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The Hound of the Baskervilles [DVD] [1939]

Release Date:04/27/2004
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) is surely the only movie directed by Sidney Lanfield that is ever likely to get the kind of deluxe treatment that it has been accorded on this DVD from MPI. Far and away the director's best movie, it still stands up well 60-plus years later, despite some flaws in its structure and some mild flatness to the direction. The new transfer (full-frame, of course, i.e. 1.33:1) brings out the virtues of the handsome 20th Century Fox production and the darkly atmospheric cinematography by J. Peverell Marley (as captured here, it's worth the price of the disc). The movie is enhanced by the presence of a commentary track by David Stuart Davies, a noted Holmes scholar and enthusiast, who walks us through the movie in his droll, British way, very different from the boundless enthusiasm displayed by Richard Valley in his commentary on The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (a DVD release which coincided with this film's issue). Davies is a little less attuned to the film's production than Valley, and closer to the literary side, which is fascinating in itself. He doesn't really slight the movie, as a subject, so much as start from the literary side; he does delve deeply into the layers and currents rippling through the movie. In addition to the commentary track, the movie is supported by a montage of still art and promotional and advertising materials set to music, and there are three reissue trailers, for Dressed to Kill, The House of Fear, and The Pearl of Death. None looks or sounds in terribly good shape, but all are fun to watch. The 13 chapters easily support and enhance the 80-minute movie. The disc opens up automatically to the multi-layered menu, which is a little bit harder to move around in, between the movie and the bonus features, than it needed to be.

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    Overall Customer Rating:
    100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (1 out of 1)

    Special Features

    • Audio commentary with David Stuart Davies
    • Selected theatrical trailers
    • Production notes by Richard Valley
    • Photo gallery


    The Hound of the Baskervilles
    Though it takes a few liberties with the Arthur Conan Doyle original -- not the least of which is turning Sherlock Holmes into the second lead -- The Hound of the Baskervilles ranks as one of the best screen versions of this oft-told tale. After learning the history of the Baskerville curse from the hirsute Dr. Mortimer (Lionel Atwill), Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone) takes upon himself the responsibility of protecting sole heir Henry Baskerville (top-billed Richard Greene) from suffering the same fate as his ancestors: a horrible death at the fangs of the huge hound of Grimpen Moor. Unable to head to Baskerville mansion immediately, Holmes sends his colleague Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) to act as his surrogate. What Watson doesn't know is that Holmes, donning several clever disguises, is closely monitoring the activities of everyone in and around the estate. Meanwhile, young Henry falls in love with Beryl Stapleton (Wendy Barrie), sister of the effusively friendly John Stapleton (Morton Lowry). Holmes and Watson compare notes, a red herring character (John Carradine) is eliminated, Henry Baskerville is nearly torn to shreds by a huge hound, and the man behind the plot to kill Henry and claim the Baskerville riches for himself is revealed at the very last moment. The Hound of the Baskervilles "improves" upon the original with such embellishments as turning the villain's wife into his sister, and by interpolating a spooky séance sequence involving mystic Beryl Mercer. In other respects, it is doggedly (sorry!) faithful to Doyle, even allowing Holmes to bait the censor by asking Dr. Watson for "the needle" at fadeout time. A big hit in a year of big hits, The Hound of the Baskervilles firmly established Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as moviedom's definitive Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Richard Greene
      Richard Greene - Sir Henry Baskerville
    • Basil Rathbone
      Basil Rathbone - Sherlock Holmes
    • Nigel Bruce
      Nigel Bruce - Dr. Watson
    • Lionel Atwill
      Lionel Atwill - James Mortimer, M.D.
    • John Carradine
      John Carradine - Barryman

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.