Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Rathbone Holmes - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)



The searchlights pierce the sky over the Twentieth Century Fox logo as the fanfare blares out in greeting. The titles – a decorative handwriting font tells us it's a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story, an Olde English script announces the title; The Hound of the Baskervilles. Beneath that we can see Darryl F.Zanuck's in charge and this is no 'B' picture. The title cards play with a tracking shot of the Moors of South-West England, perhaps hillier and more trees than the real thing. The names!; on both sides of the camera are some wonderful monikers – Barlowe Borland, Morton Lowry and Peverell Marley. Unimprovable names from the past. I certainly didn't attend school with any Barlowe's and I'm guessing it's the same with you. Back to the film; more Olde script gives us the background to the tale; it's 1889 and in all England there's nowhere more dismal than the moors of Dartmoor in Devonshire. Possibly not written by the tourist board then...
Above; Posters for the film gave Richard Greene top billing.
We come to an old stately house – why it must be all of two feet high. A man runs through the mist, pursued by something ungodly, an awful keening howl rending the air behind him. He reaches the gates, but falls, dead from exhaustion to the ground. The only witness?; a scraggy, bearded wretch hiding in the bushes. The tattered wretch attempts to rob the dead man of his pocket watch, but is scared off by a call from the house. The door opens and the housekeeper emerges with a lamp, screaming as she spots her prostrate master.
Above; Lionel Atwill and Beryl Mercer play Doctor and Mrs. Mortimer
Below; Richard Greene is Sir. Henry Baskerville, Wendy Barrie is Beryl Stapleton.

Several people sit in conference as the Butler, Barryman recounts how his wife and himself found the body of Sir. Charles Baskerville, how he hurried to fetch Doctor Mortimer. The Doctor was at dinner with Miss Stapleton and her Brother, Jack. Doctor Mortimer tells the coroner that the cause of death was a heart attack. Sir. Charles had been in a highly nervous state, but the Doctor is prevented from saying any more by his wife, Beryl. Stapleton is insistent; there were footprints indicating Baskerville had tip-toed back to the house. Doctor Mortimer insists the footprints showed he ran. Outraged, Mr. Frankland, a litigious, pugnacious little Scot springs up demanding Mortimer tells what everyone knows; Sir. Charles was murdered!. With no marks of violence on the body, the coroner has little hesitation in delivering a verdict of death by heart failure.

