies Angel (!) to prove how far away from Nigel Bruce they can get. Look, let's be clear -- we live in era when, if a studio can get to 5 or 6 sequels without imploding, they are entering Oscar territory. That this franchise did 13 should make the point crystal clear. Iconic, and sets the bar. Brilliant.
"The Hound of the Baskervilles", arguably the most famous of all of
Sherlock Holmes' cases, was filmed in 1939 - not for the first time, of
course (there had already been at least five tries, most notably in
1932 with Robert Rendel), but probably in the most impressive way
possible. And it was the first time that Basil Rathbone portrayed the
world-famous sleuth from Baker Street - the beginning of a very
successful, and very high-class film serial produced by 20th
Century-Fox that would comprise all in all 15 movies over the next
And Rathbone certainly was an ideal choice for the role, both physically and regarding his (on-screen) image: very British, and slightly haughty, but still with a sense of humor - only most of the time at the expense of his friend and assistant, amiable Dr. Watson, who was wonderfully played by Nigel Bruce. In fact, many Sherlock Holmes fans regard Rathbone as THE personification of Holmes (only we mustn't forget Arthur Wontner, who had also played Holmes in five movies, and was at LEAST as close to Conan Doyle's original character, if not even a little bit more...).
Actually, the whole cast is superb: idyllically handsome young Richard Greene as Sir Henry Baskerville, the heir of the huge estate of the Baskervilles, whose father has died under mysterious circumstances in the moor recently, Lionel Atwill as the strange Dr. Mortimer, Wendy Barrie as beautiful Beryl, Morton Lowry as her young step-brother... And no less superb is the direction: foggy Dartmoor probably had never been photographed in such a uniquely creepy way before, providing a perfect background for the murderous ongoings that revolve around the old legend of a horrible hound that scares or bites people to death... But Sherlock Holmes, of course, has got another, much more reasonable theory!
The whole film is immensely suspenseful (with England around 1900 being marvelously recreated in every detail), but especially the dramatic climax in the end is REALLY made for strong nerves - a real, thrilling, classic MUST for every fan of the crime genre!
It is impossible to find as iconic a character in fiction as Sherlock Holmes. He's my personal favorite character from any fiction. Holmes is a brilliant detective who notices everything around him, and cracks cases with the slightest details. His stories are told from the point of view of his companion Dr. Watson, so that the audience has someone to relate to. The stories themselves are brilliant stories with brilliant premises, and are filled to the brim with suspense, intrigue, and mystery, as all crime or mystery stories should. Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles gets all of these elements down perfectly. And how does the 1939 film adaptation of this phenomenal story hold up? It's hard to imagine a better adaptation. A Sir Charles Baskerville has been found dead in front of his home Baskerville Hall. His friend, Dr. James Mortimer (Lionel Atwill), approaches consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) with suspicions about Baskerville's death. The coroner ruled that Baskerville died naturally, Dr. Mortimer knows that he was chased by a vicious dog, the legendary Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene) is Charles' nephew and heir who returns to Baskerville Hall. Odd things around him, however, and Holmes dispatches Dr. Watson (Bruce Nigel) to visit Baskerville Hall and investigate, while Holmes studies the case from a distance. Few adaptations have been as successful as this film. The film stays faithful to the original story, thus keeping the same brilliant premise and events. Everything about the movie is intelligent. The story, writing, direction, and characters are all intelligent. The suspense of the novella is kept, and executed with just as much intrigue. The film has a bleak, grey, shadowy look that comes right out of Sidney Paget's illustration. The acting is excellent, every actor expressing interest in what happens, and each one constantly thinking. Basil Rathbone IS Sherlock Holmes, in the same way Sean Connery was James Bond. As soon as he appears on screen, you believe that he has walked out of the pages of Conan Doyle's stories. Not only does he look just like the character, he acts just like him. He shows the constant thought of Holmes, and behaves in a cool manner, just as Holmes does. He and the story are what make this film, just as all adaptations of Sherlock Holmes should. A+
Sidney Lanfield directed this film adaptation of the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel that stars Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Doctor John Watson. Here, the plot involves a murder plot being planned against the heir(played by Richard Greene) of the Baskerville estate, an American hoping to come into his inheritance, but someone else has plans to usurp his title, involving a local legend about a huge hound that has cursed the family for generations. Is the supernatural at work, or is it of human origin? Good cast, especially Basil Rathbone, though muddled story and lack of a music score hurt it. The novel was much superior, but this version is acceptable.
