Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

RetView #27 – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Title: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Year of Release: 1959

Director: Terence Fisher

Length: 87 mins

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Andre Morell, John Le Mesurier, Francis de Wolff

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Sit down and buckle up for the second Hammer Horror film in my RetView series, following the trailblazing Witchfinder General. There have been numerous other adaptations of the Hound of the Baskervilles. But even over half a century later, none are as critically acclaimed as this version of the classic gothic horror. Why? Because few cinematic partnerships make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in quite the same way was Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee do. The quintessential British duo starred together in dozens of films, and became as synonymous with each other as tea and biscuits. Director Terence Fisher (who also directed Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein,The Mummy, and The Two Faces of Dr. Jeckyll, among ,any others) also deserves credit for his efforts. Add to the mix the fact that this was the first Hound of the Baskervilles adaptation ever to be filmed in colour, and you have a perfect storm of superlative talent, excellent source material, and groundbreaking technological advances which may go some way to explaining this particular film’s cultural impact and enduring popularity.

Given that The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-loved Sherlock Holmes novels first published in serial form in the Strand magazine in 1901-02, the plot itself should require little introduction or explanation. But for those unfamiliar with it, it concerns a Dr Mortimer (de Wolff) who asks Sherlock (Cushing) and his intrepid sidekick Watson (Morell) to investigate the death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville, who he believes was killed by a huge, bloodthirsty dog prevalent in a family course. Furthermore, he believes the new owner of Baskerville hall, Sir Henry (Lee), is next in line. These fears are confounded when he loses his shoe and a tarantula attacks him. Really. And Dr Watson is assigned to ‘look after’ Sir Henry until Sherlock is good and ready to hook up with them. My favourite character in the whole film is the butler, Barrymore (Le Mesurier, from Dad’s Army). Unfortunately he isn’t there when Watson falls into some quicksand near Baskerville Hall, as you do, but luckily a man named Stapleton and his daughter Cecile are there to save the venerable doctor.

That night, Watson sees a strange light on the moors and goes to investigate with Sir Henry, but after seeing a mysterious figure and hearing the mournful howl of a hound, their escapade is cut short when Sir Henry is taken ill. That mysterious figure is later revealed to be Sherlock himself, who arrived at Baskerville Hall ‘a few hours’ after Dr Watson. For some bizarre reason that is never explained, the enigmatic and eccentric detective then chose to sleep rough, rather than announce his presence. After Sherlock stops acting out, he solves the mystery pretty quickly. The ghostly, mythical Hound of the Baskervilles is a mutt with a mask (at least in the book he is painted with phosphorous paint so he glows in the dark) who is kept in an abandoned mine shaft by Stapleton and his daughter, who turn out to be illegitimate descendants of the original Sir Baskerville and stand to inherit a fortune if the rest of the Baskervilles die.

Motive enough for murder?

You bet.

The climax sees Watson shoot Stapleton, who is then attacked by his own mask-wearing dog. Watson shoots that, too, just for good measure, and Cecile falls into the quick sand (you’d think she’d know where it was by now) and dies a horrible death.

This version of The Hound of the Baskervilles is so well loved that it is one of a very select few to achieve a faultless 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The book is also considered one of Conan Doyle’s best. It was Sherlock Holmes’ first outing in eight years, since his apparent death in The Final Problem, though it is set two years before the events in that story. The inspiration for The Hound of the Baskervilles is believed to have come from the ferocious black dogs of English folklore. Stories concerning these mysterious, red-eyed creatures are widespread and the entity is known by numerous names, the most popular being Black shuck. Devil Dog (not to be confused with hell hounds) is a convenient group name, and they are usually considered to be harbingers of death.

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Trivia corner

The Baskerville Hall set is the same set that was used for Dracula (1958). The Hound of the Baskervilles also borrowed some music (composed by James Bernard) from the same film.


No TV?!?

That’s right. No fucking TV. I came back to London after spending Christmas and New Year in Wales with the family to find the massive storm that is currently battering Britain not only blew down the garden fence but also knocked out the satellite dish or something. A housemate called the Sky people, but they were so inundated with similar calls they said they couldn’t send out an engineer for ten days. Ten fucking days!

exploding-the-cable-tv-business-could-only-make-things-worse

I know some people prefer to live without a TV. That’s up to them. It’s a lifestyle choice. I didn’t choose to live without a TV it was forced on me. I think having a TV that works is a basic human right.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a complete telly addict. But I do watch a lot of sport, and I like to have the TV on as background noise when I’m faffing about on the computer. Plus, I missed episode two of the new Sherlock Holmes series, which really was a kick in the balls. Sigh.

It’s surprising how empty your life feels when something you have grown used to is suddenly taken away. Matters were not helped because it was the weekend so I didn’t have to go to work and it was raining outside, which meant I couldn’t go out. After some soul-searching, and a few tears, I decided to try to turn this unfortunate turn of events into a positive.

Here is a list of the things I did over a period of five days instead of watching TV.

1. I had a commission to write, so I worked on that in the first two days. Job done.
2. Firmly in my writing groove, I quickly bashed out three more articles which all have a fair chance of selling. If I sell one of them, I’ll be happy. The rest can be blogs or something.
3. Watched online porn. Don’t judge me. We’ve all done it.
4. Went to bed early.
5. Got up early, which negated the need to go to bed early.
6. Cleaned out my computer, deleting all those old files and worthless documents.
7. And my phone.
8. Watched Snowtown, Lords of Salem, and Freerunners, which have been sitting on my hard drive taking up space for far too long.
9. Drank the half-bottle of vodka I was keeping for a rainy day.
10. Laughed at the irony.
11. Joined http://www.plentyoffish.com out of sheer boredom
12. Left http://www.plentyoffish.com because I’d rather be alone.
13. Watched more online porn.
14. Scanned my computer for viruses.
15. Did some viral marketing. Which basically amounted to pasting links all over Twitter and in various Facebook groups.
16. Sent some emails to friends I haven’t spoken to in a while.
17. Called my mum
18. Made some pasta
19. Wrote this blog

All in all a very enriching and enlightening experience, if a little smutty at times. Who needs TV?


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