Above; Basil Rathbone in characteristic pose.
 The Westminster Clock Tower chimes midnight. Oh, ok then; Big Ben rings midnight. (It's the Elizabeth tower now anyway and the Colonials among you won't know we're in London unless I mention Big Ben...) Anyway, ding-dong and off to Baker Street West and a gas-lit door declaring itself to be 221b – we won't bother niggling and we see The Times announcing the arrival of Sir. Henry Baskerville from Canada to assume his title and estate. (Although technically he became Sir. Henry the second Sir. Charles kicked the bucket. I'm in that kind of mood I'm afraid.) Doctor Watson is at a loss why Holmes is so interested in the Baskerville affair. Sherlock Holmes conjectures that Sir. Henry won't be around long enough to enjoy the Devon air.
Above; Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were to make 14 films in the series.
Mrs. Hudson, the landlady and indomitable figure breezes in and hands Holmes a stick left in error by a caller. The stick belongs to a Doctor Mortimer. In the first of many marvellous scenes, Holmes invites his companion to deduce what he can from the walking stick using 'their' usual methods. Watson has a go, inferring the Doctor is successful, well-esteemed, doing much visiting on foot as the iron ferrule is worn. The inscription; To James Mortimer M.R.C.P. From His Friends Of The C.C.H. 1884. C.C.H.? - a Hunt?. Pleased with himself, Watson is brought down a peg by Holmes' own reasoning; a Doctor is more likely to be presented a stick by a Hospital – therefore Charing Cross Hospital. The Doctor has a small practice in the country and owns a dog. Rather a large dog. Unless Holmes has missed his mark the Doctor will call in a few moments.
Above; Dr.Mortimer consults Sherlock Holmes. A Sidney Paget illustration from The Strand magazine.
Right on cue. Doctor Mortimer is announced and Holmes hands him his stick, indeed a gift from the aforementioned Hospital. Holmes is the one man who can help, a friend of Doctor Mortimer's is in grave danger. He is in mortal fear Sir. Henry Baskerville's life may be snuffed out. For centuries past, every Baskerville inheriting the estate dies a sudden and violent death. Makes you wonder how the family survives... Mortimer reveals one thing he kept back from the Police and the inquest. About fifty yards from the body he found footprints. The footprints of a gigantic hound. A few days ago, as one of the executors of the Estate he found the old document he now shows Holmes.
Above: More publicity shots. More than any other pairing, the Rathbone/Bruce team remains the popular image of Holmes and Watson.
Doctor Mortimer reads the Legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles. In the time of the Great rebellion – about 1650 – Baskerville manor was held by Sir. Hugo, a profane and godless man. One Michaelmas he stole upon a neighboring (sic) farm and stole the Daughter of the house, locking her upstairs at Baskerville Manor. The document fades into Olde Visione and we see Sir. Hugo and his friends were in their customary drunken carousel. Lots of hearty laughter and revelry and merriment about kidnapping a comely farm-girl. All innocent fun, eh?. Sir. Hugo goes up to show off his prize and the assembled a******s go up with him, to find she didn't fancy being raped and she's gone out of the window. Women!. Outraged at the behaviour of the lower classes, Sir. Hugo orders his mare brought round and rides, proclaiming he'd sell his soul to the Devil for the wench. Off he rides, leaving his pals to catch up.
Above; The Bodies of Sir. Hugo and the girl, by Sidney Paget.
On and on they rode, until they came across the body of the girl. Suddenly, they heard a sound to freeze the blood in their veins and there was a monstrous hound, tearing the last remnants of life from Sir. Hugo's body. Such is the history of the Hound, which has cursed the Baskerville family ever since. Concluding, the Doctor asks Holmes' opinion. The detective is interested, but Mortimer implores him; Sir. Henry arrives by boat tomorrow!. Holmes suggests Doctor Mortimer bring him there, to Baker Street. A moment of tension as Holmes enquires about the teeth-marks on the Doctor's stick. Doctor Mortimer had a dog, a small spaniel, which died. As he leaves, Holmes fetches up his violin and Watson leaves in a hurry to avoid the racket. Alone, Holmes plays more tunefully, only to abandon music and pick up a newspaper clipping from the Times.

The newsaper fades into the arriving ship, blowing it's horn in joyful fashion, passengers waving to the dockside as if leaving. Sir. Henry, a young, handsome fellow with an open, pleasant face shakes hands with the Captain and crew and disembarks after tipping the cabin boys generously. Politely, he entertains an old gold-digger and her daughter, deftly brushing the claws away. Doctor Mortimer arrives to greet him. Rooms are booked at the Northumberland and they take a carriage there. No sooner have the started than a stone crashes through the window, a message wrapped round it. As you value your life or your reason keep away from the moor – the words cut and pasted from newspapers, 'moor' the sole exception, written in ink.
Above: Holmes greets Sir. Henry.
Holmes deduces the snippets are from the Times – evident from the typography, the word 'moor' being uncommon hence the necessity to use ink. Holmes asks if anything unusual has happened – Sir. Henry has lost one of his boots. He put a brand new pair out, but when he went to bring them in one was missing. Watson wonders why a man would put new boots out for cleaning, but with tan ones it prevents scratches to have them cleaned before wearing. Jocular, Holmes explains Doctor Mortimer's fear of a supernatural hound, ushering the pair out and instructing Mortimer to show Sir. Henry the old document at their hotel, promising to join them later.
Above; Colorized lobby cards.
No sooner than Sir. Henry and Doctor Mortimer have left, Holmes urgently follows, with a bemused Watson in tow. Outside on the pavement, they keep a distance and observe, the London fog swirling about the relaxed normal to-and-fro of a city in the early evening. A Hansom cab seems to be trailing Sir. Henry and Holmes has, of course noticed. 


