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on 9 January 2007
Adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous Sherlock Holmes story, Terence Fisher's film of The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the very best attempts to immortalise the Great Detective on film. The movie has several things in its favour, notably a director at the top of his game, teamed yet again with the initial Bray crew who made Hammer's initial run of gothic fantasies so memorable; in particular Jack Asher's cinematography deserves special praise. The cast, too, is almost flawless; in terms of faithfulness to the literary source, the Holmes and Watson team of Peter Cushing and Andre Morell is second only to the Jeremy Brett / David Burke pairing of the Granada TV series, twenty-five years later. The supporting performances are respectable, with such British cinema stalwarts as John Le Mesurier, Miles Malleson, and Francis DeWolff giving their usual accomplished turns, and David Oxley memorably evil as the depraved Sir Hugo Baskerville. The film doesn't quite follow the source novel, subtracting several characters and beefing up the roles of others, but as this is one of the most-adapted stories in TV and film history that is hardly a bad thing; this 1959 adaptation is easily the most enjoyable, being more action-packed than either the 1939 Basil Rathbone version or the 1988 Brett TV movie, whilst still building up a memorable atmosphere of menace and dread, aided by James Bernard's typically doom-laden score.
The only real flaw in the film (and this is perhaps a controversial opinion) is the casting of Christopher Lee as the victimised Sir Henry Baskerville. Lee is, of course, typically professional in the role, and there is nothing technically wrong with his performance; but after viewing his more forceful performances opposite Cushing in other, more even-handed movies, made both before and after this one, it is a little hard to accept him as a physically weak, mild-mannered aristocrat who is constantly in awe of Cushing's dynamic Holmes. The fact that he towers above both Cushing and Morell, supposedly his bodyguards, doesn't help either; surely an actor who would have been a better fit for the role would have been Francis Matthews, Cushing's young co-star in the previous year's The Revenge of Frankenstein.
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on 18 March 2004
It would be easy to dismiss this film as 'a classic Hammer' a term which is slightly double edged - but this film is a classic in every sense, and resoundingly British. The set designs are amazing, with Baker Street and Baskerville Hall being evocatively recreated. The mix between location shooting and the set of the moors is seamless and most unobtrusive. Terence Fisher's direction is again proven to be peerless - not indulging in any unnecessary movements or bizarre angles (compare and contrast to the Corman films), but a meticulous accumulation of detail - quite in keeping with Holmes and particularly Cushing's performance.
With one of the greatest British film actors in the form of Cushing, and one of cinema's enduring icons in the form of Lee, this film was always ensured a cult following. But in this instance, much more wider appreciation is needed. Cushing performance is the very embodiment of Conan-Doyle's prose writing, Lee, playing against type gives one of his greatest early performances. Andre Morell again throws new light on Watson - not a bumbling Nigel Bruce figure, but as Conan-Doyle wrote him, a highly intelligent competant military surgeon who unfortunately has to spout questions to keep the audience informed about Holmes' motivation.
However, one constant criticism of the film has been the fact that the Hound is not entirely convincing. This is true, but in the context of the film, it is entirely appropriate, thus negating all of the criticism.
Alongside 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes', this must be the greatest Conan-Doyle adaptation, and one that richly deserves to be re-discovered. This DVD is a bit scant - only a trailer for extras, but nonetheless, the film itself is a true great.
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on 27 July 2012
Though this is one of my favorite film adaptations of the Holmes story and Cushing and Lee are great (5 stars for them) I was misled into buying this on the basis of the description provided by Amazon that this DVD was "Aspect Ratio 1.85:1; Full-Frame Widescreen 16x9". Now granted, that description seems contradictory: it can be either full-frame or 16x9, not both. The listing of the film's aspect ratio tipped the balance for me and caused me to believe it would be an anamorphic transfer but alas, it is the same 4:3 letterboxed DVD as its Region 1 counterpart. So sad. Please remove the misleading details so no one else is similarly tripped up.
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on 22 March 2004
Ok, so this '59 edition of the classic A.C.Dole story isn't a perfect page-to-screen adaptation, but in my opinion makes for a better movie for it!!! This movie has everything to keep you interested time and time again - wonderful cast including the hammer duo Peter Cushing (Holmes) and Christopher Lee (Baskerville), a solid story full of plot twists and suspense, a great murder mystery which unfolds very well. If your new to hammer productions, or just new to this kind of film, I'd certain recommend a night in with this classic. A must for any self respecting movie fan.
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on 21 July 2009
I am a big hammer fan and have loved this movie from the first time i saw it about twenty five years ago.Peter cushing is excellent as holmes and I also think that andre morell gives a brilliant yet understated performance as watson.Unfortunately christopher lee is left with a smaller role as the reigning baskerville but still gives a fine performance.There is also very good support from the always reliable francis de wolff.The region 1 disc has a couple of featurettes,an interview with christopher lee (13mins)in which he fondly remembers his old friend peter cushing and two readings from the novel(21mins)only the first featurette is mentioned on the cover.Also there is the trailer.As the price of the region 1 disc was so good i sold my region 2 and upgraded .It was well worth it.
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on 6 January 2008
I love this movie! It is a true gem for fans of vintage British film, and I was amazed at not having seen this earlier, as it is a classic. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing make great performances in this beautifully shot, tightly paced Sherlock Holmes chiller, which has stood the test of time without problem. This is my favorite among the many collaborations that Lee and Cushing made throughout their career. The sets are gorgeous and create just the right atmosphere. Who needs CGI? They sure don't make them like this anymore.
5 out of 5.
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on 25 November 2016
A decent enough adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound Of The Baskervilles but not all that inspired.

