The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film, Gothic Film  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The first of the long and successful series of Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, The Hound of the Baskervilles is smashing good fun for Holmes enthusiasts and fans of the detective thriller genre. Set in the appropriately spooky moors, Hound is an engaging adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle original -- respectful but not slavish, and unafraid to make changes to make the film more interesting cinematically. True, it has some of the same flaws that are part and parcel of any Holmes film, the kind of things that drive some people up the wall -- such as how Holmes can so cavalierly play fast and loose with a man's life by withholding information from him. But most people are willing to accept these conventions as part of the genre and necessary to build the appropriate tension and suspense. Besides, director Sidney Lanfield keeps things moving at such a sprightly (yet never hurried) pace that there's little time to worry about such matters. Best of all, Hound gives the audience Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, who, though in their first outing as Holmes and Watson, are already in very fine form. Rathbone is cerebral yet playful, a Holmes who clearly relishes his job and is brought to life by the thrill of the chase but who also recognizes the stakes of the games he plays. Bruce manages to make Watson appropriately befuddled without becoming a subject fit for mockery; there is clearly a brain in him, it just can't compare with that of Holmes. There's also fine support from Richard Greene, Lionel Atwill, and Wendy Barrie, and a characteristically odd turn from John Carradine, all adding up to a very good time indeed.