 Above; Sidney Paget original illustration; the mysterious cab passenger.
A gloved hand holding a pistol emerges from the cab, but a newspaper hawker gets in the way. Seeing the danger – sorry, seeing the mortal peril, Holmes shouts a warning and the mysterious passenger calls up to his driver to make tracks. Holmes has noted the number of the cab and asks Watson to go to Scotland Yard to find the driver of the Hansom.
Above; Sidney Paget illustration from The Strand Magazine.
At the Northumberland Hotel, Holmes catches up with Sir. Henry, who, having heard the full Baskerville legend is keen to see his country seat. Holmes informs the two gentlemen of the shadow in the Hansom, much to Doctor Mortimer's alarm. However, Sir. Henry then spots a singular occurrence; not only has his missing new boot been returned, one of his old black boots is now gone!. A rather breathless chambermaid is summoned and agrees on the oddness of it all. She goes to leave when Watson bustles in with the cabby. John Clayton, Hackney plate number 2704 no less. The mystery fare was about 35, dressed like a toff with a small black beard. At the station the man gave Clayton two guineas and told him his name. Sherlock Holmes!. Tipping the cabby for his trouble, Holmes waits for him to leave.

With Sir. Henry Baskerville intent on assuming his estate the next day, Holmes regretfully declines to accompany him and Doctor Mortimer – business keeps him in London. However, he offers the services of Doctor Watson, who is, of course happy to agree.

The next day sees Sir. Henry, Doctors Watson and Mortimer in an open carriage rolling across Dartmoor. Mortimer plays travel guide; over there, a henge is evidence of neolithic man, not a new-agey or hippy in sight. And there, those dark spots are the Great Grimpen Mire, a terrible place of danger and death for the unwary. Thousands have fallen victim to the bottomless morass. Not that the Doctor believes all the legends about the Moor or he wouldn't live here. Watson seems to chew this over as he smokes his pipe. At last, they approach Baskerville Hall, Sir. Henry's ancestral pile. (Ancestral Piles, anyone?)
Above; Barryman the Butler greets his new master. A Paget original.
Barryman the Butler – it should be Barrymore, but the production shied from using the name so famous then, John being a huge star of radio, stage and screen (Including his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the 1922 film of the same name) – anyway, BarryMAN comes down the steps to greet his new master with Mrs.Barryman. Barryman is about 35, with a small black beard. Hmmm... Sir. Henry wishes an early dinner as Doctor Mortimer has to drive home. Barryman shows Sir. Henry to his room.
Alone in his room late that night, Watson writes to Holmes to keep him informed. The place is clearly giving him the creeps, and when the handle to his door turns, he produces his revolver (he had a small, but efficient foundry and gunsmithy in his bag), but manages not to shoot Sir. Henry, who has spotted something odd. Creeping along the hall, they encounter Barryman, bare-footed, stooped at a window to which he holds a candle. Lamely, Barryman tries claiming he was securing the window, but as it's on the second floor (It's actually the first floor, but lets move on) that doesn't wash. Sir. Henry sends Barryman to bed before examining the view from the window. A pinpoint of light shows far away on a Tor. Thinking quickly, Watson takes a candle, lights it and signals, raising and lowering the candle. The light out on the moor winks out and returns. Just as Watson thought!, Barryman was signalling to someone!.
Dressing quickly, Sir.Henry follows Watson out onto the Moor, with a worried Barryman and his wife watching them go. The intrepid pair make their way out amongst the rocks to the Tor, the sound of the bullfrogs croaking. Tourists? (There are frogs and toads on the moor, so I'm possibly being a bit harsh to the American Amphibian Acting Guild here.) At length, the pair come upon a crude torch burning on a rock and go to investigate. On the rocks above, however, our wretched watch-snatcher is lurking, wild-eyed and terrible. Unaware, Watson decides to sit in ambush, but Sir. Henry suggests a higher vantage point. Just as they make to get up, the bedraggled creature hurls a rock down, extinguishing the light!.
Above: Watson and Sir. Henry take no chances.
As the ragged figure makes a run for it, Watson fires his revolver and has to restrain an over-zealous Sir. Henry from pursuit among the unfamiliar and dangerous rocks. (The reader may/probably won't care to know that back in the Nineties I was on exercise on the Dartmoor Tors and they are quite a sight – visible for miles on a clear night or day and certainly treacherous as the moor can be boggy.) Mulling it over, Watson ponders the possible connexion between Barryman and the ghastly creature they have just scared off. Sir. Henry is minded to sack Barryman and go to the police, but Watson – sensibly – cautions against this, being the last thing Holmes would want.

