Directed by: Sidney Lanfield
Screenplay by: Ernest Pascal
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1939 mystery film based on the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was directed by Sidney Lanfield.
It's among the best-known cinematic adaptations of the book, and is often regarded as one of the best. The film stars Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson and Richard Greene as Henry Baskerville.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is the first of the fourteen Sherlock Holmes films starring Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson. It's also the earliest known Sherlock film to be set in the Victorian period of the original stories; all previous Holmes films, up to and including the 1930s British films starring Arthur Wontner as Holmes, had been updated to a setting contemporaneous with the films' release. It's also the only film in the series to be a strict adaptation of a source material, while subsequent installments would feature original titles and incorporate various elements of different stories.
The Story (warning: spoilers)
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson receive a visit from Dr. James Mortimer, who wishes to consult them before the arrival of Sir Henry Baskerville, the last of the Baskervilles, heir to the Baskerville estate in Devonshire.
Dr. Mortimer is anxious about letting Sir Henry go to Baskerville Hall, owing to a family curse. He tells Holmes and Watson the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles, a demonic dog that first killed Sir Hugo Baskerville several hundred years ago and is believed to kill all Baskervilles in the region of Devonshire.
Holmes dismisses this as a fairy tale, but Mortimer relates the events of the recent death of his best friend, Sir Charles Baskerville — Sir Henry's uncle. Although he was found dead in his garden without any trace of physical damage, Sir Charles's face was distorted as if he died in utter terror, from heart failure.
Holmes decides to send Watson to Baskerville Hall along with Sir Henry, claiming that he's too busy to go himself. Sir Henry quickly develops a romantic interest in Beryl Stapleton, the step-sister of his neighbor Jack Stapleton, a local naturalist. Meanwhile, a homicidal maniac, escaped from Dartmoor Prison, dwells on the moor.
But Holmes does eventually make an appearance, having been hiding in the vicinity for some time in the process of conducting his own investigation. Watson and Sir Henry meanwhile attend a seance held by Mrs. Mortimer. In a trance, she asks, "What happened that night on the moor, Sir Charles?" The only reply is the lone howl of a hound. After some clever deception by Holmes, he speculates that the actual criminal is Stapleton, a long-lost cousin of the Baskervilles, who hopes to claim their vast fortune himself after removing all other members of the bloodline.
Stapleton kept a huge, half-starved, vicious dog trained to attack members of the Baskerville clan after prolonged exposure to their scent. However, when the hound is finally sent to kill Sir Henry Baskerville, Holmes and Watson arrive to save him and kill the hound. Stapleton then traps Holmes in the hound's underground kennel, and sends Watson into the moor to meet him. Holmes cuts his way out of the kennel and returns to the house and destroys the poison that Stapleton had just given to the wounded Baskerville. Stapleton pulls a gun and flees. Holmes says ominously, "He won't get very far. I've posted constables along the roads and the only other way is across the Grimpen Mire."