5 June 2018 | Revelator_
"Supernatural dogs do not leave footprints."
This is the best directed version of the Hound of the Baskervilles, but to be honest no great directors have tackled the story. "Der Hund von Baskerville" also has the honor of being the last silent Holmes film. The format didn't really suit the Holmes stories, which heavily rely on dialogue and exposition. To avoid excessive intertitles, the films had to simplify the material and stress action over cerebration.
In that respect, this "Hound" is no different (the walking stick deduction scene is naturally absent), but it uniquely goes whole hog for a German gothic/expressionist proto-noir style. Baskerville Hall becomes an old dark house like the ones in "The Bat" or "The Cat and the Canary," with shadows galore, eyes peeping out of statues, trap doors, and hidden rooms sealed off at the push of the button. And since this is a late silent, we're treated to voluptuous camera movement and eccentrically creative camera angles.
Carlyle Blackwell, an American matinee idol back in 1914, was imported to play Sherlock Holmes, introduced as "the genial detective." Fortunately Blackwell's confident performance is not entirely genial, though he does accentuate the smug, amused side of Holmes's character. Russian George Seroff plays a puppyish, plump, mustache-less Watson. The character was often a non-entity in silent Holmes films, but here he plays a major role, albeit an often comical ones (his gullibility prompts a light smack upside the head from Holmes). Stapleton is played by Fritz Rasp, that great gonzo gargoyle of German cinema.
For decades "Der Hund" was thought lost, until a print turned up Poland. Sadly the film is missing several expository scenes in reels two and three, which covered Watson's investigations of suspects at Baskerville Hall. These are compensated for by illustrated titles, but their absence leaves the whodunit mystery shortened and the overall story lopsided.
"Der Hund" is a mostly faithful adaptation of Doyle, and even shares strategies with later versions. Like the 1968 BBC production with Peter Cushing, it starts with the suspects gathered at Baskerville Hall. As in the Hammer version, Holmes gets trapped in an underground passage. And Laura Lyons has the same fate in the 1982 TV film starring Ian Richardson.
Low budgets are the bane of many "Hound" adaptations, but not this one. Baskerville Hall is opulently furnished and the outside moor, though created in a disused hangar, is a convincing wasteland of scraggly scrub. The hound is played by a mottled Great Dane, usually shown in extreme close-up, an unusual tactic to make it look more imposing. The other settings are modern-a motorcar pulls up to Baker Street and Holmes wears a leather trench coat alongside his deerstalker.