No sooner have they started back than a monstrous howl rises into the misted night. Not surprisingly, this rather puts the wind up Watson and Sir. Henry, who try to reassure themselves by refusing to believe their ears.

The next morning, in his bedchamber, Watson writes another letter for Holmes, speculating on the eerie nature of the howling. A bushy-tailed Sir. Henry exchanges pleasantries with Mrs. Barryman and takes to the Moor, his housekeeper watching him go with an expression that might be trepidation or something more sinister. Barryman enters Watson's room and informs him of Sir. Henry's solitary perambulation – and tells him he's gone for a walk. Off goes Watson in pursuit, Barryman snooping at the envelope addressed to Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street, West London.

Striding across the moor, Watson is hailed by Stapleton, whose house is just across from Baskerville Hall. A friendly fellow, Stapleton has learned of Watson from Doctor Mortimer and asks after Sir. Henry's health before enquiring whether Sherlock Holmes will be coming. As a scientist, Stapleton finds the moor fascinating, pointing out the unusually fertile area that encompasses the Grimpen Mire. Only yesterday he saw a moor pony sucked down by the Mire, to die a terrible death. Just then, the howling begins, Stapleton speculating it to be the boom of a Bittern.

Not far away, Miss Stapleton rushes up on horseback desperately calling to Sir. Henry to stop. He was just at the point of stepping into the Mire!. Miss Stapleton is just on the handsome side of beautiful, fair haired and trim. Sir. Henry thanks her for warning him, but on learning his identity she is unable to welcome him with any warmth, fearing as she does for his safety. Surely with his wealth, he could settle anywhere?. He finds this place very interesting at the moment, clearly attracted to her fair looks and manner. Watson and Mr. Stapleton, having heard the commotion, finally catch up with Sir. Henry and step-sister respectively. Introductions made, Sir. Henry invites them to dine at Baskerville Hall, but Stapleton insists they first dine at his house tomorrow night, Watson included.

Watson's letter-writing continues, with his pen scratching out his dis-trust of Stapleton and informing Holmes of the dinner invitation at the Stapleton house, near the village.

The Stapleton house the next night and at the dinner table Mr. Frankland is in full flow, the quarrelsome little Scot warning his host he intends to bring a prosecution against him. Stapleton asks what crime he has committed; it's body-snatching!. Watson and Sir. Henry are aghast, but the Stapletons are well-used to their fiery neighbour, refilling his glass and enjoying his tirade. The body in question is the skull of a neolithic human Stapleton excavated from the henge. Nevertheless, a triumphant Frankland declares that the remains cannot be legally exhumed without the consent of the next of kin!.

Mysteriously, a gleeful Frankland offers his hospitality to Sir. Henry at which he will tell him of the misdemeanors committed by those at the table; such as Doctor Mortimer's nocturnal visits to the Mire and why he takes his wife with him. Doctor Mortimer explains Mrs. Mortimer has strong mediumistic qualities, finding the old caves on the moor conducive to psychic phenomena. Intrigued, Sir. Henry asks if they have attempted to commune with the late Sir. Charles?. Indeed yes, but with no success as yet, however, if Mrs. Mortimer consents to a séance in the presence of Sir. Henry... She demurs, and a perceptive Miss Stapleton suggests they retire for coffee.

Stapleton suggests Watson and Sir. Henry see his collection, a room filled with Lepidoptera, taxidermy and the like. On a table sits the ancient skull, as he shows it to his guests, Mortimer bursts in; his wife has consented to a séance!. Scoffing, Frankland is put in his place by Doctor Mortimer, threatening one of his pernickety lawsuits in return. Miss Stapleton restores order and, not for the first time we are reminded of her warm, intelligent and sensitive character. Mortimer arranges the party around the fire, the assemblage taking their seats for the séance to begin. With no light save that of the fire, Mrs. Mortimer asks for Sir. Henry's hand. She calls Sir. Charles from his rest beyond the veil of sorrow, to an audience now sitting with expressions of sincere concern; even the belligerent Frankland sits in silence.
Above; The Seance.
'Speak to us, Sir. Charles – there are things that only you can explain.' Repeating this incantation, the medium is rewarded by a spectral howl from the moor. Alarmed, Miss Stapleton rises, to be reassured by Sir. Henry; it's only the wind. Or a Bittern suggests Stapleton, helpfully. 'Tell us, Sir. Charles, of all the weird and terrible things that have happened on the moor...' again the bestial wail sounds from beyond. Miss Stapleton pleads for the lights to be lit, Sir. Henry comforting her as Dr. Watson obliges. Watson asks Frankland for his opinion and is sharply given it - its the Hound of the Baskervilles. The séance at an end, Mrs. Mortimer asks to be taken home. Watson declines the offer of a lift from Frankland and Sir. Henry reasons with a frightened Miss Stapleton that sounds cannot hurt you. Fair enough; 'Agadoo' and 'Baby' were a century or so away... he determines to make it his goal to get this nonsense out of her head. She's been alone too long, perhaps fishing and riding together will help?.

