THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Arthur Conan Doyles The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) seems an odd choice to start a series with. It is a logical choice in that it is one of the handful of novel-length Sherlock Holmes adventures but it is also a story in which by any faithful telling the central character of Holmes is absent for nearly half the story. (Oddly enough though, The Hound of the Baskervilles remains the most popular of all Sherlock Holmes stories in film adaptations see below for other screen versions).
There is an uncertainty about the adaptation here perhaps it is that 20th Century Fox had no established cinematic English-language Holmes milieu to draw upon up to that point and Sidney Lanfield seems caught between directing it as a gangster film and a horror film. The uncertainty is even evident in the cast list, which places boyish romantic lead Richard Greene who plays Sir Henry above the name of Basil Rathbone who plays Holmes.
The clues seem irrelevant and the exposition of the mystery takes place in several static pieces of stodgy extract. However, the film has considerable atmosphere in its seances, fog-bound moor scenes and hansom cab pursuits. The moors have a moody gloominess, although ultimately are obviously stagebound. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce make a good pairing, the lean bony-faced Rathbone projecting a keen intellectual fascination and having clear fun when it comes to the disguises. Nigel Bruce perfects his jolly porridge of a Watson, a role that he turned into a reliable comic prop throughout the rest of the series.
This is enjoyable adaptation but better versions of the story have been made, particularly the 1959 Hammer version and the feature-length tv version made in 1988 by Granada as part of their The Adventures -, The Return and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes series (1983-7), as well as the 2002 tv movie. In other versions of the story, there was a series of six German films released under the same title between 1914 and 1920, which were made by two different companies when one director defected and both companies kept making rival sequels. These soon abandoned the Arthur Conan Doyle material and developed the story out like a complex serial, even going back into the history of the Baskerville family. One of the directors Richard Oswald attempted a further German remake The Hound of the Baskervilles (1929). Other versions include a lost silent French version The Hound of the Baskervilles (1914); the first American version, the silent The Hound of the Baskervilles (1920) with Ellie Norwood; a lost British sound version The Hound of the Baskervilles (1931), written by thriller writer Edgar Wallace; another German version The Hound of the Baskervilles (1936); the celebrated Hammer version The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) with Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry; a tv adaptation The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972) with Farley Granger as Holmes; the unfunny comedic version The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978) with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore respectively as Holmes and Watson; a six-part BBC mini-series adaptation The Hound of the Baskervilles (1982) with Tom Baker as Holmes; a British tv movie The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983) with Ian Richardson; a routine Canadian-made tv movie The Hound of the Baskervilles (2000) with Matt Frewer miscast as Holmes; and an excellent British tv version The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002) with Richard Roxburgh as Holmes. The story was also given an interesting modernisation in the BBCs Sherlock (2010 ) tv series, which set it around a bacteriological research facility. This version of the film was considered incomplete by Holmes-ophiles until 1975 when a print was uncovered that contained Holmess originally censored line The needle, Watson.
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