The family of Baskerville seems cursed by the legend of a spectral hound, which leads the males of the line to early and gruesome deaths. When the latest heir arrives to take up his county seat, his friend calls in Sherlock Holmes to try and solve the mystery.
German filmmakers had already tackled ‘The Hound’ twice before, once in a series of films in 1914 and then again in 1929. This effort was not a success at the box office, which is not really a surprise when viewed today. After all, a Sherlock Holmes film is supposed to be about Sherlock Holmes! Adapting Arthur Conan Doyle’s original novel has been an issue for every filmmaker who has tried his hand at it; once the action moves from London to Dartmoor, Holmes disappears for a long stretch of the narrative, leaving the audience in the perhaps less capable hands of Watson. But, in this version, a lengthy prologue means that the Great Detective appears on screen for less than 25 minutes in the entire film, and that’s a handicap that simply can’t be overcome.
The film as a whole is actually pretty faithful to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original novel, although a glamorous housekeeper is added to the staff of Baskerville Hall. The other major change is in the historical sequence, detailing the origin of the family phantom. Here, Sir Hugo is not a despoiler of innocent virgins that he chases across the moor in the dead of night, but a married man. Unfortunately, his wife has been up to no good and he kills both her and her lover during a party at Baskerville Hall, after which he is promptly torn to pieces by her pet dog. It’s not a particularly convincing sequence but then rendering a sufficiently murderous hound has been a problem every film adaptation has had to face.
Our Sherlock Holmes here is Bruno Guttner, who provides a little dash in the role, but otherwise fails to make much of an impression. The production is also studio bound, and director Carl Lamac fails to build any of the necessary atmosphere to help a plodding screenplay. It was a step down for Fritz Rasp who plays Barrymore here, as he’d played Stapleton in the 1929 version.
There are a couple of points of particular historical interest, though. Whilst out for a stroll across the moor, Watson is stopped by two members of the local police force. Who demand to see his papers. Not a scene present in any other version to the best of my knowledge, and, given the country of origin and the year it was made, a rather chilling addition. It was one of only two films found by the Allies in Adolf Hitler’s bunker in 1945.
Not the worst adaptation of the tale by any means, but certainly one of the dullest.