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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Literatyre > Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939/Fox/MPI DVD)

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939/Rathbone/Fox/MPI DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: B-



PLEASE NOTE: This film is now available on Blu-ray from MPI in a Sherlock Holmes set with all the Rathbone/Bruce films and you can read all about it at this link:





It launched one of the shortest, yet most legendary and successful of all B-movie detective series.  20th Century-Fox launched it, but let it go to Universal and the rest is history.  Fox made the first two films and they are the only two set in the period of the books.  The first is one of the best-known of many adaptations of The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1939), which introduced the world to Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. John H. Watson.


The title refers to the title family cursed by the title beast.  Unlike many Holmes cases, he gets this one a bit later than he usually would, always having a sort of disconnectedness to this particular case atypical of Holmes stories.  That quickly changes when he takes on the case.  From there, Fox is able to supply a cast that includes Wendie Barrie, Lionel Atwill and John Carradine, which all remakes since have tried to match in one way or another.  It may not be the book, but it is undeniably a key work in the Holmes cannon that cannot be ignored.


The 1.33 X 1 full frame monochrome image is from a very clean restored print.  I knew the Universal installments were in bad shape, but the Fox films were also in need of help like any film that is not actively being restored.  This is a bit soft, but the Video Black is very consistent and the restoration work is seamless.  Cinematographer Peverell Marley, A.S.C., juggles a period look with pre-Noir Detective genre needs in a synergy that set the tone for the series and follows Holmes and all such films to this day.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono comes from a decent sound restoration that has little distortion or background noise of any kind, and Cyril J. Mockridge’s score is limited to the beginning segments of the film.  It still works, but so do the silences.


Extras include a booklet inside the DVD case on the film, a motion section with stills and posters for the film, trailers for three of the later Universal films and yet another outstanding commentary by Holmes scholar David Stuart Davies, which are among the few must-hears in all of DVD audio commentaries.


Many people tend to enjoy the 1959 Hammer Films version of this tale with Peter Cushing as Holmes, but it seems less kinetic and effective than this version.  It still had a good cast and the color film was not bad, but despite the many compromises made here to keep the film at 80 minutes, director Sidney Lanfield’s version moves along well, has snap to it, and is never boring.  This 1939 Hound Of The Baskervilles still remains the best theatrical film version yet and will stay important no matter how many times it is reattempted.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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