The Hound of the Baskervilles Review

Channel surfing in the dead of night, hoping for one bit of quality to fall into your lap between the gambling coverage, news cycle and re-runs of sitcoms from days gone by, there’s something rather terrifying about sifting through television broadcasters with a dead-eyed glaze. The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Sherlock Holmes adaptation from Hammer Horror hero Terence Fisher, feels similar to the quality broadcasting you may luck out on. Those endless escapades into finding some ounce of quality to numb the mind in the early hours would be met with ITV4, broadcasting Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary detective. Peter Cushing’s first of two big-screen outings as the plaid-donned detective fit rather nicely into that remit of late-night treats.

Fisher’s work here has all the quality of such a project. An aesthetically pleasing film that places Holmes and Dr. Watson (André Morell) in the heart of the Moors, attempting to solve an urban legend that has haunted the Baskerville family for generations. Cushing and Morell have marvellous chemistry with one another. There is no denying that the film is at its best when Cushing, Morell and Christopher Lee share the screen. Crucially, though, this Holmes and Watson pair can survive on their own independent merits. Watson feels as if he has more presence, sharing the screen with Sir Henry Baskerville (Lee) for what feels like more than he does with Holmes.

Structured pairing and chemistry aside, The Hound of the Baskervilles offers a solid consistency in its dialogue. Adapting one of the most beloved of Holmes’ adventures to the big screen is no small feat, but Fisher and his cast make ample use of the source material. His direction is stalwart, making a strong case for simplistic direction, understating his own talents by propelling his cast into a state of feverish brilliance. The odd callback to the days of Hammer Horror highs are included, a nice use of lighting and the cold and distant settings make for some exceptionally poignant moments, but Fisher never hits the mark of brilliance. He wavers around the edges, and by the time he shows some flare and highlights his obvious talents, it all feels too late to make any major impact. He spends more time faithfully collating the story than he does on his own tailored craft, which is a blessing and a curse for him here.

A praiseworthy adaptation of Doyle’s literary sleuth, The Hound of the Baskervilles wraps itself up nicely, throwing in red herrings and always keeping the story moving. Crucially, though, it is an engaging experience, one that takes pride in its vast and dated castles, its abandoned ruins and its foggy moors. An exceptionally thought-out piece that thrives under the capable hands of Cushing, Morell and Lee, a film that will feel right at home with those out there channel hopping to oblivion, hoping to find some ounce of quality in the dead of night. Look no further than this Hammer Horror adaptation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s