The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939 film)

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The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Hound of the Baskervilles - 1939- Poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Lanfield
Produced byGene Markey
Darryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay byErnest Pascal
Based onThe Hound of the Baskervilles
1902 novel
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Starring
Music byDavid Buttolph
Charles Maxwell
Cyril J. Mockridge
David Raksin
CinematographyPeverell Marley
Edited byRobert Simpson
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 31, 1939 (1939-03-31)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1939 mystery film based on the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was directed by Sidney Lanfield and released by 20th Century-Fox.[1]

It is among the best-known cinematic adaptations of the book, and is often regarded as one of the best.[2] The film stars Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson and Richard Greene as Henry Baskerville, Wendy Barrie as Beryl Stapleton. Fox was unsure of the potential of a film about Sherlock Holmes, so top billing went to Richard Greene and not to Rathbone[3].

The Hound of the Baskervilles marks the first of the fourteen Sherlock Holmes films starring Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson, respectively.[3] It is also notable as the earliest known Sherlock Holmes film to be set in the Victorian period of the original stories[4] all known previous Holmes films, up to and including the 1930s British film series starring Arthur Wontner as Holmes, had been updated to a setting contemporaneous with the films' release.

Lionel Atwill returned as Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942) and Morton Lowry in Pursuit to Algiers (1945) as Sanford. Mary Gordon was in ten films of the series.[5]

Plot[edit]

Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr John H. Watson (Nigel Bruce) receive a visit from Dr. James Mortimer (Lionel Atwill), who wishes to consult them before the arrival of Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene), the last of the Baskervilles, heir to the Baskerville estate in Devonshire.

Dr Mortimer is anxious about letting Sir Henry go to Baskerville Hall, owing to a supposed family curse. He tells Holmes and Watson the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles, a demonic dog that first killed Sir Hugo Baskerville (Ralph Forbes) several hundred years ago (seen in flashback) and is believed to kill all Baskervilles in the region of Devonshire.

Holmes dismisses it as a fairy tale, but Mortimer narrates the events of the recent death of his best friend, Sir Charles Baskerville, Sir Henry's uncle. Although he was found dead in his garden without any trace of physical damage, Sir Charles's face was distorted as if he died in utter terror, from heart failure. He alone had noticed footprints at some distance from the body when it was found; they were the paw marks of a gigantic hound.

Holmes decides to send Watson to Baskerville Hall along with Sir Henry, claiming that he is too busy to accompany them himself. Sir Henry quickly develops a romantic interest in Beryl Stapleton (Wendy Barrie), the step-sister of his neighbour Jack Stapleton (Morton Lowry), a local naturalist. Meanwhile, a homicidal maniac (Nigel De Brulier), escaped from Dartmoor Prison, lurks on the moor.

Holmes eventually makes an appearance, having been hiding in the vicinity for some time making his own investigation. An effective scene, not in the original book, occurs when Watson and Sir Henry attend a seance held by Mrs. Mortimer (Beryl Mercer). In a trance, she asks, "What happened that night on the moor, Sir Charles?" The only reply is a lone howl, possibly from a hound. After some clever deception by Holmes, he surmises that the true criminal is Stapleton, a long-lost cousin of the Baskervilles, who hopes to claim their vast fortune himself after removing all other members of the bloodline.

Stapleton kept a huge, half-starved, vicious dog (played by a Great Dane) trained to attack individual members of the Baskervilles after prolonged exposure to their scent. However, when the hound is finally sent to kill Sir Henry Baskerville, Holmes and Watson arrive to save him just in time. They kill the hound. Stapleton then traps Holmes down in the hound's underground kennel, and sends Watson into the moor to meet Holmes. Holmes cuts his way out of the kennel and returns to the house and destroys the poison that Stapleton had just given to the wounded Baskerville. Stapleton pulls a gun and flees. Holmes says ominously, "He won't get very far. I've posted constables along the roads and the only other way is across the Grimpen Mire." Holmes is praised for his work on the case, and he turns in.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

In a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin described the film as an "excellent film version" of the novel." noting that the film's elements "sustain the suspense until the exciting climax," and that "the atmosphere is extremely well contrived". Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were praised for their roles, while "only Wendy Barrie seems lifeless as Beryl in a cast which is uniformly good."[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

American Film Institute recognition

References[edit]

  1. ^ Barnes, Alan (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 186–188. ISBN 1-903111-04-8.
  2. ^ The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) at Turner Classic Movies
  3. ^ a b Bunson, Matthew (1994). Encyclopedia Sherlockiana: an A-to-Z guide to the world of the great detective. Macmillan. pp. 125–127. ISBN 978-0-671-79826-0.
  4. ^ Boström, Mattias (2018). From Holmes to Sherlock. Mysterious Press. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-8021-2789-1.
  5. ^ https://www.imdb.com/search/title?roles=nm0001651,nm0330435&title_type=feature,tv_episode,video,tv_movie,tv_special,mini_series,documentary,game,short
  6. ^ "Hound of the Baskervilles, The". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 6 no. 61. British Film Institute. 1939. p. 94.

External links[edit]