Anthony's Film Review

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

A decent adaptation of a classic Sherlock Holmes story...

Of the many Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the best one is, no doubt, The Hound of the Baskervilles. It's no surprise that this story had been adapted to film multiple times. In fact, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia listed at least 25 versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles made in various countries and released in different decades. One of these is the 1959 version from the United Kingdom starring Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and Andre Morell as Dr. Watson.

Let me first get this out of the way. I do like the casting of Cushing and Morell. They play their roles well enough, portraying the two principal characters as they are in the original story. Holmes is the serious, straight-to-business, intensely focused detective whom you can easily trust. In contrast, Watson is the good-natured and reliable sidekick with enough detective skills of his own. These two characters are the main strong point of this movie.

As for the plot, it begins with a prologue in which the ill-tempered Sir Charles Baskerville murders a woman but is killed himself by something like a beast. As explained by a doctor named Mortimer, there is a legend about a vicious hound terrorizing members of the Baskerville family. In addition, other Baskervilles died under similar circumstances as those of Sir Charles. That is the reason Dr. Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes to investigate the matter. Most importantly, Sir Henry Baskerville, played by Christopher Lee, might be the next victim.

The movie proceeds as you would expect. There are scenes at Baskerville Hall and a moor in the distance to introduce various characters. On the way, Holmes and Watson gather whatever clues they can. Keep in mind that Holmes is absent for a while, because the initial focus is on Watson and Sir Henry. Overall, it follows the basic plot of the book. However, it may be problematic if you expect a faithful adaptation. There are scenes that are not in the original story, including but not limited to a deadly tarantula and an abandoned tin mine.

The biggest issue I have with this movie, though it's not necessarily major, is its overemphasis on a different genre. I think of The Hound of the Baskervilles as a crime mystery that might have an element of horror attached. This movie was produced by Hammer Films, known primarily for horror movies. If you look at any poster for this film, it leaves the impression that it's a horror movie, not a detective story. In the film itself, there are scenes of suspense that clearly belong more in a horror movie than this one. The Sherlock Holmes stories are supposed to center on a brilliant process of logic, not suspense.

But that's OK. The 1959 version of the Hound of the Baskervilles is still interesting enough to watch. It's a relatively quick movie with a running time of almost one and a half hours. It also proceeds through the finale in a swift manner and is followed by a short final scene with Watson and Holmes. Overall, there's nothing really special to see throughout. It's a simple movie that is, as Holmes would put it, "Elementary, my dear, Watson. Elementary."

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about The Hound of the Baskervilles, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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