Though it takes a few liberties with the Arthur Conan Doyle original -- not the least of which is turning Sherlock Holmes into the second lead -- The Hound of the Baskervilles ranks as one of the best screen versions of this oft-told tale. After learning the history of the Baskerville curse from the hirsute Dr. Mortimer (Lionel Atwill), Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) takes upon himself the responsibility of protecting sole heir Henry Baskerville (top-billed Richard Greene) from suffering the same fate as his ancestors: a horrible death at the fangs of the huge hound of Grimpen Moor. Unable to head to Baskerville mansion immediately, Holmes sends his colleague Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) to act as his surrogate. What Watson doesn't know is that Holmes, donning several clever disguises, is closely monitoring the activities of everyone in and around the estate. Meanwhile, young Henry falls in love with Beryl Stapleton (Wendy Barrie), sister of the effusively friendly John Stapleton (Morton Lowry). Holmes and Watson compare notes, a red herring character (John Carradine) is eliminated, Henry Baskerville is nearly torn to shreds by a huge hound, and the man behind the plot to kill Henry and claim the Baskerville riches for himself is revealed at the very last moment. The Hound of the Baskervilles "improves" upon the original with such embellishments as turning the villain's wife into his sister, and by interpolating a spooky séance sequence involving mystic Beryl Mercer. In other respects, it is doggedly (sorry!) faithful to Doyle, even allowing Holmes to bait the censor by asking Dr. Watson for "the needle" at fadeout time. A big hit in a year of big hits, The Hound of the Baskervilles firmly established Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as moviedom's definitive Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
by Hal Erickson synopsis