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Befitting of a murder mystery, and almost to be expected for that
matter, The Hound of the Baskervilles leaps across the screen with a
murder and an ambiance that bears no small resemblance to the Universal
horror films that utterly dominated the 30's. This opening murder is
witnessed by a sort of hunchbacked, grizzly old man that seems to be by
all accounts a genuine descendant to the long line of professor
assistants, body snatchers and other minor characters who performed
various tasks of a grisly nature on behalf of their masters. The type
of character that one Bela Lugosi portrayed that very same year in
Universal's SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, alongside Basil Rathbone and Lionel
Atwill (in the iconic role of Krogh) no less, both of whom incidentally
appear in this virginal Sherlock Holmes entry in the long-standing
series with Rathbone in the lead and the foggy soundstage that passes
for Dartmoor has an atmospheric quality reminiscent of Universal's
backlot that furthers the connection.
Rathbone is his usual delightful self and seems to be greatly enjoying his role, as is Nigel Bruce offering his bumbling rendition of the affable Dr. Watson. The movie is a very traditional murder mystery with little in the way of surprise after all these years, yet one that remains endlessly enjoyable and entertaining. It's a whodunit whose red herrings appear harmless and domesticated compared to the convoluted nature of raunchy Italian gialli or later whodunits but it's perhaps that reason that lends it an old-fashioned charm all its own.
The first of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes' films "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is the best version of this most-filmed novel of Arthur Conan Doyle. The follow-up "Sherlock Holmes" also filmed at Fox was probably better in some ways, but being the first, "The Hound" was to me the most enjoyable. It is a pity that 20th Century Fox only made the two before Universal took them over, and they deteriorated very much into B's appearing to be cheaply made. In addition to Rathbone, the ever reliable Nigel Bruce made a great Dr. Watson, while Richard Greene and Wendy Barrie added class and interest to this movie. The settings on the moors were realistic, and the tension built even though most patrons knew the story so well, that the outcome was no surprise.
I don't like a lot of old movies, and much of this movie is why. The
is mostly too over the top and everything feels staged, without good
transitions from one scene to the next. But I liked the gothic set
and above all else, I liked Basil Rathbone.
His voice, his mannerisms, his physical look, everything about Basil Rathbone embodied the persona of Sherlock Holmes. And at a time when acting tended to be so melodramatic, he knew how to play low key. Also of interest is John Carradine as the mysterious butler Barrowman and Morton Lowry as Stapleton, whose charisma coupled with malice make him a memorable villain if there ever was one.
Overall, it was fairly loyal to the book, making only moderate changes. Recommended viewing for Sherlock Holmes fans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Finally seeing "The Hound of the Baskervilles" thanks to the wonderful
Turner Classic Movies, it was a joy I earnestly felt, getting an
opportunity to partake in the first Sherlock Holmes movie featuring the
incomparable Basil Rathbone as the Baker Street sleuth, and the ever
lovable Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Granted 20th Century Fox
ridiculously gave them less billing than some actor named Richard
Greene, but this, as anyone can see, is Rathbone and Bruce's movie all
the way. Richard Greene is a handsome actor with movie idol looks, and
isn't particularly bad in his role as Sir Henry Baskerville, having
inherited the fortune of his deceased relative who died under
mysterious circumstances, a heart attack many village folk consider a
curse of the family's name due to the horrendous notoriety of
heathenish descendant Hugo(..who kidnapped, raped, and impregnated a
girl, later found dead supposedly at the hands of a dreaded hound).
Holmes and Watson are commissioned by Dr. James Mortimer(Lionel
Atwill), a village physician who lives in proximity of the Baskerville
estate whose worried of a possible attempt on the life of Henry. Henry
falls in love with a beautiful neighbor, Beryl Stapleton(Wendy
Barrie)and she has a very intelligent brother, John(Morton Lowry), who
fancies artifacts and is well schooled in historical matters. A
developing sub-plot has an escaped lunatic on the loose in the moors
near Baskerville estate, and he could be somewhat related to Henry's
husband-and-wife servants, the Barrymans(John Carradine and Barlowe
Borland)who send to him clothes and food. The key to the mystery is why
one would so desire to kill Sir Henry, the motives could be linked to
the vast estate and the money that comes with the Baskerville family.
