Blu-ray Review: Ian Richardson In THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES & THE SIGN OF FOUR

3.5 out of 5 stars

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The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four are two of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most well known Sherlock Holmes stories. They’ve been adapted for the screen numerous times, and these 1983 television films star Ian Richardson as the great detective, while his faithful sidekick Dr. Watson is played by Donald Churchill and David Healy in the films.

Both of these films are faithful adaptations of Doyle’s books, perfectly capturing the sense of mystery that permeated Doyle’s tales. Directed by Douglas Hickox (Theatre of Blood) and Desmond Davis (Clash of the Titans) and adapted for the screen by Charles Edward Pogue, these forgotten films finally  get the opportunity to be rediscovered by modern audiences on blu-ray thanks to Second Sight. The production values are high for movies that premiered on television in 1983 and there’s a wonderful sense of style woven into the texture of each story. They might not use flashy camera work or special effects, but they are well constructed dramatic interpretations of two oft told stories.

Richardson is something of a forgotten Sherlock Holmes, a shame because he’s the perfect embodiment of the famed literary character. Richardson signed on for six Holmes films for producer Sy Weintraub, but legal issues arose when the popular Granada show with Jeremy Brett went into production and the series was curtailed after just two instalments. If it continued then it could have placed Richardson on the list of great Holmes interpreters. However, he’s now something of a footnote, behind the likes of Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch  and even Peter Cushing (who played Holmes in Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles). The supporting cast in these tales is also strong, but The Hound of the Baskervilles has the most impressive of the pair as it features the not inconsequential likes of Martin Shaw, Brian Blessed and Denholm Elliott.

A perfect pairing for Sherlock Holmes aficionados, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four make for the perfect double bill. Both films balance the horror, drama and playful comedy inherent in Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and they make for perfect viewing on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Special Features

Presented in blu-ray for the first time (with 4K restorations), The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four look great. Both films come with audio commentaries from writer and Sherlock Holmes expert  David Stuart Davies. They’re a little dry, but packed with enough information to keep you listening.

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