A mystery film written by Ernest Pascal, based on the novel THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was produced by Gene Markey and Darryl F Zanuck and directed by Sidney Lanfield. The music was provided by David Buttolph, Charles Maxwell, Cyril J Mockridge and David Raksin. It is among the best-known cinematic adaptations of the book and is often regarded as one of the very best.
The film stars Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson and Richard Greene as Henry Baskerville. Because Twentieth Century-Fox was unsure that the film would be a success, or that Rathbone and Bruce would appear in more SHERLOCK HOLMES films together, top billing went to Richard Greene, who was the film's romantic lead. The rest of the cast includes Wendy Barrie, Lionel Atwill, John Carradine. Morton Lowry, EE Clive, Ralph Forbes, Nigel De Brulier and Mary Gordon as Mrs Hudson.
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES marks the first of fourteen SHERLOCK HOLMES films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, respectively. It gets the black and white film series off to a fine start.
It’s a great one, ant-mac . I grew up on this series and the contemporaneous Universal monsters…wrote a review on the Classics board a few months back.
It’s one of my favorites of the series as well, though it must be conceded that both it and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are slower-paced than the Uni series. You’re spot-on in calling it a perfect rainy day kind of flick, and the whole Baker Street atmosphere is very warm and inviting. The casting is perfect, particularly Lionel Atwill as a wildly-suspicious Dr. Mortimer. (I love that séance scene, even though it is kinda pointless and has no grounding in the book.) The horror movie atmosphere is a particular delight.
And Rathbone is, at this early stage, the great Sherlock Holmes: energetic, daring, chivalrous, even a bit aloof à la Jeremy Brett. He was always more avuncular and kinder than Brett, but here he’s “into” his role and not afraid to be cold when necessary. The old question is, is Rathbone the best Holmes, or Brett? (And Everson opted for Arthur Wontner!) I’m not even going to attempt to answer that one, but here I think Rathbone was the most fully-rounded of them all. And Bruce! He’s a superb Watson here, perhaps not as bright as Doyle character but far brighter than he’d later be, love his take on the character though I do.
There’s so much good about this one, but if I say any more the nostalgia may be talkin’. (I used to watch Rathbone and Bruce and Laurel and Hardy with my grandpa—first “old movies” I ever saw!) My greatest criticism, really, is that we don’t get to see the villain captured at the end; the picture more or less peters out, though the last line is good. Either way, it’s by far my favorite Hound of the Baskervilles adaptation.
For some reason I often find myself thinking about this dialogue:
Henry: Doesn’t anybody know who they [Neolithic man] were or what they looked like?
Beryl: Jack has some theory about them. But anyway they must have been very primitive—living on roots and dressing in skins.
Henry: But still laughing and dreaming, just as we do.
Salzmank - I've always been a fan of the film series, ever since I was a child. About a decade ago, I came across a box set of the entire film series on DVD.
They had been restored and were in as good condition as they were ever likely to be. The box set cost me $70 - $5 per film. I was kept busy for the next few days.
However, there is one version of Sherlock Holmes I prefer over this. Have you ever been fortunate enough to see Jeremy Brett in the role for the TV series from Granada? It's perhaps the most accurate version to date. Absolutely brilliant.
As for what I’ve seen of Brett’s…I think everything but a few of the episodes of the last series, when he was really sick. PBS used to broadcast the Bretts around here; I wish they still did…
Shame indeed that he didn’t get to complete it. I would have loved to have seen a Brett version of The Valley of Fear (my favorite of the four Holmes novels).
Have you seen Ian Richardson’s Holmes? He plays it about halfway between Rathbone and Brett—a very interesting portrayal.
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. If I did, it would have been quite some time ago.
However, I did see him portray Doctor Joseph Bell opposite Robin Laing's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the TV series, MURDER ROOMS: THE DARK BEGINNINGS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Basically, he played the man whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle later used as a major inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles / Sidney Lanfield. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. December 1893 was the last the British reading public had heard from Sherlock Holmes because Arthur Conan Doyle had sent the Consulting Detective to his death in that month’s issue of The Strand Magazine in a story titled “The Final Problem.” Seven years later, giving into public demand (and needing to earn some money), Doyle penned another Holmes story to be serialized in The Strand over nine monthly issues. The story would be set in an earlier time, before the events of “The Final Problem.” In the August 1901 issue, readers got their first taste of “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Immediately, we are on familiar ground. Holmes and Watson banter over breakfast at their lodgings. Holmes makes some deductions about the client they expect any moment. When the client, Dr. Mortimer is amazed that Holmes knows so much already. Then Doyle sets up Strand subscribers to be thunderstruck by one of the most famous cliffhangers in literary history. Dr. Mortimer reads to Holmes and Watson the Legend Of The Baskervilles, how, in retaliation for the acts of a brutal ancestor, the Baskerville clan is said to be cursed by a Giant Hound From Hell. Mortimer then explains that the most recent Lord Baskerville was found dead one morning after a walk on the moors. His tracks seemed to indicate he was walking on his tip-toes. But there were other tracks, as well. For the issue’s last line Mortimer says, “Mr. Holmes, they were the tracks of a gigantic hound.” Readers were left hanging for a whole month. So, what does this have to do with this film which is almost universally considered to be the best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made? Well, for me, the movie goes “thud” for me early on because they have Dr. Mortimer (Lionel Atwell) say his “tracks of the hound” line BEFORE he reads the story of the legend. I have never gotten over that blunder.
The “Hound” was an American Hollywood production at 20th Century Fox studios with a mostly British cast (John Carradine is an exception). Baker Street outside of 221B was a back lot. The moors and the Great Grimpen Mire were a very large construct within a big sound stage. Basil Rathbone was given the role that would define the rest of his career. But after the initial extravagance, budgets seemed to get cut back. Characters have their character changed leaving loose ends (who sent the warning letter), one character is added (Mrs. Mortimer, to have an excuse for an inexcusable séance scene), another greatly expanded (Frankland), and another dropped entirely from Doyle’s story (Laura Lyons). Rathbone’s performance, the correct period setting, and the great set design are enough to carry the film (it was very successful upon its original release), but that initial gaffe with Dr. Mortimer’s presentation continues to spoil my experience of watching.
I don't think you fully understand, Mr. Bigelow. You've been murdered.