The similarities are striking in regards to the delightful, colorful Hammer version starring Peter Cushing and Andre Morell as Holmes and Watson. How Holmes sends Watson on ahead to "watch over" Sir Henry as he was supposedly "attending to business in London" when in actuality, he needed to have a chance to catch a later train, and keep out of sight from those eyes which shadow those staying in the Baskerville manor, observing from afar so he can put a case together where lives might be in jeopardy if the mastermind behind a possible murder plot isn't caught. Like Greene, Christopher Lee was the handsome, well-groomed, and unbelieving Sir Henry, who finds the whole "curse of the Baskervilles" nonsensical rubbish. Both films contain the "lunatic on the loose throughout the Moors" sub-plot where the crazy is applied as a red herring whose fate unfortunately lies in a suit he is given to wear. Carradine is suitably creepy as the caretaker, his hair slick and parted down the middle, his eyes yet again utilized effectively, his demeanor appropriately questionable. Borland, as his wife, is also well cast, her role in the plot, at first, suspicious. Unlike the later Hammer film, however, is the role of the Stapletons. Barrie as Beryl, is very frightened of the howls of the hound while her brother seems sincere in his worry for Sir Henry's safety. In the Hammer version the Stapleton characters are a peasant father and daughter, with Sir Henry falling in love with Cecil(portrayed by Marla Landi), living off what little they have on the Moors. In the '39 version, Sir Henry's boot is stolen for later use where in Hammer's a spider is placed in it to kill him(..Sir Henry has a weak heart, passed down through heredity, and Lee's character is deathly afraid of the creepy crawlies).
With a superb cast and marvelous atmosphere(..the Moors and adjoining cemetery are wonderful sets effectively shrouded in fog and dark, with plenty of rock formations and hilly areas where danger is always imminent), not to mention the scary hound which is used by someone whose intentions is to viciously attack and kill Sir Henry, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is a definite must-see for any Holmes aficionado. If you love mysteries or Gothic horror, I think this movie will indeed be a treasure. Rathbone exudes a confidence, swagger, intellect, and dogged drive, traits I consider valuable to this character whose ego, large as it is, is important in Holmes' abilities to solve even the most challenging crimes. Bruce, his side-kick Watson, is often comically abused, but contributes, as he always would, to Holmes' solving the case. He would oftentimes play foil to Holmes, as mistakes due to overconfidence in his own abilities would hinder him, so that the detective could reveal the truth regarding matters involving cases they work on as a team. Rathbone and Bruce's chemistry and camaraderie is a pleasure to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Libraries and bookstores often put Hound of the Baskervilles in the
horror section, well I never thought of the book to be exactly that. As
Sherlock Holmes mysteries go, it was a long if nothing truly
outstanding. There have been many movie interpretations over the years
including Hammer horror versions, spoofs and multiple TV movies. There
was even a silent version before this one, if my memory serves me
correctly. So I guess it's one of the more famous of the original
Produced by 20th Century Fox, this was the first of 14 Holmes adventures to star Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce (descendant of 'Robert The') as Holmes and Watson. It stays fairly faithful to the book but misses out some of the meatier parts. Barrymore and his wife (here called Barryman instead) are no longer secretly brother and sister and the presence of the hound isn't as oppressive as it seemed in the novel. And it's obvious that the movie is clearly not really shot on Dartmoor but on a sound-stage in California. But it's none the worse for that. The studio setting actually lends a unique atmosphere to the gloomy Grimpen Mire and I especially like the dark and shadowy Baskerville Hall. I just wish more happened in and around it.
The chemistry between Rathbone and Bruce here already seems to be perfect. Watson and Holmes have an original friendship and, as actors, they take advantage of that to accentuate their performances. I am aware that all Holmes/Watson combination of actors have done this over the years, but not as frequently as these two.
A good timekiller, I just wish they made it longer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Hound of the Baskervilles is set in Victorian England during '1889'
& starts with Sir Charles Baskerville (Ian Maclaren) running through
the mist enshrouded moor late one night, as he approaches the safety of
Baskerville Hall he collapses & dies... During the inquest the official
cause of death is put down to heart failure by his best friend Dr.
James Mortimer (Lionel Atwill), however he remains unconvinced &
travels to Baker Street in London to seek the help of the world's
foremost detective Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) & his trusty
assistant Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce). Mortimer tells Holmes of the legend
of the hound of the Baskervilles that dates back to 1650 & that he
fears for the next Baskerville in line, Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard
Greene) who is arriving from Canada shortly to claim the Baskerville
estate & money. When Henry arrives an attempt is made on his life but
still insists on travelling to Dartmoor & Baskerville Hall. Once there
the mystery deepens with the strange acting servants Mr. & Mrs Barryman
(John Carradine & Eily Malyon), a shadowy figure (Nigel De Brulier)
roaming on the moor & terrifying howls heard late at night that echo
across the moor...
Directed by Sidney Lanfield this was the first of fourteen Holmes mysteries to star the duo of Rathbone & Bruce as Holmes & Watson & is a fine film. The script by Ernest Pascal based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which I have not read so I cannot compare them, is pretty much like any other version you may have seen, all the character's you would expect, all the red herrings & all the important plot points are here. The Hound of the Baskervilles is a very well balanced film that grips & engages with a well developed mystery but if you have already seen any other adaptation then there will be nothing new here, also the ending is a bit abrupt & we don't see what happens to the killer.
