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This is the film that made Sherlock Holmes a passion in the Forties, that ruined Basil Rathbone's career and that probably made people more than usually cautious around large dogs. The tale is one of Conan Doyle's best constructed stories about The Great Detective. The movie does the story justice. It features performances, for good and bad, that set the images of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in people's minds for half a century. The atmosphere of the book, the foggy moor (in Dartmoor), the soggy mire (the Grimpen Mire), the great damp mansion on the edge of the mire, the sins of debauched ancestors coming home to destroy a young heir, a giant beast which glows through the fog as it slavers and runs toward you, and a ruthless murderer determined to win the final throw...all make for a hugely visual and entertaining movie. Even, at the end, the final words of one of the characters has an endearing touch. "Mr. Holmes, we've admired you in the past as does every Englishman. Your record as our greatest detective is known throughout the world. But this -- seeing how you work -- knowing that there is in England such a man as you -- gives us all a sense of safety and security. God bless you, Mr. Holmes!"
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and his friend Dr. John Watson (Nigel Bruce) are in their rooms at 221B Baker street. Holmes has been saving clippings about the death of Sir Charles Baskerville and the arrival from Canada of Sir Charles' heir, Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene), now Sir Henry. Holmes comments that he believes Baskerville will not long survive. Just then they have a visitor, a Dr. John Mortimer (Lionel Atwill). Mortimer tells Holmes the story of the Baskervilles and the curse that was laid upon them.Read more ›
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90 of 93 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic Restoration of a True Classic12 Mar. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
With the release of this feature and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," all 14 classic films by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce will have finally been released in a quality DVD format. The UCLA Theatre Archives has done an outstanding job in restoring and thus preserving these great films from 35mm master copies into the digital format, sometimes literally being forced to piece together the celluloid remnants they found. It took the archivists years to complete the entire project, but is well worth the wait. The result is that the black and white images seem as fresh today as when the films were released to theatres more than 40 years ago. The archivists deserve a hearty thanks from all movie fans concerned with preserving America's classic cinema heritage for future generations to enjoy. Atmospherically, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" is arguably the best of the 14 Holmes films, and the only one based specifically on a Conan Doyle story. It, and "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," are the only two "period" films in the series and run longer, the remainder taking place in then modern-day England and America of the late 30s and early 40s and run about 90 minutes each. In both "Hound" and "Adventures," Holmes dons his deerstalker cap, popularized by original Strand Magazine illustrator Sidney Paget who made the image synonymous with the great detective. It is interesting to note that in the first of the non-period films in the series, Holmes reaches for his handy deerstalker, but is stopped by Watson. "Holmes," Watson said, "you promised." Leaving the deerstalker on the peg, Holmes grabs a "modern" hat instead. Rathbone is especially sharp in "Hound of the Baskervilles," and is partnered by Bruce, who plays a bumbling Watson throughout the 14 films that was not Conan Doyle's vision of the great sleuth's biographical "Boswell." Nonetheless, the pairing is hugely entertaining and satisfying. The creation of the moor, the sinister grimpen mire and truly terrifying hound remains fantastic and does much to engender this story as one of Conan Doyle's most popular with modern-day readers and viewers alike. The final scene represents the only reference any of the 14 films made to Holmes' "seven-percent" cocaine habit as Rathbone asks Bruce to retrieve "the needle." The scene, criticized as too risque by 1939 audiences, caused the film's producers to make a conscious decision to omit any additional mention of Holmes' recreational drug use in future outings. I only wish that Rathbone and Bruce had lived to see their great work released to new audiences in this pristine DVD condition.
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
The essential "Hound"16 Feb. 2005
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It's perhaps surprising that "Hound of the Baskervilles" has become the single most well-known Sherlock Holmes story. True, like many of the short stories, it takes Holmes and Watson away from their digs in London and out to an ancient familial estate. But it has two elements that make it distinct from nearly every other of the original stories: it has a distinct supernatural element, and Holmes himself is absent for a sizeable portion of the narrative.No doubt Fox chose to adapt this story for its popularity as much as anything else, but the supernatural element was certainly a factor in its favor. One of the great selling points of the film is its recreation of the ghostly moors, even with studio sets. And it's only natural that Fox wanted to cover up Holmes' absence as much as possible, by creating what really hadn't been seen before on film: a convincing and engaging Holmes/Watson dichotomy.
Rathbone and Bruce make this film. Whether you like or dislike their individual interpretations, you've got to admit they work well together. And it's a testament to Nigel Bruce's ability as an actor, bumbler or no, that he can carry the film for those twenty or thirty minutes when Sherlock Holmes is completely absent. Richard Greene gets top billing, sure, but this is the first time a Holmes and Watson team completely outshine everything else in the production.
Some reviews take great pains to point out what Fox changed about this story. But in reality, this is probably the most straightforward "Hound" ever made. Most of the changes are made for simple brevity, stripping away the subplots and leaving the core. This is probably to keep the film both within budget, and from shifting too far from the Holmes/Watson focus; in other adaptations, Holmes might be off the screen for up to an hour. A couple changes are obviously made to please the studio (changing Barrymore to Barryman, so as not to insult the famous acting family) or the morals of the day (the complications concerning Stapleton's sister have been removed), but the only one that's really strange is the decision not to make the hound itself glow! It reduces the effectiveness of the climax, particularly after all the supernatural lead-up, and it's the one flaw I can really find with the film.
MPI presents this film in a very nice package that compliments its earlier "Sherlock Holmes Collection" releases of the later Universal films. Although the film, unlike the later ones, hasn't been restored by the UCLA, you'll hardly notice it; there's a few spots on certain scenes late in the action, but they are very fleeting indeed. This is a lovely, clean picture, very sharp, with great greys and blacks. Similarly, the mono audio is crisp and clear. You won't be unhappy.
