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Hammer Hounds Holmes!
The Hound Of The Baskervilles  (DVD)
Member Name: karenuk
The Hound Of The Baskervilles  (DVD)
Advantages: Great cast, well produced, holds the suspense well.
Disadvantages: None for me.
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.
Summary: Hammer Horror tackles Sherlock Holmes.