25 November 2008 | bensonmum2
"Mr. Holmes, you're the one man in all England who can help me."
Of the half dozen or so different takes on The Hound of the Baskervilles that I've seen, this one is my favorite - just barely edging out the Hammer film from 1959. Why? There are a number of reasons I could cite.
1. Acting - The 1939 version of the Hound of the Baskervilles has to have one of the strongest casts ever assembled for a Sherlock Holmes film. It's a veritable Who's Who of 1930s/40s horror/thriller stars. Basil Rathbone, Lionel Atwill, John Carradine, Wendy Barrie, and Eily Malyon all give outstanding performances. Even E.E. Clive appears in a small but enjoyable role. And Nigel Bruce, whose bumbling Watson could really get on my nerves, gives one of his best performances as Holmes' sidekick.
2. Atmosphere - If there's something that filmmakers from the 1930s knew how to do and were especially adept at, its creating atmosphere. From the fog shrouded moors to the dangerous London streets, there's enough atmosphere in The Hound of the Baskervilles for two or three movies. The cinematography and lighting go along way to helping create this feeling. It's something that seems lost on many of today's filmmakers.
3. Direction - While nothing outstanding, Sidney Lanfield is nonetheless solid in the director's chair. One key is the pacing he gives to the film. The movie moves along quite nicely with very few moments that slow things down. Sure, this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles may veer away from the original source material, but it's for good reason. The film would have been too slow and, ultimately, quite dull had it stuck too closely to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. I've read the book, but as much as I enjoy it, I realize changes have to be made for the screen.
While there are a number of other things I could mention in The Hound of the Baskervilles that appeal to me, I'll stop here before this thing gets out of hand. In the end, I've always found this a solid production and a very enjoyable film. I've got no problems rating it a 9/10.
Finally, one thing that has always seemed odd to me is the appeal of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Don't misunderstand, it's a good story. But I'm not sure I understand why it has been filmed more often than any other Sherlock Holmes story. Why would a plot that has its main character (Holmes in this case) disappear for about half the movie be the most famous and most often filmed story from the character's casebook? Like I said, it's just always seemed a bit odd to me.