Der Hund von Baskerville
Director: Richard Oswald
Screenplay: Georg C Klaren and Herbert Juttke
Release: Flicker Alley
The novel of The Hound of the Baskerville has been adapted 14 million times. It could, more accurately, be 30 times, but I think you catch my meaning, Peter Cushing starred in two of them. I’ve read the book and listened to an audiobook version. I have now seen six of them. I like Sherlock Holmes.
Richard Oswald’s Der Hund von Baskerville, the last silent film starring Sherlock Holmes, has been less a legend than a rumor among cinephiles and Sherlockians. This seven-reel film, with its long pedigree extending back to a German stage play written while Germany was at war with England, has been regarded as the most important of the ‘Hound’ made in Europe. Long considered lost, it was the last silent Sherlock Holmes film ever made, produced when German studios were the envy of the world. Seen here in two versions, one with English titles and one entirely in German with titles based on the original German censor records, Hund lives again accompanied by a new ensemble score from the incomparable Günter Buchwald, Frank Bockius and Sascha Jacobsen.
Starring Carlyle Blackwell Sr. (Sherlock Holmes), George Seroff (Dr. Watson) and Fitz Rasp (Stapleton), this version of Der Hund is a deluxe makeover made during the dying days of the silent era. Much has been refined, but we are still in a world of secret passages behind sliding panels that lead to torture chambers, death traps, and a hiding place for the malodorous hound.
The project to restore and preserve Der Hund von Baskerville is a collaboration between Filmoteka Narodowa and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, overseen by film preservationist Rob Byrne. This exciting rediscovery comes from an original 35mm Czech distribution, unseen until now from a private collection.
Richard Oswald’s Der Hund von Baskerville is the 4th adaptation, and the and the 3rd from Germany. Germany’s admiration for the story is covered in the special features but I think it is pretty clear that they are fans. But, it is possible that this is one of the more cinematic Holmes tales out there.
I sort of feel like a broken record saying this about Flicker Alley releases, but if you have read one my essays and it caused you to pony up and purchase one of their releases you will know this to be true. When they are, somewhat, involved in a restoration it is going to be the best possible version of a film and short of finding a pristine copy in an alternate dimension you will never see a better looking edition of these films.
Obviously, they are perfect, like-new, releases, but they represent the clearest, most authentic, edition possible. In the case of Der Hund there approximately two reels worth of footage that was either completely lost or in such disrepair they would hinder the experience. From notes and set photos they recreated the scenes with static images and descriptive text to maintain the narrative. I have take no umbrage with this. I would rather have something over nothing.
- Der Hund von Baskerville (1914)
- Arthur Conan Doyle and the Hound of the Baskervilles
- Restoring Richard Oswald’s Der Hund von Baskerville
- An Illustrated Booklet Essay
Don’t confuse the first special feature with the title main release, Flicker Alley has gifted us with a separate, second, German, adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyles book. What I recall it looked decent, not nearly as good as the main feature, I don’t think German silent films are the kind of movies that you can watch back to back with the same story. The second featurette is an interview with a couple of historians about Doyle’s writing generally and the Hound specifically. It includes interesting opinions that the creator of the World’s Greatest Detective didn’t care for his character. This lead to Holmes’ death and Doyles own private MISERY with his mother “strongly recommending” that he resurrect the character, I presume there was no ankle breaking involved.
The second featurette is my nourishment. Without being hyperbolic sometimes I get more out of restoration demonstrations than I do their feature. As a career it could be the high of drudgery, but it looks like David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear. Flicker Alley does not disappoint here both illustrating the actual cleaning and coupling it with a near Holmesian investigation for sufficient elements to complete the best possible product.
Director: 7 – Cinematography: 9 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 1 – Main performance: 7 – Else performance: 3 – Score: 8 – Sound: NA – Story: 10 – Script: 6 – Effects: 7 – Design: 9 – Costumes: 10 – Keeps interest: 8 – Lasting: 5