Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are hired to protect Sir Henry Baskerville, who has just inherited an estate on Dartmoor and is supposedly threatened by a ghostly dog which has persecuted his family.
One of the finest adaptations of the often-filmed Arthur Conan Doyle novel, this was the first Holmes movie made at such a remove from original publication it was felt necessary to fix it firmly in the Victorian era, with hansom cabs, stiff collars, false whiskers and a Universal horror-look Dartmoor complete with Stonehenge-like ruins and plentiful studio fog.
The script streamlines the tale to the extent of losing the explanations of a couple of clues and a rejigging of priorities in the cast-list (Greene’s Sir Henry is billed above Rathbone’s Holmes!) is reflected by the insertion of well-written and -played but essentially time-out-from-the-good-stuff love scenes between the Baskerville heir and a suspect’s sister (Barrie).
However, more fun is had from the legend of wicked Sir Hugo, Rathbone and Bruce beginning their multi-film partnership with brisk banter, a spooky mid-point séance, a startling but brief mention of the detective’s drug habit (‘Watson, the needle!’), Rathbone’s regular disguise act (doing the only authentic West Country accent in the film) as a whiskery comic pedlar on the moors (it’s nice that Watson notices his limp changes legs), and an array of fine Hollywood hams (Lionel Atwill, John Carradine) doing their best to seem more suspicious than the innocent-faced fellow obviously behind the crimes.
It falls just short of classic status and is especially hurried at the climax, with a bland assurance that the diabolical villain who seems to be escaping to plot again will doubtless be apprehended by one of several unseen policemen secreted about the moor rather than the exciting action scene which would seem to be required.
Truly classic adaptation with teh great Basil Rathbone hamming it up gloriously