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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
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.
The world's most famous amateur detective tracks THE HOUND
THE BASKERVILLES, a notorious demonic fiend intent on
destroying the last descendent of an ancient family.
20th Century Fox brought Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic tale to vivid life in this excellent mystery thriller. Whether the setting is Baker Street's cozy study, the foggy lanes of London, or Dartmoor's moody wastes, the concise direction and superior production values transports the viewer into the world of Queen Victoria's 1880's. Sir Arthur's original story is altered somewhat to meet the requirements of the cinema, abbreviated in spots and fleshed-out in others, but this happens to nearly all literature when translated to the screen and does not diminish the enjoyment a whit.
This was the first of what was to become fourteen films, the only American-made movie series based on Holmes' adventures. Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson would become forever identified with the roles and they were perfect: Rathbone with his aquiline features and haughty aristocratic mien, the absolute embodiment of a supreme intelligence; and Bruce, bumbling & pudgy, but intensely loyal and good-natured (and also cognizant of the fact that a little comic relief would help him hold his own in scenes with Rathbone).
Richard Greene, who actually receives screen credit above that of Rathbone, makes a stalwart young hero--the returning heir whose life is placed in danger by the devilish Hound. The rest of the cast is also most proficient, especially sinister actors Lionel Atwill & John Carradine (as the Baskerville lawyer & butler, respectively). Beryl Mercer plays Atwill's spooky little spouse and Eily Malyon, as Carradine's wife, is quite effective as a woman with secrets to hide.
Pretty Wendy Barrie, and Morton Lowry as her naturalist brother, portray Baskerville's neighbors on the moor, while old Barlowe Boyland provides some humorous moments as a highly litigious rascal.
Smaller roles are equally well filled: Mary Gordon is perfectly cast as a grandmotherly Mrs. Hudson; E.E. Clive as a London cabby with surprising information; gaunt silent screen actor Nigel De Brulier as a fugitive convict; and, in a flashback, Ralph Forbes as the infamous Sir Hugo, the first Baskerville to meet the Hound.
The climactic attack by the implacable Hound is presented with real menace & suspense and the satisfied viewer is left ready for the next film in the series which would be THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1939).
Despite the famous title - perhaps the most famous of all the Sherlock
Holmes stories - I found the movie to be just an average Holmes tale.
It was entertaining and well-done but nothing spectacular. I am certain
not knocking this film. I love these old Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce SH
movies. An "average" Holmes film with these two guys still gets an
This was the first pairing of the above-mentioned two actors and Bruce, as "Dr. Watson," was not the bumbling buffoon as he was in subsequent episodes. However, I prefer Watson in that role because he added a lot of humor and entertainment. In this movie, Watson is pictured as fairly intelligent, for a change!
I enjoyed the lighting in this story. It made for some superb cinematography. The stark black-and-white shots inside the Baskerville mansion were great, as were the many facial closeups in this movie. The gray of the moors outside were in stark contrast to the indoor shots.
Although the séance fizzled, the credence given the occult in the story put a frown on a my face. It's amazing how many ignorant, superstitious people there have been in the world who actually believe they can talk to dead people. The rest of the story was a lot more intelligent and credible.
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.
"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!
this is the first filmed version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel.it'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 interesting.as 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
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When his uncle dies, Sir Henry Baskerville returns to England from
Canada to take up his title and estates. The only problem is that there
is a curse on the family dating back hundreds of years in the form of a
giant hound that will kill the current head of the family. When others
around him are killed on the moors and attempts are made on his life,
Sir Henry turns to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to solve the mystery.
Basil Rathbone is the perfect Sherlock Holmes. Physically and in temperament, I cannot imagine any other actor doing as good a job in this role as he does. This may not be news to many, but as this is the first of his films that I have seen, I was pleasantly surprised. And I was almost as pleased with the performance of Nigel Bruce as Watson. The rest of the supporting cast also performed admirably in their roles.
The story moved along at a fast pace, and managed to maintain a decent atmosphere of suspense despite the identity of the murderer being given away early kn the film (if the viewer is paying attention). The settings on the moors are wonderfully bleak and dreary and certainly helped contribute to the effectiveness of the film.
Overall, I enjoyed this one a lot and highly recommend it.