The film opens with the legend of the hound of the Baskervilles which finishes with some narration. I liked this bit and it was a more interesting way of giving out the exposition than a simple narration.

Peter Cushing is once again brought in by Hammer to play the protagonist, in this case Sherlock Holmes the great detective. Cushing does a good enough job with the role but the film plays it very safe in terms of his characterization, there's a few too many Sherlock Holmes tropes for me, "elementary Watson." Holmes keeps saying, he also has to wear the deer stalker hat of course. It's the Sherlock Holmes of popular imagination, this version isn't interested in taking doing anything new with the character

The film is fairly faithful to the novel for example Holmes remains absent for much of the second act of the story, entrusting his companion Dr Watson to watch over Henry Baskerville. Quite early on alternations are made from the novel though, no mention is made of tracks of a hound found near the body of Charles Baskerville. A scene with a spider is also thrown in near the beginning too in London instead of the chase with the cabby. Also Stapleton's wife is now his daughter in the film and is not the unwilling accomplice of the book. A scene is also made up in a mine shaft to add a little danger.

I feel there were some odd choices thrown in, a talkative Bishop keeps popping up, I think he's meant to be the comic relief but he comes off more irritating than anything else. There's also a lack of tension and horror throughout other than Watson slipping into the bog, the main villain Stapleton is a bit underwhelming, I'd really have loved to have seen Christopher Lee in the role. Equally in his role as Henry Baskerville Christopher Lee is given little to do and his character doesn't have a lot of depth. The cinematography is a bit limited too, although it does capture the bleakness of the story quite well, the colour scheme is mostly made up of greys and browns, the soundtrack is also a touch basic.
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Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are requested to keep an eye on Sir Henry Baskerville, who has inherited an estate out on Dartmoor. With this estate comes danger as his family is known to be threatened by a wild dog that stalks the Moor.

