Year:                             1959

Director:                       Terence Fisher

Producer:                      Anthony Hinds

Executive Producer:   Michael Carreras &  Anthony Keys

Script:                            Peter Bryan

From the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle

Cinematography:        Jack Asher

Special Effects:           Sydney Pearson

Production Design:      Bernard Robinson

Costume:                      Molly Arbuthnot

Makeup               :        Roy Ashton and Henry Montsash

Music:                            James Bernard

 

 

 

Sherlock Holmes gets the Gothic treatment in this mix of mystery and supernatural horror from Hammer Films. Peter Cushing is perfectly cast as the great detective, the very embodiment of science and reason (which also made him a great Van Helsing in the Dracula series) in a case surrounding a legacy of aristocratic cruelty and a devilish dog wandering the swampy moors. Christopher Lee cast in an unusual (non evil role) and Andre Morell as the famous Dr Watson. Filmed many times before and after, the Hammer version ranks high marks due to the casting of Peter Cushing as Holmes, the direction of Terence Fisher, and the familiar attributes that make their films so special and unique.

 

It begins with a prologue about the curse of the Baskervilles, as we learn that Sir Hugo (David Oxley) murdered a young girl who had escaped from one of his nights of debauchery. Hugo is then killed by a hound from hell, and the years that follow bring the same fate to all male heirs of the Baskerville name. The latest victim is Sir Charles Baskerville, who died of fright on the same Devonshire moors as Sir Hugo did. The new Baskerville heir is Sir Henry (Christopher Lee) who arrives from America to inherit the family property. Peter Cushing and Andre Morell are employed to protect Sir Henry as another mystery unwraps before them.

 

In the first-ever colour Holmes movie, Peter Cushing is marvellous, fully immersed in the role through use of self-furnished props and enthusiastic mannerisms. Andre Morell provides an intelligent and refined Watson, and the cast is rounded out with a number of Hammer character vets, including Francis De Wolff as the burly Dr. Mortimer and Miles Malleson doing his ‘light  relief’ as Bishop Frankland. Not under monster guise the first time for Hammer, Christopher Lee plays Sir Henry with great authority and even gets a love interest (Marla Landi as the feisty Cecile Stapleton).

 

As usual, Fisher's direction is tight and the cinematography is rich, complimented by beautiful shots of the foggy moors and detailed interiors. Perhaps the only thing that hampers the film is the disappearance of Holmes during the middle (when he sends a solo Watson to Devonshire, only to make a big entrance later) and the appearance of the rather (by todays standards) modest hound during the climax. Reportedly, footage of children playing the parts of Cushing, Morell and Lee interacting with the animal were shot in order to make it appear large and intimidating, but the effect proved to be embarrassing and was scrapped.

 

It should be noted that the now released DVD version has a short piece by Christopher Lee on the making of the hound of the Baskervilles. His comments about Peter Cushing (to which the DVD is dedicated) are especially heartfelt and once again shows the great fondness and respect he had for him. In terms of its relevance to British Cinema and the contribution Hammer made The Hound of the Baskervilles is up there with the other two great hammer movies ‘The devil rides out’ (1968) and Dracula (1958). Terrifying in 1959 with its atmosphere and ahead of its time in terms of genre this was one of Fishers and Cushings masterpieces.