JT Film Review

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

The Hound of the Baskervilles Review
Review #139

4/5 stars

Director – Terence Fisher

Cast – Peter Cushing, Andre Morell, Christopher Lee,  Marla Landi, Ewen Solon, Francis de Wolff, John Le Mesurier, Miles Malleson

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The great detective Sherlock Holmes is the most prolific character in screen history. Having so many interpretations of the character floating around, I can only imagine how any actor must feel upon taking on the role. It would be tough, to be sure. Peter Cushing has the unenviable task here, and he carries it off reasonably well. He is no Jeremy Brett, who played the role in the revered BBC series of the 80’s/90’s, or even a Basil Rathbone of the ’40s films, but we can’t really complain. Andre Morell is an excellent Watson, and is perhaps a bit more succesful in his part than Cushing is in his. He plays Watson as an intelligent and eager man, and as someone you can imagine having spent time in the army. This is miles away from perhaps the most famous Watson, Nigel Bruce, who played the role opposite Rathbone as a stupid and out of touch English gentleman. As Holmes is MIA for a good portion of this movie, I’m glad I didn’t have to put up with any Bruce-ish bumbling.

But on to the movie itself. Plot-wise, we find Holmes and Watson taking on a case of attempted murder, and they fear the victim (Christopher Lee, playing Sir Baskerville) is still in danger. Watson accompanies Baskerville back to his country estate on the ancient moors of Dartmoor, while Holmes insists he is far too busy to leave London, but will follow at some point. As Watson eventually discovers, Holmes in fact does come down from London. Making a camp in a rocky outcrop on the moor, he investigates from afar. Meanwhile, a legendary hound is rumoured to be roaming the moors… perhaps the same one that was famously rumoured to have killed Sir Baskervilles ancestor?

Watching Holmes and Watson go toe-to-intellectual-toe against the forces of menace is always a treat for me. I read the original stories and books as a kid, and love returning to the various versions that have been made. Downey’s Sherlock Holmes series, while arguably playing a bit fast and loose with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s intended tone, is bringing Holmes back into the public’s conscience, which is not a bad thing. While I do manage to enjoy that series (and at running a risk of comparing apples to oranges) the BBC show Sherlock is much better. Ironically, the TV series has found a greater reception amongst Holmes fans despite updating the stories to modern times, and in fact ditching most of the actual original plots. But I digress…

This version of The Hound of the Baskervilles is just the right side of gothic camp, and the added/emphasized horror elements work within the style we are presented with, but do not really clash with the Sherlock Holmes world of realism.Cushing and Morell bring the appropriate energy to their interactions, and the story here is relatively engaging. But I found myself absolutely unable to look away from Christopher Lee throughout the whole movie. He is strangely entertaining… perhaps it is from the shock of seeing him a) not in Dracula makeup, and b) young. He is tall and strong here at age 37, and has a commanding presence. His voice is not as deep and rich as we know it now, but we can hear where it will go. It was great to see him here.

I’ve always loved movies that take place on the English moors, Wuthering Heights for example. There is such a feeling of desolation and hopelessness, and that certainly holds true here. You feel utterly alone out on the grey and green expanse of grass and moss-eaten rock. It is fortunate, and perhaps done on purpose, that Hammer Films (a company best known for their Dracula series with Cushing as Van Helsing and Lee as the count, and other such films) chose to produce a film version of what is probably the most gothic of the Holmes stories. The traditional Hammer gothic tone fits right in with the cold, dreary, and desolate landscape.

 OVERALL

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a good solid Sherlock Holmes story, with a decent cast. The movie is suitably atmospheric, with all the Hammer Films trademarks (including, it must be said, a cheap looking set or a not quite convincing effect here or there). I would gladly recommend this to Sherlock Holmes fans, or anyone who might just like an old mystery.

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TRAILER

 

“The Hound of the Baskervilles” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 27, 2012 - Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Thriller, Year - 1950-1959 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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