The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959 film)
|The Hound of the Baskervilles|
|Directed by||Terence Fisher|
|Produced by||Anthony Hinds|
|Screenplay by||Peter Bryan|
|Based on||The Hound of the Baskervilles|
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
|Music by||James Bernard|
|Edited by||Alfred Cox|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||1,257,132 admissions (France)|
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1959 British gothic-mystery film directed by Terence Fisher and produced by Hammer Film Productions. It is based on the 1902 novel of the same title by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It stars Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, Sir Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville and André Morell as Doctor Watson. It is the first film adaptation of the novel to be filmed in colour.
In London, Dr. Richard Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to investigate the death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville, in Dartmoor, found dead by heart failure, lying in the moor surrounding his estate, Baskerville Hall. Mortimer believes that his good friend had been scared to death by the vision of a ghost hound, the same that centuries before killed Sir Charles's ancestor, the devilish Sir Hugo, and relates the story of the "curse of the Baskervilles", portrayed a flashback scene. Mortimer tells Holmes that he also fears for the life of Sir Henry Baskerville, Sir Charles's heir, who's just come from South Africa to take possession of his inheritance and of Baskerville Hall.
Although skeptical, Holmes and Watson agree to meet the young Sir Henry. A series of peculiar incidents, including a threat from a venomous spider, soon convinces Holmes that Sir Henry's life is indeed in danger. Claiming that he cannot come to Baskerville Hall himself due to a prior commitment, Holmes dispatches Watson to Dartmoor with Mortimer and Sir Henry. Before parting, Holmes reminds Watson not to let Sir Henry go out onto the nearby moor after dark.
On their way to Baskerville Hall, the trio is warned by the coach driver Perkins that a convicted murderer named Selden has escaped from nearby Dartmoor Prison and is hiding on the moor. At Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry is shown around the mansion by Mr. Barrymore, the butler, and Mrs. Barrymore, the housekeeper. When Sir Henry notices that a portrait of his infamous ancestor Sir Hugo is missing, the Barrymores are unable to offer any explanation.
The next day, Sir Henry and Watson meet the friendly local pastor, Bishop Frankland, who is also a keen entomologist. While crossing the moor after visiting the post office in the nearby village, Watson gets lost in a wetland called Grimpen Mire and gets trapped in a patch of quicksand. Two people come to help, a farmer named Stapleton and his daughter Cecile, a beautiful and wild girl who immediately bewitches Sir Henry.
One night, Watson sees a light in the moor. He and Sir Henry go out to investigate, but a strange man rushes by in the shadows, then a distant hound howls, upsetting Sir Henry so much that he faints. Watson spots a figure silhouetted on a hill in the distance while he helps Sir Henry back to Baskerville Hall. Soon, Watson discovers that the silhouetted figure was Holmes, who has concealed his own arrival in order to investigate more freely.
Together, Holmes and Watson find the corpse of the convict Selden, wearing Sir Henry's clothes, slaughtered by an unknown beast. The clothing exposes the Barrymores, who confess to have helped the escapee, who was their relative, by supplying food and other provisions each time he signaled with a light from his hideout. However, Holmes has evidence relating to the poisonous spider and the missing portrait of Sir Hugo, that convinces him that neither the Barrymores nor Selden are connected to the death of Sir Charles.
After surviving personal danger in an abandoned tin mine while looking for evidence of a hound, Holmes is able to guess who unleashed the hound in pursuit of Sir Charles and why they did it. Believing that a trap has been set for Sir Henry, the detective and his assistant accompany him to the moor where Sir Henry had met Cecile. When Sir Henry meets Cecile this time, though, she rejects him, finally revealing that she and her father are also descendants of Sir Hugo Baskerville, planning to claim the inheritance as their own once Sir Henry is out of the way. The hound appears and attacks Sir Henry. Stapleton attacks Watson with the legendary curved dagger used by Sir Hugo, but Watson shoots and wounds him. Holmes shoots the dog; it then turns on Stapleton and mauls him to death. Cecile flees after Holmes kills the beast, revealing it to be a Great Dane wearing a hideous mask to make it look more terrifying. Cecile tries to escape across the moor, only to fall into the Grimpen Mire and she sinks into the mud to her death. Sir Henry now can claim his inheritance in peace, and Holmes and Watson return to London.
Cushing was an aficionado of Sherlock Holmes and brought his knowledge to the project. He reread the stories, made detailed notes in his script and sought to portray Holmes closer to his literary counterpart. It was Cushing's suggestion that the mantelpiece feature Holmes's correspondence transfixed to it with a jackknife as per the original stories.
Peter Cushing's Holmes received good reviews at the time, with Films and Filming calling him an "impish, waspish, Wilde-ian Holmes", while the New York Herald Tribune stated "Peter Cushing is a forceful and eager Sherlock Holmes". André Morell's Watson has been praised for his far more accurate rendition of the character as envisioned by Arthur Conan Doyle, as opposed to the comical buffoon created by Nigel Bruce.
A negative review in the Monthly Film Bulletin stated that "any freshly entertaining possibilities in this much-filmed story have here been lost in a welter of blood, love interest and mood music". The review also noted unimaginative staging and direction and "dull performances".
Time Out (London) called it "the best Sherlock Holmes film ever made, and one of Hammer's finest movies". The Hound of the Baskervilles currently holds a 94% approval rating on movie Rotten Tomatoes based on 11 reviews.
- "Hound of the Baskervilles, The, Great Britain, 1959". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 26 no. 300. British Film Institute. 1939. p. 94.
- Box office information for Terence Fisher films in France at Box office Story
- Barnes 2002, pp. 63–65.
- "Peter Cushing and Sherlock Holmes – An Overview". bakerstreetdozen.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles Review. Movie Reviews – Film – Time Out London". Time Out. Archived from the original on 25 December 2013.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Barnes, Alan (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN 1-903111-04-8.
- Eyles, Allen (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.