Holmes in colour for the first time as Hammer give it the full blown costume drama pizazz. Great production as Peter Cushing {Holmes}, Andre Morell {Watson} and Christopher Lee {Baskerville} act it out with considerable aplomb. Cushing and Morell are particularly effective, Cushing's Holmes is sprightly and never staid, while Morell's Watson is resourceful and a bona fide detective sidekick to the intrepid Holmes. The supporting cast is also filled out with quality British talent, John le Mesurier, Miles Malleson and Francis de Wolfe are involving and integral to the story. Whilst it wouldn't be a Hammer film without the obligatory heaving bosom, which here comes in the form of Marla Landi.

The deviation from the source novel may offend some purists, but it works and is actually a pleasant surprise. Hammer were clearly intent on breathing a new life into Sherlock Holmes, and they did so, thus paving the way for the element of surprise. Still holding up well after all these years this is still an essential viewing in the pantheon of Sherlock Holmes adaptations. 7/10
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Although a box-office disappointment in its day, Hammer's adaptation of Sherlock Holmes' most famous adventure isn't just one of the studio's finest films, but one of the very best Holmes films too - it even overshadows the much-loved Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce version. Reuniting the Dracula team of Peter Cushing (Holmes), Christopher Lee (Sir Henry Baskerville) and director Terence Fisher and adding Andre Morell as Watson to the mix, it revels in the more gothic elements of the plot, something Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would surely have appreciated. With a brisk running time, a tight script and strong characterisation (Watson is no clown here), it works a treat, and looks one too thanks to Jack Asher's cinematography and Bernard Robinson's design, which skilfully disguise the low budget. Unfortunately, while MGM/UA's DVD boasts a good transfer, the extras from the Region 1 NTSC disc - an interview with Christopher Lee, who also reads extracts from the novel - have been dropped from the European PAL release. It's still a worthy addition to any Hammer or Holmes collection, but you might want to consider picking up the US edition rather than the barebones UK issue.
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on 8 August 2013
There have been many versions of the best-known (if not the best) Sherlock Holmes story but this is for me the most enjoyable take on Conan Doyle's novel.

I once saw it described as 'lurid' and that is a fair description of this film but it's none the poorer for that-the old tale is more dour than you remember and does not always transfer to the big screen succesfully, mainly because whoever is playing Holmes misses the mark.
No such problem with Peter Cushing's take on the role and he is ably supported by a cast of solid British character actors including John Le Mesurier and Miles Malleson but what makes this so good for me is the solid injection of Hammer Horrorness which lifts the old tale out of the fairly wordy printed version into an altogether more exciting yarn.

You know the plot of course, or do you? Henry Baskerville is the heir to a stately home on Dartmoor and a huge fortune but it comes with a price, the old family curse of a devil hound which has done for most of his ancestors.

Sherlock Holmes is called in to investigate. Is the hound really the supernatural pawn of the devil? Has it been invoked by evil plotters out to get Henry Baskerville? Or is it a fake created by nasty characters in order to get the Baskerville fortune? If you don't know the great detective's findings, well you'll have to watch and find out.

The film does deviate slightly from the novel's plotline, mainly in the characters of Dr. Mortimer and the Stapletons who are very different to the ones in the 1903 story and there's a totally new sequence where Holmes and Watson and the rest of the male characters investigate an old tin mine to find the source of the sound of the hound's cries 'coming from the bowels of the earth', but otherwise the basic structure is intact with a great opening sequence featuring the evil Sir Hugo Baskerville who brings the curse on the family with his wicked ways .

Never a dull moment after that and if you've read the book, you know what lies behind the evil shenanigans on Dartmoor but if you haven't, the film does give you a few good red herrings as to where the evil lies.
I'm not going to spoil the surprise by revealing that it's .....sssshhhh.....but if you genuinely don't know you may well be surprised.

The hound (yes there is a hound) doesn't appear till the last few minutes of the film of course and is in true Hammer horror style, as indeed is the entire film, in other words it has a few clunky sequences and as said, can best be described as 'lurid' but it's thoroughly enjoyable and for my money, easily the best take on the old classic, far superior to any version made since.
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