Basil Rathbone portrayal of the great detective Sherlock Holmes is one
of the most popular and this adaptation of the popular The Hound of the
Baskervilles is the nearest in accuracy that I have seen of the book,
recurring that I have seen the modern British Sherlock series do a
version of the Hound of Baskerville, which digressed a lot to the use
of drugs to portray the intensity of the hound's presence.
Many differences can be seen when watching this movie adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's, Sherlock Holmes's The Hound of the Baskervilles, from the role of Beryl Stapleton (she is portrayed here by Wendy Barrie), to some other screenplay differences. That being said, this 1939 movie is one that is straight to the heart captivating, it starts with a high note, introducing us to the characters and the case at hand, it then goes smoothly down to the case and how Holmes was intending to solve it, adding the suspense that the book had, as we the viewers as well as Dr Watson (Nigel Bruce) has to wait till Holmes tells us what he has been able to deduce.
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr. John Watson (Nigel Bruce) receive a visit from Dr. Mortimer (Lionel Atwill), who wishes to consult them before the arrival of Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene). Sir Henry is the last of the Baskervilles and heir to the Baskerville estate in Devonshire.
But Dr. Mortimer tells Holmes of a legend, the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles, a demonic dog that first killed Sir Hugo Baskerville hundreds of years ago and the same dog is believed to kill all Baskervilles that stay in the Devonshire, in which Sir Henry will lodge.
The screenplay of any book adaptation is one that needs to be judged carefully, even after reading such a book, you still have to have it in the back of your mind that not all that is written can or should be adapted on screen, in such a case the screenplay has to be well glued together not making you feel like something is off. The 1939 Hound of the Baskervilles has such a screenplay that makes you not feel lost, they did their best to tie up loose ends and make you the view feel a sense of closing as the movie itself ends.
Not many of the Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes portrayal can be found in the market, but if you do search the online market hard you should be able to come across some at a good price although some are said to be on the public domain; as I to will continue the search to see if I can see all fourteen of the duo of Basil Rathbone and Niguel Bruce.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm a huge Holmes fan, having read all the stories decades ago, seen
this movie, watched the Jeremey Brett series multiple times and
listened to every radio episode available, whether part of the canon or
pastiche. It's been years since i watched this version, and i looked
forward to it when I saw it available on youtube. Unfotunately, I was
I'm actually in favor of dramatizations being changed somewhat from their literary sources, but in this case I can't think of a single change that was neutral, much less an improvement. The change of the Barrymores to Barryman was silly - the most famous story from probably the English speaking world's most famous character is already locked in our minds. To change a character's name - for any reason - just serves to take us out of the suspension of disbelief. The role of the Barrymores to Selden is a fundamental part of the story - minimizing it took away from the drama.
Apparently, Hollywood didn't think audiences could deal with Beryl Stapleton having any part whatsoever in the plot, so she's no longer the wife. And Sir Henry asking her to marry him after we've seen them meet just once again follows an unfortunate Hollywood convention and destroys the suspension of disbelief.
And of course how it was that Stapleton lived in the district all his life and no one knew he was related to the Baskervilles is one of those jarring puzzles that Hollywood would typically drop on people just before the film ended and the lights went on. It works until they get outside and start thinking about it.
Nigel Bruce certainly wasn't the bumbling clown he later played in this series, but he's no Watson if you've read the stories. As likable as he was in this role, he was never asked to play Watson and he never did. Bruce was more Jimmie Chan than Dr Watson.
At least this was better than the later Hammer version, which went even further re-writing the story. It was a failure at the box office, with good reason.
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