THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1959)
Directed by Terence Fisher
On Arrow Video Blu-Ray now
Legend of the curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles, a hound from Hell who is said to have killed Sir Hugo Baskerville out on the moors, has descended from generation to generation. When Sir Charles Baskerville succumbs to a suspicious death, his friend Dr. Mortimer requests the help of London based detective Sherlock Holmes to investigate the death and to protect the last living Baskerville, Sir Henry, who’s travelled from overseas to claim his inheritance, Baskerville Hall. Holmes assigns his second-in-command Dr. Watson to accompany Sir Henry back to Baskerville Hall with the strict order not to allow Henry to venture onto the moors alone at night. Is there truth to the tales of the Moors’ deadly beast with an appetite for Baskerville flesh? Sherlock Holmes will no doubt get to the bottom of it.
Hammer Horror’s re-telling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic tale is a captivating, dramatic performance from the get-go. Peter Cushing is commanding as the straight-talking, no-nonsense detective whilst Andre Morell stars as his patient, easy-going associate Doctor Watson. Dr. Watson accompanies the dashing Sir Henry (Christopher Lee) to his new home and begins to discover potentially important details about the peculiar estate, from the mysteriously lit empty room in Baskerville Hall to the perilous mire on the moors, the latter which he knows something all too well about. When they are eventually joined by Holmes, his deductive skills are in full swing as he wastes no time in confronting people for answers, facts and clues about what strange mysteries are afoot at the Baskerville estate.
To my shame, this is the first and only Sherlock Holmes adaptation I’ve seen. I know many people rave about Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett’s role as the detective in their respective films and series’. Being totally fresh to the Holmes scene, I was quite impressed by Peter Cushing’s detailed performance, as I was by all the performances in the film, even the character of alcholic Bishop Frankland who’s one sandwich short of a picnic. Andre Morell as Dr. Watson is a fantastic lead for much of the film, bridging the gap between the viewer and the clear-cut investigative deduction of Holmes, but bringing his own style of discovery and presence to the mix. I found Christopher Lee to be quite mesmerising too in the role of the elite Sir Henry and his charming presence seemed to capture the high class of his character whilst retaining an honest, romantic edge.
The sets, props and costumes of Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, combined with the tight script and screenplay, create quite an atmospheric movie. The plonk of the piano score adds dramatic emphasis that works so well in these old movies and really sets the tone of the scenes. The air of mystery and simmering evil bubbles at the surface throughout and it manages to hold on until the final scenes when the pent up malevolence finally boils over. Whilst the ending didn’t come as a complete surprise, there were plenty elements to it that were indeed a revelation, and as whole, I really enjoyed the movie. The build up throughout the film to the finale was handled extremely well and there’s enough to keep the viewer engrossed, especially exploring the relationships and characters in and around the Baskerville estate.
Arrow Video have released The Hound of the Baskervilles in a beautiful high definition transfer on Blu-Ray with clear uncompressed original 1.0 mono audio. As with most of the Arrow Video releases, the Blu-Ray comes a collection of terrific special features including commentary from Hammer experts, a making-of documentary featuring interviews with critic Kim Newman, co-creator of BBC’s Sherlock, Mark Gatiss and props master on the film amongst others and a featurette on Andre Morell. Christopher Lee leads a documentary Sherlock Holmes as well as reading excerpts from Conan Doyle’s work, and is the subject of an interview in where he discusses his time working on The Hound of the Baskervilles and with Peter Cushing, a man whom he had a great affinity. These special features are tremendous to watch and are chock full of insightful details about the film, Hammer’s involvement and the history of Holmes. The Blu-Ray also features a reversible cover and collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by former Hammer archivist Rovert J.E. Simpson, along with some stills and shots of the original poster.
Arrow Video have knocked it out of the ballpark yet again with this superb release and The Hound of the Baskervilles itself is an enthralling watch from start to finish.