Movie: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)


This movie is strange. I have no idea how a script writer can „adapt“ a book in a way that makes the story completely illogical and totally haphazard. Assuming that the audience doesn’t know the book, they must leave the cinema (or sofa) baffled in regards to how Sherlock Holmes found the culprit or even what exactly happened.

The whole movie was a sequence of unrelated scenes that did not build upon each other in any way. One especially strange example is the séance that takes place in Stapleton’s house (one of those changes to the original story that made no sense at all) with Mrs. Mortimer trying to call the dead Sir Baskerville. The suspense is at its (modest) peak, when suddenly we hear howling outside and Beryl Stapleton calls out in fright. The séance is being interrupted and literally that very second everybody gets up and leaves for home.

There are other changes to the story that are completely unnecessary or even nonsensical. At the beginning we have the famous scene where Holmes displays his deduction skills to his buffoon sidekick Dr. Watson by describing Dr. Mortimer from examining at his walking stick. Country doctor, walks on foot, has a dog. When Holmes later asks Dr. Mortimer about the dog the doctor answers he used to have a dog but it is dead. What does this mean? Why is the dog dead? Could the production not afford a live dog? Why not say the dog is at home with Dr. Mortimer’s wife? Or was it a false clue that is supposed to make us think that maybe the dog marks are from the evil hound and Dr. Mortimer is the culprit?

Another especially intriguing change is the relationship between Stapleton and his sister. When Holmes hears that Sir Henry Baskerville is going to marry Beryl in two days (Sir Henry moves fast) he makes a peculiar face as if to say “Beryl is marrying Baskerville? How can that be? She is already married!”. Somehow the script writer must have changed his ideas about that plot point because as it turns out later Beryl in fact IS Stapleton’s sister and the funny look on Holmes face was never explained.

At the end there is a poisoning scene where Holmes saves Sir Henry’s life which also leaves a lot to be desired. The timing is all wrong (Stapleton handing a poisoned medicine to Sir Henry equals the time that Holmes takes to walk across the moor at night) and Holmes deducts that a murder is going to take place out of nothing, NOTHING.

This is a travesty of the original story and only serves as a entertaining piece for an evening when you want to laugh yourself silly over the inaccuracies, illogicality and ridiculousness of the story. Not suitable for Conan Doyle fans and sticklers (like me).

2 Comments Write a comment

  1. The Hound of the Baskervilles is the first Sherlock Holmes I ever read. I was 12 at the time and loved the story so, so much that decided if I ever wanted to be like someone, it’d be Sherlock. So I started reading his works and to my surprise I met Irene Adler. Love at first sight with both the characters and the genre (oh and the name “Adler”).
    Elena’s last post ..First Giveaway!


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