Back at Baskerville Hall, Watson takes up his pen again to inform Holmes that Sir. Henry is head over heels with Miss Stapleton. Indeed, Sir. Henry has arrived at the Stapleton house to ride with her. They ride to High Tor, where the graves and ruins of early man still lie. Standing amidst the remains of a monolithic building, the mood is light-hearted and jocular, Sir. Henry wondering if those long-forgotten people had to wait to tell their intended of their love or declare it sooner, as nature would have it. When she replies with the latter, the earnest Knight declares his love for her. She tries to deflect him, but he is intent on sharing his feelings. He cannot be anywhere without her. They kiss, rather stiffly, but then kiss again with more feeling. Enter Watson as a Gooseberry, and a lost one at that. The good Doctor is the first to congratulate the couple on their engagement. The latter indeed...
With a spluttering cough, a wizened old pedlar hoves into view, offering his wares. An indignant Watson declines a mouth organ, but the decrepit merchant persists, producing a whistle. Sir. Henry sees him off when he thrusts a bottle of scent at Miss Stapleton. Observantly, Watson notices the beggar is limping on the other foot as he departs.

A note has been left for Doctor Watson, urging him to come to a hut on the moor by the Grimpen Mire. Barryman informs him it was slipped under the front door of the Hall and Watson leaves, while at the kitchen door, Mrs. Barryman hands a bundle to none other than the ragged vagabond who has been hiding on the moor!. No sooner than the wild-man has slunk off than Stapleton drives up in his carriage, to be told by Barryman his master is on the moor. Driving home at once, Stapleton uses a telescope to spy on Sir. Henry as he walks through the desolate terrain. Watson, however has reached the isolated stone hut and he enters, gun in hand. A note awaits him; urging him to make himself comfortable. An uneven shuffling announces the arrival of the hut's occupant – none, but the pedlar!.

Watson demands to know the meaning of the note summoning him to this place, the Pedlar wants him to hear his zither. Outraged, Watson demands the man's name, but the odd figure wants to know his. Foolishly, the Doctor claims to be Sherlock Holmes, in which case the pedlar must be Watson!. Standing erect and removing his beard, hat and glasses the vagabond is revealed to be Sherlock Holmes!.
Watson is aggrieved at being hoodwinked, at the waste of his time writing letters, but Holmes produces them from a pocket explaining he has arranged to have them forwarded to him. Holmes reveals he utilised the disguise to avoid the attention that would have undoubtedly hampered any investigation had he not appeared incognito. Indignant, Watson's mood is not mollified by the offer of sardines, or Holmes producing his hated violin to scratch away noisily. After their repast, Holmes smokes a pipe and contemplates returning with his old comrade to Baskerville Hall. Watson is none the wiser, but Holmes' mind is clear – it's murder, cold and refined.