The extras are a little more of a mixed bag. Richard Valley's booklet of production notes (should you purchase the disc) are, as usual, very insightful and well worth your time. Unfortunately, David Stuart Davies' commentary is rather dry and simplistic. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, you probably already know most of the information he relates, and may want skip it. Casual viewers, however, might find interest in skimming it with the chapter search buttons. A photo gallery is included, although it's constantly animated with zooms and pans (something which personally bothers me), and three trailers are included in a 'trailer gallery.' None of them, however, are for "The Hound of the Baskervilles." They are all re-release trailers, in pretty poor condition, for later films in the Universal series: "Dressed to Kill" (film #14), "House of Fear" (film #10), and "Terror by Night" (film #13). Why these particular trailers were chosen, I'm not sure.
If you're a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you'll not only want to see this film, you'll want to own it; at the $15-$20 price point, it's well worth it. This is the essential version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles," and even more so, the quintessential Sherlock Holmes film. Highly recommended.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Watson's finest hour on film10 Jun. 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
Many actors have tried, but none has surpassed Basil Rathbone's embodiment of Sherlock Holmes. The razor-sharp profile, hawk nose and cocaine eyes seem torn straight from the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle. This is, undeniably, one of the great pairings of actor and character in film history. Odd to think, then, that the first Holmes film with Rathbone and his faithful Dr. Watson, Nigel Bruce, gave neither man starring credit. That honor on "The Hound of the Baskervilles" went to the romantic leading man, Richard Greene. The lapse in logic was quickly corrected, with Rathbone and Bruce going on to top-bill 13 famed Holmes movies from 1939-46. The UCLA Film and TV Archive has rescued the films from public domain hell, in a restoration that aims to return them to 35mm theatrical condition using original elements and acetate copies. The results as seen on MPI's DVDs are indeed impressive, with shadows and light elegant and edgy. Wear is within reason, and the audio suffices. Film historians' commentaries have been added to some of the feature films, explaining, for instance, just how the 19th century detectives ended up battling Nazis in WWII. The MPI collection -- whose titles are available separately and in sets -- started rolling out in the fall. The series concludes at the beginning, with "Baskervilles" and "Adventures," both made by Fox before Universal took over and "modernized" the Doyle stories. The Uni films have their moments -- "Woman in Green," for example, is grand and grisly entertainment -- but there's no topping these initial releases, set in Victorian times. "Baskervilles" remains one of the most famous and fondly remembered Holmes films, but it is largely Dr. Watson's tale. Nigel Bruce's Watson quickly became a buffoon in the series, but here he is not to be trifled with. (Rathbone later defended his friend and co-star against critics, saying a "less lovable" actor would have ruined the series.) The restoration puts Fox's amazing sets on full display, including the fog-engulfed moor where the hound fillets his victims. The commentator, chipper British author David Stuart Davies, churns out minutiae and unmasks plot inconsistencies.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
It's Elementary: this is a Howling Good Mystery!!24 Jan. 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
(Note: this review is for the DVD "The Hound of the Baskervilles" released by "Mpi Media Group" in 2004.)
I watched this movie without reading the 1902 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel of the same name that it was based on. I'm glad I did this! Why? Because it forced me to really watch the movie in order to try and deduce who the murderer was.
This was the first movie that had Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. They would go on together to make thirteen more popular Sherlock Holmes movie mysteries. It's difficult to believe, but in this movie they were not given top billing!
The movie begins with printed text:
"1889: In all England there is no district more dismal than the vast expanse of primitive wasteland, the moors of Dartmoore in Devonshire."
Then we are shown a death of a man. The deceased turns out to be Sir Charles Baskerville of the estate called "Baskerville Hall." Was his death of natural causes or was it a murder?
Because of his death, the estate now falls to Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene). He soon receives an anonymous note that reads:
"As you value your life or your reason, keep away from the moor."
At this point, Sherlock Holmes is called in to investigate. He learns of the Baskervilles and the "curse of the hound" that has been bestowed on this family for the last two hundred years. Holmes dismisses the idea of a killer hound as a myth but decides to further investigate so as to get to the real truth. Dr. Watson aids him in his investigation.
Be sure to listen for the last line spoken by Holmes in this movie. It alludes to the cocaine habit that Sherlock Holmes had acquired. (Holmes' cocaine habit is a feature of Conan Doyle's novel.)
Rathbone catches the essence of the famous gumshoe in his performance. Bruce also gives an excellent performance. You will notice that Dr. Watson has an expanded role in this movie. All supporting actors do a good job in their roles.
The eerie atmosphere of this movie is superb. The background music adds to each scene.
Finally DVD extras include an interesting audio commentary, selected theatrical trailers, production notes, and photo gallery.
In conclusion, this is an exciting, suspenseful movie that is worthwhile watching even if you have read the novel it is based on!!
(1939; 80 min; black and white; full screen)
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HOUND: A Child's Memory15 July 2004
- Published on Amazon.com
I first saw this movie on TV when I was 9 or 10 in 1963-64. We lived in Los Angeles, and local channel 9 would run the SAME movie, Monday through Friday, for one week at 7:00 or 8:00 on its "Million Dollar Movie" program (a ridiculous title nowadays). Anyway, I watched it all five times in one week and adored it. I didn't see it again until its special, limited re-release to theaters in 1975; by then, I was a dyed-in-the-wool Sherlockian. Remarkably, my 10-year-old mind hadn't exaggerated the greatness of Rathbone or this film. It remained marvelous! Now it's available on DVD...and what a wonderful transfer. And the commentary is superb. I haven't yet watched it five nights in a row, but it certainly deserves that kind of attention. Highly recommended!