The Hound of the Baskervilles (Der Hund von Baskerville) (1929)

dir. Richard Oswald. The last silent film based on a Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes and Watson are visited by doctor from the West Country of England who needs their help after his friend has died of apparent heart failure on the moors, but he believes to be a family curse of a demon hound. This was considered a lost film for many years and was restored as part of an international film project led by the Polish National Film Archive (a print was discovered in Poland), and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. One of the reels early in the film is still missing, but still photographs and text cover the missing story. The spooky Baskerville manor is the highlight of the film, with many delightfully atmospheric scenes of the mysterious butler creeping around by candlelight. In one scene Holmes is observed by someone hiding within a suit of armour, that is very evocative of the movie trope of eyes observing from the eye holes in old paintings. The oldest example of that example I have of ‘eyes behind a painting’ is in the John Wayne film RANDY RIDES ALONE (1934), where evil eyes peer out from a portrait of Ulysses S. Grant. THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is an enjoyable silent film mystery, but for me it does not capture the charm, and cool detachment of Sherlock Holmes. This is not helped by multiple unflattering shots of Holmes’s rear-end as he inelegantly climbs through the tunnels beneath the manor. This might be one of the most enduring Sherlock Holmes stories because of its blend of mystery and horror, unfortunately the titular hound is never threatening or dangerous, which removes the life and death peril that this story needs.

By Nicholas Hudson-Ellis

Co-Founder & Film Programs Manager of Bangkok Screening Room.