Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1939)


THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1939). Director: Sidney Lanfield.

"Oh, Watson, the needle."

This is the first of two Sherlock Holmes films made by Twentieth Century-Fox and the first in which the wonderful Basil Rathbone created perhaps the definitive movie portrayal of the famous detective -- he is simply outstanding. The plot has to do with Holmes and Watson (Nigel Bruce) trying to save the life of an heir (Richard Greene) while dealing with rumors of the huge title beast roaming the foggy moors where the story takes place. John Carradine has a small role as a servant, and Wendy Barrie is the love interest. Lionel Atwill, who played Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty in a later film, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, is excellent in the more sympathetic role of Dr. Mortimer. Mary Gordon played Mrs. Hudson for the first time in this picture. Barlowe Borland scores as the cranky, litigious old Frankland. Morton Lowry is fine as John Stapleton. The 1959 color remake is also quite creditable, and some may feel it has the slight edge. Followed by The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Verdict: Fine introduction to the Rathbone portrayal. ***.

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