Movie Wednesday: The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum
Detective Sherlock Holmes is asked to investigate the mysterious and seemingly supernatural death of Charles Baskerville and to prevent the death of the new heir to the Baskerville estate, Henry. According to local superstition, the Baskerville family is cursed by a giant spectral hound, which always hunts down the head of the family. Holmes sends his good friend, Dr. John Watson, to the moors of Devonshire to investigate. But the case quickly proves much more complex and sinister than originally supposed.
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The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was first published in Strand Magazine in a series of installments from August 1901 to April 1902. It marked the return of Sherlock Holmes to publication after the titular character’s infamous “death” in the story The Final Problem. The Hound of the Baskervilles takes place prior to the legendary detective’s seeming demise and it was the popularity of this story that ultimately lead to the revival of the character.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has been adapted to screen many, many times (in fact, did you know that Sherlock Holmes is considered the record holder for most portrayed literary human character in film and TV?), but perhaps one of the most well known is the 1939 film starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. It’s notable for being one of the first known Holmes adaptation to be set in the Victorian era instead of a more updated setting and for beginning a long running series of Holmes films even though it was the only one in the series to be directly and strictly based on a story by Conan Doyle.
- One of the joys of detective fiction is that it invites the viewer or the reader to hypothesize on their own as the story progresses. Did you have any hypotheses while watching The Hound of the Baskervilles? Were they the same or different than the conclusions Holmes and Watson come to? Explain one of your hypotheses.
- Do you think it was acceptable for Holmes to mislead Watson and the others to believe he was staying in London while in reality he was out on the moor? Why or why not?
- The 1939 film takes several liberties with Conan Doyle’s text. If you’ve read the book, what was a change in the film that you liked and one you didn’t like? Explain you answers.
- In the book, the hound is doused in phosphorous to make it appear spectral, but in the film the hound appears simply as a large dog. Which do you think is more frightening and why?
Learn language arts with the Hound of the Baskervilles Boomerang!
The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward 8th to 10th graders (ages 12—advanced, 13-15) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.