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The Hound of the Baskervilles

USA 1939
produced by
Darryl F. Zanuck (executive) for 20th Century Fox
directed by Sidney Lanfield
starring Basil Rathbone, Richard Greene, Wendy Barrie, Nigel Bruce, Lionel Atwill, John Carradine, Barlowe Borland, Beryl Mercer, Morton Lowry, Ralph Forbes, E.E. Clive, Eily Malyon, Lionel Pape, Nigel De Brulier, Mary Gordon, Ian Maclaren
screenplay by Ernest Pascal, based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, music by David Buttolph, Charles Maxwell, Cyril J.Mockridge, David Raksin

Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone), Sherlock Holmes at 20th Century Fox, Hound of the Baskervilles

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Doctor Mortimer (Lionel Atwill) pays a visit to Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) to ask him to guard Sir Henry (Richard Greene), who is presently returning to Dartmoor from Canada to take over the Baskerville estate from his recently deceased uncle - a man who has died from a heart attack, induced by the mysterious hound of the Baskervilles, as many believe. Holmes though claims to have little interest in playing nursemaid to the man, whose biggest worry it seems to be to have lost a boot - but sends his friend Doctor Watson (Nigel Bruce) to Dartmoor to accompany Sir Henry. Once at his estate, Sir Henry is quick to romance neighbouring lady Beryl Stapleton (Wendy Barrie), who lives right across the moor from the Baskerville estate with her brother John (Morton Lowry). Apart from that, Henry and Watson soon find out that the estate's butler (John Carradine) and maid (Eily Malyon), the Barrymans, have something to do with an escaped convict (Nigel De Brulier) hiding out in the moor, who will eventually turn out to be Mrs Barryman's brother and who will be killed by what appears to be the hound of the Baskervilles. This is also when Sherlock Holmes shows up again, claiming to have watched over everything in disguise, and stating that now that the convict is dead, the threat for Sir Henry's life is over, and he hastens to get back to London along with Watson, while Sir Henry plans on celebrating his engagement to Lady Beryl.

Of course, Sir Henry's life is still very much in danger, and Holmes knows that so he has pretended to leave and to lure the murderer, who thinks he is luring Sir Henry into a trap, into a trap himself. And really, that night, when walking through the moor, Sir Henry is attacked by a hound, a hound released by John Stapleton actually, and he is only just saved by Holmes and Watson, who kill the hound, actually nothing more than an ordinary (yet big and dangerous) dog who had been trained on Sir Henry's scent using his stolen boot (see above). Stapleton however manages to lock Holmes in and then tries to make another attempt on Sir Henry's life, who of course doesn't know that Stapleton's the culprit of the piece yet - but Holmes manages to free himself and tend to the killer just in time.

But why has Stapleton done it?

Because unbeknowest to everybody, he is a Baskerville himself, and with Sir Henry's death, he would inherit his estate. Beryl had no idea about all of this, and eventually, she will marry Sir Henry and move to Canada with him ...

 


An immensely popular version of The Hounde of the Baskervilles that actually spawned a whole series of Sherlock Holmes features, this is however far from the best adaptation of the story, at least from today's point of view, and the main problem of the film is its focus: Instead of presenting the audience with a detective story with horror overtones, this is a love story (between Sir Henry and Lady Beryl) with a bit of mystery thrown in, and Richard Greene as loverboy gives one of his weaker performances, especially when compared to Basil Rathbone, who is sharp as usual. And the lovestory angle of the movie causes it to totally lose steam about halfway through, so much so that the appearance of Sherlock Holmes in Dartmoor comes at a rather random point of the storyline, and when Stapleton is revealed to be the killer, this also lacks proper build-up. Plus, Sherlock Holmes is way too much an obvious do-gooder in this one, compared to other versions. Sure, at least Basil Rathbone's a good Sherlock, the rest of the cast is pretty fine too, and the sets are at least adequate, but without a decent script and a more poignant direction, all of this doesn't necessarily make a good film.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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out now on DVD