It’s time to look at a really retro Sherlock Holmes film. The franchise has always been rather enjoyable since I do like a good mystery. I also like it when the detective is incredibly smart and tends to know what is going to happen at all times. It’s why Detective Conan is so good since he is always the smartest guy in the room. The same can be said for Sherlock Holmes who typically knows the guilty party right away and is only slowed down by a lack of evidence.
The film starts with Holmes trying to make Watson feel bad as per usual by showing him a cane and asking the assistant to try and glean some information from it. Watson does learn some information and seems rather proud of himself, but Holmes quickly points out that Watson was sloppy once again. That’s when Mortimer shows up and tells Holmes about a demon dog who has been going around murdering a family for generations. The next victim will be Henry who is inheiriting the estate. Holmes had actually figured that Henry was going to die, but didn’t particularly care. Now that it is an official case he has to make sure to see it through though. Can Holmes solve this supernatural case or will this mark the beginning of the end for the famous sleuth?
Naturally I was rather worried about having a dog be the main villain. It’s why this story has never sounded quite as interesting as some of the others. It was inevitable that the heroes would have to fight the dog after all. Fortunately the dog only really shows up once, but naturally the scene is pretty tragic. Especially since it wasn’t the dog’s fault that he was an antagonist, it was all the owner’s fault. The film definitely lost some points on account of the animal violence even if it was a solid film otherwise. It’s just hard to fully make a comeback after such a plot.
Beyond that, it’s a sound mystery. Holmes decides to stay in London, but as you may expect this doesn’t mean that he is gone for good. His disguise in the film is actually rather genius. He plays the role perfectly and is certainly the best character in the film. The person he was pretending to be had been my favorite prior to the reveal so it just makes sense that Holmes earned the top spot. His detective work is flawless as always. If anything you may find it a little suspect how he was tricked so easily into falling down to the basement, but I suppose you could maybe try and argue that it was all part of the plan. He still made it back quickly enough to help the characters who were less intelligent.
While Watson may not be as smart as Holmes, at least he tries hard. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy since he is insulted quite a bit, but that’s because being around Holmes all the time just sets a rather high bar for him to top. At least he was armed and ready for a majority of the film and never seemed like he would be an easy mark for the villain. Watson can either be a fun character or an annoying one throughout the various adaptions and fortunately this was in the former category.
Then you have Henry who is not smart in the slightest. He knows that people are out to murder him, but he doesn’t care one bit. He is too interested in romance for any of that and even heads to the swamp when nobody is around. There’s no point to this other than to try and taunt the villains by showing that he isn’t afraid of them. I’m sure the culprit would have been thrilled since Henry would have just fallen into the quick sand and died if not for a timely rescue by one of the neighbors. Henry nearly gets shot in the opening scene and doesn’t even realize it either. It’s hard to find this character likable in the slightest since he is so slow on the uptake the whole time. This character would have benefited quite a lot from a little more intelligence or common sense. Even accepting a drink at the end was rather sketchy on his part.
Then we have the suspects. First there is Mortimer who is the first character to show up. He puts Holmes on the case, but then seemingly lies about owning a large dog as his cane has big teeth marks. The guy says that it was just a small dog that he used to own. Is Holmes wrong for once or does this guy have something to hide? Then there is the Butler. What more needs to be said about this guy? The butler is always prowling around the corridors at night and naturally has quite a lot of good excuses at the ready in case anyone asks him why he is there. It’s simply his job. Then there is the butler’s wife who is a psychic. She doesn’t like to talk to the ghosts but always has a change of heart off screen. Is it all part of her plans? There are also the 3 neighbors. The sister who is romantically entangled with Henry. Is she simply trying to get him to lower his guard? There’s her brother who is super glad to have Henry show up so perhaps he is overcompensating so that he won’t seem suspicious? Finally we have an old man who seems to know things about all of the cast. Perhaps these secrets include some financial ones about the estate so he will need Henry out of the picture. Of course we also can’t forget the dangerous guy running around the moor trying to flatten everyone with rocks.
Definitely a lot to think about as you try to solve the mystery before Holmes does. The pacing is rather good so something is always happening on screen. The film doesn’t feel long either and we should also give some credit to the writing for that as well since the script was sound. Sherlock Holmes certainly earned its rep as a solid book series and this was a good film to start the retro movies out on in that sense. A shame about the dog scene, but since that likely wouldn’t return for future movies, it’s still a good sign for the film series as a whole.
Overall, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a solid mystery film so long as you can get past the dog scene. If you can see the dog as simply an antagonistic monster then maybe it won’t hurt quite so much. The Sherlock Holmes and Watson dynamic is always fun, especially when Holmes whips out his violin and begins to troll his assistant. Of course, they aren’t together for most of the film since they used a divide and conquer strategy this time. We’ll see how the team goes about it next time.