It’s Holmes under the Hammer with this 1959 screen adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound Of The Baskervilles. This glorious Hammer production is a faithful adaptation of Doyle’s tale with Peter Cushing and Andre Morell starring as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Christopher Lee takes on a sterling supporting role as Henry Baskerville, the last in a family line haunted (and hunted) by the demonic dog of the title.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles is Arthur Conan Doyle’s most supernatural tinged Holmes story and it was the perfect material for Hammer to take on. Cushing makes a perfect Sherlock Holmes, bringing the right about of narcissism and glee to the role of Doyle’s legendary detective. Morell gives Watson a strength that the character never had when he was portrayed by Nigel Bruce, while Christopher Lee makes sure that his supporting role isn’t over shadowed by the leads.
Hammer films were always luscious affairs and The Hound Of The Baskervilles is no exception. The studio may not have afforded their films the highest of budgets but they always made sure the money was on the screen. Director Terence Fisher steeps the film in gothic atmosphere upping the horror angle and giving the tale a Hammer make-over without undermining Doyle’s text. There’s some fantastic studio work here that gives a heightened theatricality to proceedings. This is the type of filmmaking that has helped the Hammer name thrive for decades.
Cushing makes a fitting Holmes, lacing his take on the character with wit and poise. He looks like Doyle’s iconic detective and it’s a shame that he never got to portray the character on more adventures. Cushing was always an actor who could add class to even the most preposterous films but the material on display here is worthy of his talents. The only let-down here is that the titular hound is lacking in ferocity. You can overlook the fact but a more devilish dog would have made this even more fun.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles gives you everything that you want from a Sherlock Holmes tale. This might not be the most gory Hammer tale to grace screens but it’s an honest adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic adventure. You also get another chance to see Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee share the screen – and that makes it worth its weight in gold.
I’ve praised Arrow DVD enough over the years – but I have to do it again. The Hound Of The Baskervilles blu-ray is jam-packed with extras. Hammer and Holmes will salivate at what is on display here. A commentary with Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby is laced with info, a documentary Release The Hound featuring Kim Newman and Mark Gatiss (amongst others) discussing the film, there’s a 1986 documentary on Holmes presented by Christopher Lee, and a feature on Andrew Morell and other assorted odds and ends. Stunning.