“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 1959 / Parental Guidance / Director: Terence Fisher / Actors: Peter Cushing, André Morell, Christopher Lee, Marla Landi, David Oxley ... / DVD released 2003-10-20 at MGM Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
I am a huge fan of Hammer horror films and especially of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. I also rather like Sherlock Holmes, so I couldn't pass up an opportunity to watch 1959's The Hound of the Baskervilles, which combines all of these. I have seen several other film and television versions of this story years ago, but can't remember ever watching this one before.
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the original story which was published in 1901-02, being serialised in a magazine. Wikipedia believes there have been between 25 and 30 different versions of the story made into films and this 1959 version is the third to be made in the United Kingdom. It was also the first one in colour.
The film begins in the Baskerville Hall where there is a raucous party going on, organised by the Master of the House, a Sir Hugo Baskerville (played by David Oxley). This is quite a brutal opening, as he is violent and cruel and although the worst parts aren't actually shown, I found it rather shocking. Thankfully it is a brief introduction to the film and the horrible Sir Hugo isn't around for long.
We then move on to the present day for the film, where another of the Baskerville family - Sir Charles - has been found dead. Dr Richard Mortimer (played by Francis de Wolff) is discussing the mystery surrounding his friend's death with legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and his sidekick Dr Watson (Andre Morrell). Mortimer explains there are suspicious circumstances and details the famous legend of the Baskerville family being cursed, where they often end up dead on the moors, after being apparently savaged by some monstrous dog - the Hound of the Baskervilles.
Following Sir Charles's demise, the new tenant of Baskerville Hall is arriving - Sir Henry (Christopher Lee) - and Mortimer asks Holmes to look after him, to prevent him from also succumbing to the curse and dying a premature and unnatural death. So the scene is set. Baskerville Hall has its new Master, but will Holmes and Watson be able to prevent him from the same fate of his forefathers?
After recently being disappointed with the film The Evil of Frankenstein, it was great to really enjoy a Hammer movie starring Peter Cushing and The Hound of the Baskervilles was right back up there, reminding me of all the reasons I love these kinds of films. You get the usual Hammer trademarks - thunderstorms, day for night shooting, buxom women with heaving cleavages, posh houses in bleak locations, red drapes and lots of blood - but this one is much classier than The Evil of Frankenstein.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has everything going for it really - great sets, an excellent cast, a solid story and a tension which continues until the end. Despite having seen various versions of the story over the years, I couldn't remember how it panned out, so it held my attention throughout and I enjoyed the surprises it gives out along the way.
Peter Cushing makes a wonderful Sherlock Holmes with his English class values, his pipe, his wit and his shrewd deductions. He is all you could wish for in this character. Andre Morrell is similarly ideal as Dr Watson and makes good use of the screen time he gets here. Christopher Lee (looking really young!) brings a dignity and authority to Sir Henry and plays it straight throughout. There is no bad acting in this film, even Cecile (Marla Landi) is just about convincing, though I suspect she was cast for her looks. The supporting cast includes Sam Kydd as the coach driver Perkins and John Le Mesurier as the Baskerville butler Barrymore, both of whom have small roles but shine nonetheless. Miles Malleson is equally delightful as the Bishop and his scenes are fun to watch.
The effects are good enough not to be distracting, though it is obvious when they change from location to set, such as in the castle ruins. It can be forgiven though and does not detract from the overall feel of the film. Baskerville Hall is dressed beautifully and feels authentic and this is where much of the action takes place. The costumes fit in well with the period and overall, it is a classy looking film that appears timeless and is just as good today as it would have been in 1959.
I really enjoyed watching this film and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Hammer, Sherlock Holmes or any of the main cast. It is available on DVD from Amazon UK for just £3.99 at the moment, so it is worth snapping up at that price. This DVD was released in 2003 and also includes the original theatrical trailer. The film itself lasts 87 minutes and is rated a PG.
7 ½ out of 10.
There have been countless versions of Conan Doyle's timeless The Hound of the Baskervilles made for cinema and television over the years but one of my own personal favourites is this 1959 adaption by Hammer Films - an enjoyably melodramatic and gothic spin on the famous tale starring the great Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes. Holmes purists might find a few elements to nitpick over but the film is wonderfully rich in Hammer residue and great fun on the whole. It begins with an unmistakably 'Hammer-esque' prologue set back in the 1600s where the wicked Sir Hugo Baskerville (David Oxley) kidnaps a local wench for his pleasure and hunts her down ("Let loose the pack!") on the moors when she escapes. At an old abandoned abbey near Baskerville Hall he murders the unfortunate girl but is then almost immediately killed himself by what appears to be a giant spectral hound - thus starting the legend of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Since then every male Baskerville heir has died in strange circumstances when venturing too close to the moors alone, an apparent victim of an ancient curse on the family.
When the latest heir to Baskerville dies in creepy circumstances at the remains of the abbey, family friend Dr Mortimer (Francis De Wolff) travels to London to consult the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and his assistant Dr Watson (Andre Morell) and asks them to examine this very spooky and troubling mystery. "Do you imagine that I can prevent the Powers of Darkness?" says Cushing in his delightfully urbane voice as Holmes. Holmes duly agrees to look into matters but has urgent business to attend to elsewhere for the time being and places Watson in charge of the case, requesting that he goes to stay at Baskerville Hall to keep an eye on the new owner, Sir Henry (Christopher Lee).