Above: The escaped convict's luck runs out.
As the inseparable pair walk together, Holmes' thoughts are interrupted by a vicious snarling. On the high rocks of the Tor, a man is savaged by the Hound, then he falls to his doom from the rocks!. Hurrying along through the murk to the source of the howling, they see Sir. Henry's corpse, lying prone with the skull crushed in. Wait!; it's not he - it's the escaped convict, the Notting Hill murderer!. He's been hiding on the moors for the past month. It is clear to Holmes that the Hound was after Sir. Henry's scent, mistaking the convict for the victim it had been trained to find by his missing boot. This explains why the unworn boot was returned for an older one; the scent being vital for the killer's purpose. Just then, Stapleton hurries up, a wary Holmes indicating he is returning to London the next day.
Above; Mrs. Barryman pleads with Sir. Henry.
At Baskerville Manor, Watson goes to Sir. Henry whilst Holmes asks to see Mrs. Barryman. Gently, with compassion, he tells her of the death of her brother. Pleading piteously, Mrs. Barryman begs Sir. Henry not to blame Barryman. She could not turn her back on her own kin, the new tenant of the Hall proving himself noble as he asks Barryman to send the anguished woman to bed. To Watson's dawning disbelief, Holmes attributes the wailing sounds to the mad convict and even tells him he can assume the peaceful life of the country squire. Sir. Henry gives the happy news and states Stapleton is throwing a party for the happy couple tomorrow night, after which they shall travel to London to marry and thence to Canada for a Honeymoon. Regretfully, the detective tells his host Watson and himself must travel back to London after giving a report to the local Police in the morning.

All of a sudden, Sherlock Holmes fastens on a painting, the portrait of Sir. Hugo. Something in it strikes a chord, but he is keeping his cards close to his chest.

The next day and the train thunders towards the Capital. Holmes explains Sir, Henry remains in mortal peril. Why travel to London then? - of course, this is a decoy. Changing at Okehampton, they will travel back to Dartmoor. Confessing he has no tangible evidence, Holmes is relying on nabbing the killer in flagrante.

Doctor Mortimer raises a glass in toast to the couple. In gratitude, Sir. Henry insists everyone present will always be made welcome at Baskerville Hall. Stapleton laments the loss of his sister, but is sure his neighbours will help diminish his isolation. Frankland is on form, refusing to have anything to do with his host until the courts absolve him of the charge of body-snatching. This rejection doesn't, of course extend to drinking his sherry.

Hurtling along the track, Holmes urges the driver to go faster, but the carriage loses a wheel. It's five miles by road to Baskerville Hall, but nearer three across the Moor. As the two adventurers set off, Stapleton bids his guests farewell. Rejecting an offer of a lift from crouchy old Frankland, Sir. Henry intends to set off for home across the moor, despite Doctor Mortimer's worries. Alone at last, Sir. Henry kisses Beryl and wishes the time away. It will be their last night apart, or so he hopes. Beryl Stapleton says goodnight to her brother, who then steals to a bureau, unlocks it and dons gloves before retrieving a boot. A single, old black boot. Furtively, Stapleton takes to the moor...
Carefree, Sir. Henry treads the moor, unaware that Holmes and Watson are frantically traversing the broken ground to reach him in time. Stapleton creeps into a decrepit cemetery and up to a large crypt. Hauling the tombstone around, he opens a trapdoor to reveal a gigantic, slavering hound, thrusting the boot at it for it to get the scent. Releasing the hound, the evil Stapleton watches it hurtle off after it's prey.

This time, everyone hears it; the terrible howling. Holmes and Watson, Sir. Henry – even Beryl Stapleton in her room. Uneasy now, Sir. Henry walks a little quicker. The beast tears the very night with it's howling and walking becomes running. Desperately, Holmes and Watson push on through the mist as the beast draws ever closer to Sir. Henry. Suddenly, the Hound is upon him!; knocking him from a rocky path and leaping on him before he can defend himself. This is no ordinary dog – this monster is easily five feet in length and easily capable of ripping a man's flesh from his bones. Despite this, Sir. Henry fights like a Lion, wrestling with the uncanny creature and even throwing it back, only for it to bare those cruel fangs and pounce once more.
Just as hope is lost, as Sir. Henry's strength fades, Holmes and Watson!; revolvers drawn each man fires, careful not to hit Sir. Henry. Limping, the Hound staggers off. Another shot from Holmes and they rush to aid the wounded man. A nip from Watson's flask helps revive the poor man and Stapleton's arrival goes unseen. Leaving Watson to help Sir. Henry home, Holmes follows the trail to find the hound with his trusty Bullseye lamp, stalked by the wily Stapleton, who is armed. Holmes traces the Hound back to the cemetary, where he finds Sir. Henry's boot. 


