Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983)


Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s oft-filmed novel gets the Douglas (THEATRE OF BLOOD, SITTING TARGET) Hickox treatment in this colourful and entertaining Sy Weintraub production from 1983, being given a new DVD and Blu-ray release courtesy of Second Sight.


I’m assuming we all know the plot of this one by now, so here’s how this version pans out. Sherlock Holmes (a warm and winning performance from Ian Richardson) and Dr Watson (a not so good, rather clumpy and pseudo Nigel Bruce portrayal from Donald Churchill) are asked by Dr Mortimer (twitchy Denholm Elliott, who’s great as usual) to help protect Sir Henry Baskerville (Martin Shaw with varying American accent) from the curse set in motion by naughty Sir Hugo Baskerville (Nicholas Clay) many years ago when he chased pretty Francesca Gonshaw (from ‘ALLO ‘ALLO) into the nearby mire.


Down in Devon, Watson meets entomologist Stapleton (Nicholas Clay again, which kind of gives the game away to the two or three people unfamiliar with this) along with Stapleton’s sister (Glynis Barber). He also gets to meet rampantly loud and hugely bearded artist Geoffrey Lyons (Brian Blessed - did I need to tell you that) and his wife Laura (Connie Booth) who might have been having it off with the now dead Sir Charles Baskerville (David Langton, who gets done in in the conservatory at the beginning).


         All the usual plot points are present and correct, Ronald Lacey pops up as Inspector Lestrade, and there’s a bit more blood and guts on display than usual as is only fair seeing as this is a Douglas Hickox film. There’s also a splendid sense of landscape, with the film being shot on location and offering some excellent views of a forbidding but beautiful Dartmoor. 


         As adaptations of this go, the 1983 HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is really pretty good. Second Sight’s Blu-ray looks excellent, with rich deep blacks and only a bit of speckling in a few of the later frames. There’s one bit of stock footage (from Billy Wilder’s PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES) and that looks nowhere near as glorious as the Shepperton sets which immediately follow.


         What else is good? Well Michael J Lewis provides the score, which is just lovely, filled with mournful menace as well as providing a memorable main theme. It was intended as part of a series but because Granada was doing their own with Jeremy Brett only this and THE SIGN OF FOUR were made, which is a bit of a shame as I would have liked to have seen more of Richardson’s Holmes.
         Extras are limited to a commentary track by David Stuart Davies. I certainly remember there being an on-set report in an ITV programme of the time that featured an interview with Douglas Hickox. It’s a shame they couldn’t have found it but if you’re a Holmes fan that shouldn’t stop you getting what is an entirely respectable, and actually rather entertaining and well made version of this classic tale. 

Second Sight are releasing Douglas Hickox's version of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES on Blu-ray and DVD on 25th April 2016

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