“Never the less, I insist he was murdered. Murdered I tell you.”
Sir Charles Baskerville is dead. He died on the moors. Cause of death is listed as heart failure. Heir to the estate, Sir Henry Baskerville (Richard Greene) has returned from Canada to take possession of the estate. Sir Henry is the last of the Baskervilles.
Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Dr John H. Watson (Nigel Bruce) receive a visit from Dr. James Mortimer (Lionel Atwill). Dr Mortimer is afraid for the life of Henry Baskerville. He tells Holmes of the family curse. He believes that an ancient hound has killed every Baskerville male since Sir Hugo Baskerville was killed centuries ago.
Holmes says he is busy at the moment so he sends Watson to Baskerville Hall with instructions to keep an eye on things and make reports back to him. At Baskerville Hall Sir Henry meets the servants. Barryman (John Carradine) is the butler and his wife (Eily Malyon) is the housekeeper. While walking on the moors he meets his neighbors Jack Stapleton (Morton Lowry), a naturalist, and his half sister Beryl Stapleton (Wendy Barrie). He is attracted to Beryl. There have also been reports of an escaped criminal, (Nigel De Brulier) hiding on the moors.
A mysterious peddler roaming about turns out to be Holmes himself. He had been hiding on the moors making his own investigation without the worry of being spied on. His investigation ramps up when another death happens on the desolate moor.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” was released in 1939 and was directed by Sidney Lanfield. It is a mystery based on the 1902 story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the first of fourteen Sherlock Holmes movies that stared Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. It is also the earliest known Holmes film to be set in the Victorian Era like the original story. The movie was the first of two of the Rathbone/Bruce collaborations that were produced by 20th Century Fox. Since this was the first of the series and Fox was unsure of its reception, top billing went to Richard Greene. All other Sherlock Holmes movies had Rathbone and Bruce as top billing. The Hound was played by a 140-pound Great Dane named Chief.
Part of the fun of this version of Doyle’s story is the sets. The fog laden moors. The Dead trees, dark cloud laden skies and a house ripe for haunting all add to the paranormal feel of the plot. One thing that surprised me is the extended dog mauling scene. I was surprised that censors allowed it. On the whole it is a great adaptation of the novel and Basil Rathbone is my favorite Sherlock Holmes.
Since the creation of Sherlock Holmes there have been at least 75 people who have played the detective in over 211 movies. Everyone from Charlton Heston to John Cleese. Even Japan had a version. The detective first appeared on film in 1900 in a short film called “Sherlock Holmes Baffled”.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” was serialized in “The Strand Magazine” in 1901. It was then published in 1902 as a novel.