The open crypt then and Holmes peers down to see a wretched kennel, with a bowl, a meagre bed of sorts and a few bones scattered around. You wonder why the poor creature returned for more. A scrap of paper catches his eye and he hops down to collect it, at which Stapleton leaps up, slams the lid down and bolts it, trapping the detective. As Holmes begins chipping away at his tomb with a jack-knife, Stapleton rushes to Baskerville Hall.

Finding Dr. Watson and Mrs. Barryman in attendance, Stapleton persuades the gullible Watson that Holmes wants him on the moor, assuring him he's a kind of a Doctor. At this, Watson trots off like an idiot. Thin isn't the word. Sending the housekeeper for boiling water, the murderer rummages through Watson's bag and finds a phial of poison, slipping it into a glass of water. Sir. Henry winces at the bitter smell, but is reassured by Stapleton. For the second time that night, Holmes arrives in the very nick and spots the danger. As if inadvertently, he prevents Sir. Henry drinking the deadly draft and then clumsily sends the tumbler, well, tumbling. Anxious, Beryl Stapleton hurries in, the Mortimers close behind; they, too heard the terrible sound of the Hound abroad on the moor.
Above: The wounded Sir. Henry comforts his fiance.
Holmes comes clean, apologising for jeopardising Sir. Henry's life; he, and his intended wife remain in danger, however. Striding over to the portrait of Sir. Hugo, Holmes explains the murderer discovered he was the next of kin and also about the family legend. Buying the most savage dog he could find he then hid it on the moor, ready for it's gruesome task. It would have been simple for the killer to claim his inheritence. Using his hands to frame the portrait, we suddenly see it; Stapleton!. Stapleton is a Baskerville, the resemblance uncanny. Drawing his gun, Stapleton withdraws, charging from the house where he bumps into Watson. As the murderous villain runs into the night, Holmes blows his Police whistle and explains to an incredulous Watson Stapelton is the killer. He won't get far, as Holmes has Constables posted on the roads and the only way is the treacherous Grimpen Mire.

The case is solved and to the effusive thanks of a grateful Sir. Henry and Doctor Mortimer, Holmes turns in for the night, with these unforgettably bizarre parting words; 'Oh Watson?; the needle.'

So, the first of the Rathbone-Bruce films ends with a parting reference to Holmes' insidious use of the cocaine bottle. Fox made the first two of the series, set in the authentic era with high production values. After The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, however, a wrangle with the Conan-Doyle Estate saw Fox drop out. Greed and stupidity* triumphed and Universal were to churn out another twelve films as cheaper 'B'-Pictures, with simplistic plots, watered-down characterisations and what almost became an ensemble cast in the style of the (later) Carry-On comedy films. Despite the lowering tone, the Universal films remain popular with Sherlock fans – they should, having plenty of merit to balance the decision to transplant Holmes and co. into the mid-twentieth Century.

So, what can we deduce from a poster?. Well, Basil Rathbone didn't get top billing – romantic lead Richard Greene takes the top slot, presumably as a fail-safe in case the film failed to grip audiences. Greene's handsome face and wooden performance is standard fare and pales next to Rathbone. The supporting cast are all pleasantly solid, with future Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon) Lionel Atwill playing Dr. Mortimer with conviction. Barlowe Borland's Frankland is rather fun, while John Carradine plays his Barryman within the limits of the role. You suspect he would have made a good killer. Fritz the Great Dane gives good teeth and a fair bit of drooling, though watch the climactic scene closely and try not to laugh at the obviously playful dog being presented as a killer. 

And what, then of Holmes? Watson?. South African Basil Rathbone - Philip St. John Basil Rathbone was born in South Africa in 1892, brought up in England from the age of three and began touring with a theatre company before the outbreak of World War One. During the war he lost his brother, but served with distinction, winning the Military Cross for his daring and initiative in intelligence work. A career in Hollywood followed, but for full details you cannot improve on a visit to http://www.basilrathbone.net/ 

William Nigel Ernie Bruce was born in 1895 to a Baronet and also saw action in World War One; surviving eleven machine-gun bullets to the leg and going onto the stage in 1920. He was the captain of the Hollywood Cricket Club and retained his British citizenship.  
Above; for many, Basil Rathbone was the Sherlock Holmes

So, all that we have left is to award the Hound of the Baskervilles a rating for our first outing together;
'It is quite a three-pipe problem' - Sherlock Holmes

















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