Monday, November 14, 2011

The Hound of Baskervilles

The Hound of Baskervilles; crime/ mystery, USA, 1939; D: Sidney Lanfield, S: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Richard Greene, Wendy Barrie

19th century. After another member of the Baskervilles dies under mysteries circumstances, the last heir, Henry, is summoned to inherit their valuable estate in Devonshire. First he arrives to London, where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson assume that someone wants to kill him too. Watson and Henry go to the Baskervilles mansion, where they meet the neighbors, Beryl and John Stapleton. After a while, Holmes shows up himself. It turns out that John wanted to kill Henry with a dog trained to attack, so that he can inherit the estate. Luckily, Holmes saves Henry and prevents his plan.

Hailed as the best movie adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's cult crime novel with the same title, Sidney Lanfield's "The Hound of Baskervilles" is a thoroughbred mystery-detective story with just two major flaws that undermine it - in the middle part of the film, the absence of the main hero Sherlock Holmes is too long whereas the ending is a real anti-climax that should have been handled better and/or should have shown what happened to the villain - yet the remaining part of the film works, especially since Basil Rathbone is great as the legendary logical detective. The story is compact and gains the most of its plus points thanks to a spooky mood that was achieved thanks to the expressionistic play with shadows and fog (definitely one of the most convincing examples of fog being put on film in the 20th century) surrounding the isolated mansion at night, stimulative moments (from the mansion, Dr. Watson and Henry discover that someone is giving light signals from the dark marsh forest, so they decide to go out and find its source) and a generally fine use of a straight-forward style that neatly blends it all together.


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