Directed by Karel Lamac [Other horror films: De spooktrein (1939)]
Ah, finally, after having watched the 1914 and 1929 silent versions, I get to hear speaking once again. It’s in German, sure, but it’s also subtitled, so no problems there. This is a pretty good version of the story, but compared to many other versions, I have a hard time believing it really stands out.
Certainly the quality of the print I viewed wasn’t great – it seemed like some VHS rip, which of course has charm to it, but it would have been nice to see a little cleaner print. Even so, that doesn’t negatively impact the film, especially since I’m just glad the copy was in German with English subtitles thrown on.
The movie itself follows the main traditions the 1929 version did – Holmes not accompanying Watson to Baskerville castle, the escaped convict on the moors, and actually having a strong role for Watson (unlike the 1914 version) – and it did so competently enough, but I still think that some parts could have been trimmed (such as the somewhat unnecessary opening regarding the origins of the curse).
I will give it that this version has my favorite Sherlock Holmes thus far (compared to the 1914 and 1929 versions). Here, Holmes is played by Bruno Güttner as a rather analytic and none-too-sensitive Holmes, which is the type of Holmes I like. He has the confidence that 1914’s Alwin Neuß had, but he also had that analytic character trait (case in point: by looking at a cane, he can tell quite a bit about Doctor Mortimer) that wasn’t really shown in either of the previous versions I’ve seen today. What makes this even more impressive is that Güttner’s only been in a total of three films.
They also did Watson pretty well, and better than they have up to this point, having a Fritz Odemar portray him. Here, he doesn’t really come across as a pointless side-kick but a deductive individual of his own right (and investigative, as seen by his opening scene in which he’s looking at the ash remains of 117 types of cigarettes and cigars for comparison of some sort). Not that Odemar was perfect, but I did quite like his performance here.
Fritz Rasp appeared as Barrymore, and though he lacks the character the 1914 Andreas Van Horn got, he did a fine job, and related, Rasp was also in the 1929 version playing Stapleton. Here, Stapleton was played by Erich Ponto – Ponto did a decent job, and I sort of liked his seemingly-weak physique, but he sort of lacked the pache that the previous two Stapleton’s (Friedrich Kühne and Fritz Rasp) brought to the table. And as for Henry Baskerville, well, Peter Voß did okay, but his character has never really impressed me, and it’s no different here.
I think the mystery and horror elements were generally done pretty well here, and while the quality of the film wasn’t great, most of the scenes on the moor weren’t too marred, and the sinister aura that you’d hope to find among the most thrilling of those scenes was present still.
While both of the silent versions were also German films, it’s nice to see a version of the film with sound so I can hear the dulcet tones of the German language. As you can imagine, the cast of this film is somewhat insular (especially compared to the cast of the 1929 version, which had an American and an Italian in leading roles), with this being made during a somewhat bad time for the country, but it’s still an okay version of a good story, and sticks to the necessities, and comes out fine.