Murder at the Baskervilles (1941)

Sherlock Holmes: Arthur Wontner
Dr. Watson: Ian Fleming
Year: 1941
Case: Silver Blaze (yeah, I know)


A note on plot

Despite the film’s title, this is actually a version of Silver Blaze, altered in such a way as to include Moriarty and Henry Baskerville. A little unusual, I admit, but it actually works quite well. Holmes (and by default Watson) are invited out to the estate of Henry Baskerville, some 20 years after the Hound of the Baskervilles took place. While there, Silver Blaze goes missing and Holmes finds himself jumping, head first, into an investigation.

Delightful elements

Arthur Wontner, as Sherlock Holmes:

I must first confess; I absolutely love Arthur Wontner as Holmes. More so than Rathbone. More so than Cushing. In fact, he is very quickly over-taking Brett as my favourite Holmes of all time. Why he doesn’t get more recognition in the Sherlockian world, I have no idea. He’s brilliant, though. And he and Ian Flemming have so much chemistry together. It’s incredible.

Ian Flemming, as Dr. Watson:

Again, fast becoming my favourite Watson. He retains his element of constant surprise, and it is obvious that he stands in awe of Holmes, but he does this in such a way as to keep his intelligence and his usefulness and… yeah. I just adore this version of Watson.


I actually really like the way this was pieced together. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are elements that are just ridiculous, but I like the idea of this story taking place 20 years after one of their more pivotal cases, and I like the idea of tying that case in with a completely different case. I even like Moriarty’s involvement, because it seems quite fitting –ACD introduced Moriarty far too late, and, despite the fact that I understand his reasons, I really would have liked for the character to have been developed more. Too often, though, films include him when he is not warranted. Here, however, he is (although, technically, he should be dead, but we’ll ignore that quibble for the moment).

Less delightful elements

There are a couple of scenes in this movie where I longed for modern day special effects. The scene where Moriarty’s henchman fires an air-rifle at Holmes and Watson is one of them. They literally pointed a prop and made sound effects. It was all I could do not to laugh.

The one quibble I had with Watson is that he is treated as the token woman in this film. Oh, he’s still a brilliant Watson, and I did find it interesting that he would be feminized by the script writers, but one of the things I like about their relationship is that it is obvious that they are both men. Here, though, you have a Watson who is clingy, and exceedingly effeminate, and prone to getting himself captured and needing Holmes to come to the rescue. It’s not bad, but it’s mildly annoying.

The slash

I don’t even know where to begin; that’s how slashy this movie was.

If ever there was a movie that depicted just how married Holmes and Watson were, this is it. They don’t even try to hide it. They are an old married couple, from the second they appear onscreen, to the second they walk offstage. They defer to one another. They walk, arm in arm, with one another. They are hyper aware of one another. They are invited, as a couple, to Henry Baskerville’s estate. It’s not even a suggestion. It’s an automatic assumption that they are together in this film. In fact, when they arrive, Baskerville offers to show them to their room. Not rooms. Room.

And then there is the way that Watson is constantly draping himself over Holmes. At one point, he actually drapes himself across a table in front of Holmes. It’s… wow. I don’t quite of words for how fantastic it is.

Then there is the concern. At one point, they’re involved in a car accident (and normally I would bitch about the cars, but given the context of the film, they actually make sense), and Holmes’ first act upon getting out of the wreck is to shout frantically for Watson. And then, when he finds him, he runs his hands over Watson to ensure he is unhurt.

This isn’t the only incidence of touching. They are constantly touching. Constantly. Holmes can’t seem to keep his hands off of Watson. And then the ending. My god. Watson is captured by Moriarty, and Holmes rushes to his rescue, and Watson, upon seeing Holmes, runs into Holmes’ waiting arms.

It’s… Mind boggling how slashy this film is. In fact, I think it actually bridges the gap between subtext and gay erotica. It’s so gay that it automatically earns itself a 4 out of 5 pipe rating.