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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."
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
The moors are as much of a character as any of the people (or the hound). The eerie, foggy environs are the perfect place for a mystery. I understand that the Sherlock Holmes books helped revolutionize criminology, due to Holmes's methods of solving the cases. I haven't read any of the books, although I've seen "Young Sherlock Holmes" and the recent movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. There's no doubt that "The Hound of the Baskervilles" has held up very well over the years. I hope to see the rest of the Rathbone-Bruce series.
So how about regaling us with the violin?
Excellent film complete with dark foggy moors, moor ponies getting trapped on the heath, a savage beast-dog and John Carradine as a very sinister houseman.
Holmes shows up at the Devonshire estate after Watson has already been received as a guest. There is a wonderful scene where he pretends to be a denizen of the moor, and an old, odd transient man, wandering the heath. Trying to peddle his zither and fuss-el(dog whistle) Basil Rathbone was such a talented character actor. It is a shame we don't really have anyone of his caliber, perhaps in theater , yes, but not film. Films like this are a gem and worth buying the collection for a cold winter's night. Highly recommended and good suspense for children. 10/10.
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.)
The film is convincingly shot in Hollywood, with atmospheric, fog-enshrouded sets and a realistic titular beast that doesn't disappoint when it shows up. Rathbone gives an effortless turn as Holmes while Bruce is slightly wiser here than he would become in later instalments in which the comic relief was enhanced. The exemplary supporting cast includes Lionel Atwill and John Carradine, two actors famed for their horror roles, and indeed this does feel like a horror movie throughout in the best old-fashioned Gothic sense.
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)
However, apart from that, this is extremely good stuff. The script had a strong sense of intelligence, and the climatic scenes with the hound itself were suspenseful and chilling to say the least. The acting is of high calibre, while I personally think Jeremy Brett is the definitive Holmes, Basil Rathbone is absolutely superb here. He looks as though he is having a great time, making Holmes witty, dynamic and sophisticated, and that was a sheer delight to see. Nigel Bruce while not as good as Rathbone, makes a fine Dr Watson. Out of the stellar supporting cast, John Carradine and Morton Lowry stood out as Barryman and Stapleton, while Lionel Attwill's Dr Mortimer is also effective. Also as Sir Henry Baskerville, Richard Greene has the screen presence and charm to make himself memorable. All in all, almost perfect, nevertheless a classy and atmospheric adaptation of a great book. 9/10 Bethany Cox
This is truly a haunting and mysterious drama that will frighten and engage its audience while providing a lasting imprint on memory. The séance scene is an example of the times giving a quality of supernatural mystery attributed to most haunting ghost stories.
See it, buy it, just get your hands on this one and enjoy. A great story that is beautifully rendered here on celluloid, truthfully and honestly, the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have wanted it.
What classic acting! What a fantastic story! This film began a great series in the cinematic Holmes canon. It is paced well, and has great atmosphere.
And, yes, it really does "sound like the cry of a gigantic hound!"
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.