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The Hound of the Baskervilles
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Index 87 reviews in total 

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Don't Compare It to the Original

Author: Hitchcoc from United States
16 November 2001

I am a great fan of the Sherlock Holmes canon. I also realize that books and movies are two different things. I try very hard to not compare them. However, one thing I believe is that movies should still be true to the spirit of the work of fiction. Most of this film is, indeed, true to its roots. Basil Rathbone is a masterful Sherlock Holmes, certainly the most recognizable of them all (I prefer Jeremy Brett because I think he was true to what Conan-Doyle envisioned). Along with "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes," this is also a period piece, not set in the 1940's like so many of the later ones were. I've never cared for Nigel Bruce's Watson because he is an unimaginative buffoon (this is the character that Bruce plays in most of his roles--"Rebecca, for instance). How the man portrayed in this series would have enough knowledge or talent to be the literary portrayer of his friend's exploits is beyond me. Nevertheless, this is still a very fine film. The atmosphere of the moor has never been improved upon. It is quickly paced and entertaining. I don't know where that seance came from. This is a convention that is totally out of place and meaningless to the solving of the mystery. Mr. Frankland, instead of being a wise and nasty litigenous, threatening character, is shown to be merely doddering and eccentric. Rathbone, however, dominates every scene he is in and carries things off very well. The movie is quotable and well worth watching many times.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Still the best screen version of the immortal Sherlock Holmes mystery...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
13 April 2001

Despite the fact that this 1939 version of 'Hound' was filmed entirely on studio sets at Fox and directed by Sidney Lanfield (more noted for his lighter entertainments), this is as atmospheric and effective as one could wish. The foggy moors never looked more menacing and the handsome interiors provide the perfect setting for a story of this sort. All of the actors are perfectly cast with Rathbone and Bruce superb in their first Holmes entry. Even better is the Holmes film that followed this--'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'--again at Fox and given a handsome production. But only purists will carp at whatever shortcomings they find in comparing this film to the Arthur Conan Doyle story. It stands on its own as a fine atmospheric work, absorbing and entertaining all the way through. Morton Lowry is fascinating in a supporting role as Wendy Barrie's brother--an interesting film actor whose career petered out after a few distinguished films to his credit. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, this one won't disappoint you. Highly recommended.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A not entirely accurate adaptation of a classic Detective-Horror story

Author: David Lim from Melbourne, Australia
27 December 1999

It constantly amazes and frustrates me just how many times I've seen adaptations of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" that fail to completely adhere to Arthur Conan Doyle's original novel. I would encourage anyone who has watched this film to read the original novel first, and then list the differences between the original and this movie adaptation.

The greatest difficulty that I have with this film is the ending. I suspect that the script writer felt that the novel's ending wasn't melodramatic enough for a filmgoing audience. One other film adaptation I have seen has committed the same slight.

The best aspect of the film is undoubtedly Basil Rathbone's performance as Sherlock Holmes, and Nigel Bruce's performance as Dr. John Watson. Rathbone IS Sherlock Holmes - he sounds exactly the way I had always envisioned him. Commanding, resourceful, with a great presence, and a keen and incisive mind. And Bruce does a wonderful job as Dr. Watson, my only wish is that he had not portrayed Watson as such a buffoon - the original Watson was far more resourceful than what was presented here.

It was not Bruce's or Rathbone's fault that they were presented with a script that was not as faithful to Doyle's original story as it should've been. This film is essentially a "condensed" version of the original story (ie. Baskervilles "lite").

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Great Cast, Fun Film

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
7 January 2010

Hound of the Baskerville, The (1939)

*** (out of 4)

Nice adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic novel has Basil Rathbone in his first role as Sherlock Holmes. In the film he and Watson (Nigel Bruce) are called to the home of the Baskerville where there's fear that the family curse might strike Sir Henry (Richard Greene) but is it really a deadly beast or something human? I'm not 100% positive but I'm pretty sure this novel has gained the most film adaptations, which is quite understandable as the story itself is a classic and a director would have so much to work with. Not only do we get the rich characters of Holmes and Watson but the story offers up plenty of great supporting players and a setting to die for. It doesn't take director Lanfield very long to draw us into the story as that happens from the word go when we see Baskerville running towards the camera in a fog so thick that you can actually feel it on your skin. This wonderfully atmospheric sequence will put you right into the setting and then the wonderful cast takes over. It's funny to see Rathbone get second billing but it's strange to see how little Holmes has to do in the film. There's a very big chunk where Holmes is no where to be seen but the excellent supporting cast really keeps everything moving perfectly. We have Lionel Atwill perfect as Mortimer, John Carradine as a weird butler, Wend Barrie as Beryl Stapleton and Morton Lowry as her step brother. All of them do great work here as does Greene in the lead role. It goes without saying that Rathbone and Bruce make quite an impression here and it's easy to see why they were cast in all the films that were to follow. Rathbone works so incredibly well with all the supporting players and especially Atwill as the two of them also squared off in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN this year. Some people have a problem with the ending, which is somewhat understandable but for the most part this is an extremely stylish little thriller that has enough atmosphere for two movies. Yes, there are flaws but there's still enough here to make this a must see for fans of the genre.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Welcome back, old friend

Author: backseat-2 from Chicago
30 April 2004

Finally, the best version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and arguably the best filmed Sherlock Holmes has made the transition to DVD. The script is quite close to the book, and interestingly, subsequent film versions copied many of the differences pioneered by this 1939 treatment. Basil Rathbone IS Sherlock Holmes, and Nigel Bruce is the definitive Dr. Watson (given a more sober and realistic portrayal in this film than in subsequent Rathbone/Bruce pairings). If you only see one Holmes film, make this the one.

