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1939’s THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES ($20) is certainly one of the most enjoying and satisfying Sherlock Holmes adventures ever committed to celluloid. This classic movie also marked the first appearance of Basil Rathbone in the role of Sherlock Holmes, as well as Nigel Bruce as Holmes’ associate and biographer Dr. John Watson. Many consider Rathbone to be the silver screen’s definitive Sherlock Holmes, and with his appearance in THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES it is easy to see why. Not only does Rathbone look the part, he perfectly embodies the intellect and deductive reasoning of the world’s greatest consulting detective. Bruce, on the other hand, may not be representative of the Dr. Watson of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories (a bit too buffoonish for some tastes), but he certainly offers the screen’s most endearing interpretation of the character.

Based upon the Conan Doyle story, the plot of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES focuses on a legendary curse that has befallen generation after generation of the Baskerville clan. The mysterious death of Sir Charles is the latest to be attributed to a supernatural hound, whose appearance has marked the demise of Baskerville heirs for centuries. When Sir Henry (Richard Greene) arrives from Canada to claim his inheritance, Baskerville family friend Dr. Mortimer (Lionel Atwill) engages the services of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to protect the young heir from whatever killed Sir Charles. Filled with enough red herrings to throw the audience off the scent, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES will keep anyone unfamiliar with the Conan Doyle story guessing, that is, until Holmes deduces the solution to the mystery. The cast of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES also features Wendy Barrie, John Carradine, Barlowe Borland, Beryl Mercer, Morton Lowry and Ralph Forbes.

MPI Home Video has made THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES available on DVD in a marvelous looking black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. This 20th Century Fox production had been far better preserved than the later Universal Holmes adventures and did not require the extensive restoration work that was performed on those films. For the most part, the film elements appear to be in terrific shape, with minor blemishes and an occasional flash serving as a reminder that the movie is sixty-five years old. One will notice a grain structure in places, but it is never excessive. The image itself always appears sharp, somewhat glossy and very nicely defined. Blacks appear inky, whites are crisp and the grayscale is very good. A minor complaint would be that black on black objects sometimes look a little indistinct. Digital compression artifacts are generally very well contained.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is in very good shape for its age. Most traces of background hiss and surface noise have been cleaned up, although I could detect an errant anomaly or two during the presentation. Fidelity has its limitations, but the film’s music never comes across in a harsh manner. Dialogue is always thoroughly intelligible, as the voices are very well recorded for the period. No other language tracks are included on the DVDs; however, English subtitles have been provided. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few fine extras. Author David Stuart Davies is on hand to provide an informative and entertaining running audio commentary. A still gallery of publicity photos and poster art, plus selected Holmes theatrical trailers completes the extras.

1939’s THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is indeed a treat for devotees of the celebrated detective, not to mention Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce fans. MPI’s DVD of this vintage film looks and sounds just marvelous, which should leave movie buffs totally ecstatic! If you have been waiting since the early days of DVD for THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES to make its debut, then you’ll want to race out a pick up a copy of this disc. Absolutely recommended.



Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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