*** This review may contain 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For Holmesians, I've given this an eight. For everyone else it's a
seven. It's the best known of Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, or
at least it's the one that's shown up most often on the screen. It's
reasonably faithful to the novella; it has good production values; and
it represents the first appearance of Basil Rathbone as Holmes and
Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson.
Ernest Pascal adapted the story to the screen and did a reasonably good job. He swept a couple of incidents and characters under the rug, true, and he turned some obviously harmless people of the story, such as Dr. Mortimer, into sometimes sinister characters to act as red herrings. Presumably the rearrangement was done to get rid of secondary characters such as Miss Linney or whatever her name was in order to save time. (At 80 minutes, it's a rather short main feature.) But then why stick in a scene with a séance that goes nowhere and adds nothing? The writer must have hoped it would quicken the tempo of the film. That was Pascal's wager, but I'm not sure it was a such a brilliant move. Changed, too, is the relationship between Stapleton (Morton Lowery) and Beryl (Wendy Barrie). In the film, she's Stapleton's unwitting step-sister. In the novel she's Stapelton's reluctant but knowing accomplice. She's the one who writes Sir Henry a warning note when he arrives in London to claim his estate. Making her an innocent leaves unanswered the question of who, then, wrote the warning note. Not that this would make any viewer wince. The pacing is sufficiently hurried that by the climax, the warning note has been long forgotten. And Pascal has included a final exit line that is the only reference to cocaine that I can remember in a Sherlock Holmes movie. "Watson -- the needle!" I wonder how it got past the board of review. Maybe the censors hadn't read the stories. Maybe the producers passed the line off as an allusion to Holmes' being a diabetic or being secretly into knitting.
Nothing was shot on location. It's all studio back lot and sound stage. This was standard practice at the time. The Magnificently Collosally Stupendiferous "Gone With the Wind", released the same year, was also studio bound. (I'm glad they discovered location shooting in time for "Lawrence of Arabia.") But in this case the moors of Devonshire, great Gothic swamps punctuated by skeletal black trees and lumpy papier-maché rocks, all shrouded in studio smoke, suggest almost a stylized reality rather than a cheap set. They're quite well done. The only distracting feature is that the outdoor scenes SOUND as if they were shot indoors because of the acoustic liveliness of the sets. You hear an echo on a desolate plain. There actually is a moor near Dartmoor, with clumsily arranged piles of rocks surrounded by a mire. There still are moor ponies, rehistoric remains, and abandoned tin mines. The set decorators did a good job.
Basil Rathbone injects some animation into the character of Holmes, his being new to the role and all that. In a few years the franchise would be moved to Universal Studios, updated, mixed up, and Holmes would turn almost wooden, while Nigel Bruce would sometimes become a buffoon, which he is not here. There's no denying that Rathbone was a very good Sherlock Holmes, probably the best. Jeremy Brett in the TV series was more nuanced but not as masterful, nor as tall, and he didn't LOOK like the Sidney Paget illustrations that went with the original stories in Strand Magazine. On the other hand, Arthur Wontner may have LOOKED more like Paget's drawings but he couldn't act.
This is likely to be as good a Sherlock Holmes story as we're liable to get. It's a little clumsy but it's exciting, suspenseful, and well acted. Besides all that, how can you not see it? Holmes is an icon of vernacular culture and this shows him at his best. Oh -- the puckish title for this comment, "Heir of the Dog"? I stole it from the episode list on the DVD. (One less item for the confessional.)
I recently re-watched this and am still amazed at how exciting,
entertaining and fast-paced this movie is. Leonard Maltin's guide
prefers the follow Adventures of Sherlock Holmes because of Rathbone's
absence for much of the Hound's middle section. I, however, find that
it only adds to the overall suspense of the picture.
Many people have downplayed the Rathbone/Bruce pairing primarily because of Bruce's bumbling and mumbling. In this first outing that is down to a minimum. His Watson, while maybe not the ladies man in Doyle's stories, is still a competent medical man, athletic if stocky and the perfect counterpoint to Rathbone's Holmes.
I did enjoy the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes episodes, but still prefer Rathbone and Bruce because of the remarkable chemistry between the two. I can see these people and believe they actually shared rooms together and liked each other enough to keep that arrangement for many years.
Supporting characters in Hound are noteworthy as well. Lionel Atwill is awesome as the mysterious Dr. Mortimer, and John Carradine is perfection as always.
Highly recommend watching this on a rainy evening. Make it a double feature with Son of Frankenstein for a Rathbone festival.
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