Saturday Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Perhaps the most famous of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures, the novel also takes the great detective furthest into horror territory, as he contemplates whether or not he may be facing a supernatural adversary. The Hound has been filmed perhaps twenty times, with actors as diverse as Basil Rathbone, Peter Cook, Peter Cushing, Tom Baker, and Matt Frewer playing the man from Baker Street.1

Perhaps the best comes from Grenada-TV’s extraordinary 1980s series, which features the late Jeremy Brett as the definitive video Holmes and Edward Hardwicke, the second of the two actors who portrayed his Watson.

Add to that list of stars with genre credentials William Shatner, who plays Stapleton in the 1972 adaptation.


Directed by Brian Mills
Written by T.R. Bowen and Arthur Conan Doyle

Cast

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes
Edward Hardwicke as Dr. John Watson
Kristoffer Tabori as Sir Henry Baskerville
Neil Duncan as Dr. Mortimer
James Faulkner as Stapleton
Fiona Gillies as Beryl Stapleton
Ronald Pickup as Barrymore
Rosemary McHale as Mrs. Barrymore

Available as part of the Sherlock Holmes Feature Film Collection, here and here.

Premise:

A spectral hound born of a family curse apparently takes the life of the wealthy Sir Charles Baskerville. Holmes and Watson investigate, hoping to solve the mystery and save the life of Sir Henry, American heir to the Baskville estate.

High Points:

1. Early on, Holmes and Watson take turns drawing conclusions about Dr. Mortimer from his cane.

2. The final act of the film, as of the novel itself, may be cliched, but it has tight pacing and a neat solution.

Low Point:

While one expects a more leisurely pace to a Victorian story, the portion immediately after the arrival in Grimpen recalls a little too much low-budget Merchant Ivory. I also wondered about the introduction. I suppose it’s suspenseful and mood-setting, but more might have been done.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 This is a very faithful adaptation of a story that has been adapted many times before, so it isn’t especially original. The story itself is the most famous of a type of mystery that has become quite familiar, and the villain would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddlers. Grenada gets a point for their level of fidelity; there’s not a deerstalker hat nor a curved pipe in sight.

Effects: 3/6. The film’s principal effect is the hound itself. It’s slightly cheesy, but given the true nature of the beast, it would look something like this.

Story: 5/6 Curiously, this most-famous of Holmes’s adventures removes the detective for much of the story. His absence actually allows the mystery to develop; Holmes solves things a little too easily in the shorter stories, and that would not work here. The Hound of the Baskervilles also features many cliches of the gothic mystery, but they work well.

Acting: 5/6 The style may seem stilted in places, but the casts is strong overall. Brett and Hardwicke make an exceptional Holmes and Watson. We see less of Brett than usual, but he’s brilliant when he appears.

Production: 6/6 The Grenada series had strong production values, and this film does an excellent job of recreating the period.

Emotional Response: 5/6.

Overall: 5/6.

32/42

3 replies on “Saturday Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles”

  1. octa says:

    Rescue Rangers
    Bit of a tangent but the 90s cartoon series, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, did an excellent adaptation of this story. For me, it was the reason I got into Doyle and his Holmes books.

    Then came "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century" which killed any interest I had what-so-ever :|

  2. lost says:

    Character set…
    Is it too much to ask for folks to NOT use that cursed "Windows-1252" character encoding? Or at least have the blasted web server announce the content as Windows-1252 character set? Not everyone is using Windows or has their system set to that bastardized character set.

  3. zonk3r says:

    love this one
    Great story and well done.

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