Hammer do a fine job with Conan Doyle's most famous story and reel you in right from the start with the atmospheric prologue which broadens the film out a little and gives it a more cinematic gloss. Once back in the present day and inside the cosy firelit rooms of 10 Baker Street, it is apparent fairly quickly that Peter Cushing makes a wonderful Sherlock Holmes. He's energetic, eccentric, brilliant, kind, aloof and always great fun to be with as he pits his considerable intellect against the mystery of the Baskerville curse. Cushing doesn't have the rangy physical presence of Basil Rathbone or the angst of Jeremy Brett but he gives a very commanding performance nonetheless that makes you wish Hammer had tackled a few more Holmes adventures with him. "Superficial," dismisses Holmes after a brilliant piece of deduction on his part. "There is nothing remarkable about using one's eyes." Another big plus is Andre Morell as Watson. The Basil Rathbone films, as enjoyable as they are, tended to use Watson for comic relief and depicted him as a buffoonish old dodderer. Morell plays it straight and his brave and decent Watson - who lest we forget is supposed to be a former military man - is much closer to the Watson of the books.
Hammer play slightly fast and loose with the novel at times, adding a few distinct theatrical horror caper elements such as the mist shrouded prologue, a missing tarantula and sacrificial rites. They do an excellent job though in terms of atmosphere and this is a wonderful film to watch late at night with the large, creaky antique rooms of Baskerville Hall casting long shadows and strange lights on the damp, foggy moors at night. One thing that can become a problem with this oft-adapted tale is of course the fact that Holmes is offscreen for the middle portion of the story. Here though, Morell manages to carry the picture along fairly well as Watson settles into Baskerville Hall and meets the various local characters who may or may not be red herrings. The cast is enjoyable on the whole with Miles Malleson hamming it up as the eccentric and forgetful Bishop Frankland ("Bishop of the Upper Isles... for what they're worth") and Ewen Solon as neighbour Stapleton with Marla Landi as his exotic daughter Cecile. The film also plays up the class distinctions of the era more than other interpretations. "When you're poor, no one wants to know you," laments a key character.
The middle section of the film is pleasantly mysterious with Hammer deploying their vast experience in creating spooky landscapes and sets with dim lights coming from isolated old houses. The escaped convict on the moor strand to the story is nicely done here too and the film has some great moments when Watson detects strange flickerings outside in the dead of night. Once Cushing re-enters the film though it really picks up the pace and builds to an entertaining final act. Although the film isn't completely faithful to the book, Cushing himself has obviously gone to great lengths to delve into the literary roots of the character and his Holmes is admirably enigmatic at times, always two or three steps ahead of everybody else but keeping his cards close to his chest. By the end of the film you are convinced that this is a brilliant man and that Cushing IS Sherlock Holmes. One thing I really like about Cushing's Holmes is that he's very energetic, almost athletic, as he rushes around the desolate countryside from ruined buildings to abandoned mines, eager to corroborate his theories and suspicions. I don't think Conan Doyle's Holmes ever actually said "elementary, my dear Watson" but it's absolutely fantastic when Cushing says it here just for the crisp and polished way he pronounces the word "elementary". Cushing's palpable enthusiasm is infectious and gives the film a big boost.
Christopher Lee is also excellent in the film as Sir Henry. Lee was apparently tiring of playing the same roles all the time and seems to enjoy himself as a more vulnerable and slightly timid character up to his neck in a mystery he doesn't understand. He affects great terror in a memorable scene involving in a tarantula. It's always a great pleasure to be in the company of actors like Lee and Cushing for 90 minutes or so and consequently The Hound of the Baskervilles is highly enjoyable. The film has a wonderful closing image of Holmes and Watson together with a final line that never fails to make me smile.
Hammer's spin on The Hound of the Baskervilles is great fun on the whole with two of my favourite actors of all time and a wonderful atmosphere. Well worth a look if you've never seen it before.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Writer: Peter Bryan
Dir.: Terence Fisher
Peter Cushing - Sherlock Holmes
Andre Morrell - Dr. Watson
Christopher Lee - Sir Henry Baskerville
Francis De Wolff - Dr. Mortimer
Marla Landi - Cecile Stapleton
Ewan Solon - Stapleton
Miles Malleson - Bishop Frankland
John Le Mesurier - Barrymore
The Baskervilles are a wealthy family said to be cursed by an evil deed done by one of their ancestors. The legend states that every Baskerville heir will fall victim to the hound of the Baskervilles, a vicious and ghastly beast.
Sir Henry is the new heir to the Baskerville fortune and is the last of the Baskervilles.
Dr. Mortimer, a friend of the Baskerville family fears for the life of Sir Henry.
Famous detective Sherlock Holmes is hired by Dr. Mortimer to protect Sir Henry, and also to investigate the curse and the mysterious hound.
Can Sherlock, accompanied by his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson solve the mysterious case of the hound of the Baskervilles.
This movie is based on the excellent novel of the same name by the renowned author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I was forced to read this book in my high school English class, and although I wouldn't admit it, I really enjoyed it.
And this movie is just as enjoyable as the book.
It has an excellent story that was wonderfully directed. It has a superb cast that all gave remarkable performances.
Peter Cushing was excellent in his turn as Sherlock Holmes, and Andre Morrell was wonderful as his loyal companion Dr. Watson.
Christopher Lee, mostly unknown up to this point was stellar as Sir Henry Baskerville.
This movie has an excellent mystery and is a bit creepy at times.
I definitely recommend that everyone see this film adaptation of this wonderful classic story.