A few interesting points on this version. The film was shot entirely on sound stages, and if you listen carefully, you can hear the indoor-sounding echoes as they converse 'outdoors' in the moor. The actress who plays Miss Stapleton's first name is Wendy; I have heard that she is one of the first people to be so named, as she is a close relation to the author of Peter Pan, who apparently invented that name for his heroine. The name of the butler was changed from the original Barrymore to Barryman, to avoid audience confusion with the then-popular Barrymore acting family. The original actor who played the Notting Hill murderer bowed out and all his scenes has to be re-shot, causing the film to end up a bit too short. The famous last line in the movie "Oh, Watson, the needle!" was cut from all British releases of the film until recently, apparently because Holmes drug use (administered by Dr. Watson), was politically unpopular.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of the best Rathbone/Bruce Holmes adventures

Author: Penfold-13 from London, UK
6 September 1999

This film is an antique, and needs to be watched as one. Using today's standards to judge, when we are much more used to fast-paced detective shows on TV, this is slow, and the special effects are amateurish.

But it is a classic of its time. Basil Rathbone's aquiline features and sharp, rapid speech coupled with Nigel Bruce's rotund chump with the booming voice set the standard by which all other Holmes and Watson pairs have to be judged.

There's nothing special about the filming - it's more a stage play with a lot of sets than an exhibition of the cinematographer's and director's art - and the acting is mostly 30s British stage thespianism, mannered and arch, except for Bruce and Rathbone.

There were to be many more Holmes films made with this pair, mostly only watchable because of them, if at all, but this one was done with some style, while the later ones were pretty perfunctory.

A fine piece of cinema history.

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Good Atmospheric Version of the Story

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
26 August 2004

This version of the classic Sherlock Holmes mystery of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is solid rather than flashy, but it is of very good quality, especially in terms of the atmosphere. Basil Rathbone works very well as Holmes, and while Nigel Bruce is probably a little different from the literary Dr. Watson, he is more than adequate in the role. This is one of the few films of the Rathbone/Bruce series that uses one of the original stories, and it is easily one of the best.

The story depends heavily on the atmosphere of Baskerville Hall and the surrounding moors and wilderness, and the settings here bring that out effectively. The story is somewhat streamlined, leaving a few details unexplored, but it does move at a good pace and makes good use of the settings. There are so many cinema versions of the Holmes stories to choose from that it would be difficult to try to compare any one version with all of the others. But this one is a worthwhile and enjoyable recreation of one of the best-known of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

My first movie ever.

Author: revival05 from Sweden
17 April 2000

This movie was the first one I've ever seen. I remember being up late at night when I was five years old and watched this movie with my mother of all peoples! I can't say I remember much but I re-saw this movie a while ago and I must say it was good. I never feel bored with old movies (not even when I was five) like so many others. A personal classic of mine.


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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Very loyal to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writings.

Author: Coventry from the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls
26 December 2005

Despite unquestionably being the greatest Sherlock Holmes story, this "The Hound of the Baskervillers"-version wasn't the best entry in the long-running Rathbone/Bruce series, and that's largely due to the uninspired directing by Sidney Lanfield. Starting with "The Secret Weapon" in 1943, Roy William Neill would take place in the director's chair and from then on the installments became a lot more imaginative and diverse. Of course, this film isn't bad at all! It's even very good but that's all thanks to the close following of Sir Conan Doyle magnificent story about a mysterious family curse, terrorizing Henry Baskerville upon his arrival home in Devonshire. Dating back to the vile history of ancestor Hugo Baskerville, a bloodthirsty hound prowls the estate moors and kills every member of the family clan. The story is terrific but, oddly enough, Sherlock Holmes is absent during most of the investigation, leaving Dr. Watson at the Baskerville mansion to get friendly with Sir Henry and his suspicious servants and neighbors. In most "Hound of the Baskervilles" adaptations, Holmes' long-time absence is altered, but Lanfield sticks to the novel which means that Basil Rathbone actually isn't the main star here. Despite all the little flaws, this is still a terrific contemporary thriller with neat set pieces and a great supportive cast. Horror veterans Lionel Atwill ("Doctor X", "Mystery of the Wax Museum") and John Carradine ("Bluebeard", "House of Frankenstein") star as additional red herrings and the sequences in the moors are very atmospheric. The hound itself, although underused, is efficiently terrifying. With Basil Rathbone out of the picture most of the time, Nigel Bruce is given the perfect opportunity to prove his talented acting skills. The scene where he pretends to be Sherlock Holmes easily is the most enchanting moment of his entire acting career.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Sherlock Holmes Meets Robin Hood

Author: telegonus from brighton, ma
19 April 2003

I wouldn't quite rate this version of Conan Doyle's Hound Of the Baskervilles as a dog, but I found it somewhat of a disappointment despite the great screen chemistry of Rathbone and Bruce. It was also nice to see Richard Greene some two decades before he donned tights to play Robin Hood; Lionel Atwill was always good to see, as was, in a different sense, Wendy Barrie. But felicitous casting does not a movie make, and the film moves like molasses. It's not terrible, but it's a letdown for one who regards the later B Sherlock series as movie heaven. A more appropriate director than the music and comedy Sidney Lanfield might have helped. Rumor had it that James Whale was set to direct, then either pulled out or was replaced. This is a pity. The tale of the dog deserved much better.

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