Director Lanfield does a good job, he manages to create some good atmosphere during the moor scenes although they were obviously shot on a stage in a studio somewhere. The hound itself is rarely used but it looks suitably fearsome & the final battle between it & Sir Henry is well staged.
Technically the film is good despite some dodgy looking sets, the black and white cinematography is fine as is the music & Baskerville Hall is an old spooky house in the best tradition. The acting is OK with Rathbone making a great Holmes while Bruce plays the bumbling Watson mostly for laughs.
This version of The Hound of the Baskervilles (surely one of the most filmed novels ever) is right up there with the best of them although once you have seen one there's no great surprise, need or interest in watching the others. If you have not seen a Hound of the Baskervilles adaptation before then I definitely recommend this one, if you have then I'm not sure how much enjoyment you will take from it.
The first movie to star Basil Rathbone as the famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes, with Nigel Bruce as his bumbling sidekick Dr. Watson,is an entertaining mystery movie.The story set in the Yorkshire moors gives the feeling of a Gothic horror story. The fog machine was certainly working overtime on those sets.Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce turn in magnificent portrayals in their most famous roles.The hound of the story is truly a frightening beast. It's fun to watch the old horror star Lionel Atwill as the village doctor.Other cast members do their best to look suspicious enough to lead the public on a wild goose chase after the culprit.A very satisfying movie.
I have seen many adaptations of The Hound but this is the one I enjoyed the most. The fabulous set designs and mist transplant you to a bleak and threatening Dartmoor effortlessly. It is true to say that the older Sherlock films do evoke a sense of nostalgia and crackle with charm but this film has more to merit watching it than that. I found the end of the film to possess great tension, tension that had me gripped unlike any other adaptation previously witnessed. Basil Rathbone's first turn as Holmes is assured and Nigel Bruce's portrayal as Watson (although purists disagree) is a joy to watch - providing just enough levity to this foreboding tale. The film was originally made as a Richard Greene vehicle and he plays Sir Henry with a wonderful sense of naivety, but it is undoubtedly Rathbones film. Great story, great cast and a wonderful turn from the sets make this film the definitive 'Hound'.
Then this is the one.
I had the pleasure of seeing this at the theater during it's revival in 1976 and found myself silently mouthing the quotes lifted directly from Doyles' novella. At that time, our local TV affiliate station was airing the other 13 Rathbone/Bruce films every Sunday night at 11:30pm called (naturally) 'Sherlock Holmes Theater'. With that steady diet of Watson's blundering, it was a real eye opener that Nigel Bruce portrayed a more rounded 3 dimensional interpretation of the beloved doctor that was refreshing.
Also refreshing was that this was one of two from the 20th Century Fox studio set amid the gaslit Victorian age. What a loss that Fox abandoned their original intentions of continuing the series on a yearly basis that would have kept the stories in the late 19th century.
But it is Rathbone's persona that displays Holmes' razor sharp cunning and methodical science of deduction that allows him to steal every scene he's in. It's his brilliant acting abilities that actually crippled his chances (and ours) of showing the world exactly how versatile his abilities were (catch 1938's "If I Were King" for his excellent Oscar nominated performance). Equally rewarding is watching Bruce's reactions to Holmes (gentle) ribbings that was just one aspect of the chemistry that existed between these 2 characters that was true in spirit for their fondness for each other (if not in accuracy). It is their on screen relationship that carried all 14 films.
The DVD transfer is excellent and this is one black and white film that should not be viewed on anything less. The 1939 'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" is a great double feature that's highly recommended cause chances are your appetite won't be satisfied with just one Holmes story.
Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce's first film together as Holmes and
Watson is also one of their most accomplished, a brilliantly paced,
highly atmospheric murder mystery that not only boasts an excellent
script, fine performances, and suspenseful direction from Sidney
Lanfield, but which also introduces many of the stock elements that
would go to make the long running series such a success: a raft of well
defined but highly suspicious characters; creepy fog-bound locations
(Dartford Moors and Victorian London); an old, dark manor; and a
centuries old legend.
On top of all that, we also get to enjoy the sight of Holmes donning a daft disguise and adopting a silly accent (always a treat), Watson being rather heroic (whilst still proving to be something of a bumbling fool), the titular hound savagely attacking Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene), and a rather risqué final line of dialogue that alludes to one of Holmes' darker obsessions.
It's all so much fun I can easily forgive the rather plot-convenient decision made by Sir Henry Baskerville to walk home across the moors, without which we wouldn't have such a rousing finalé.
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