The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959 film)
|The Hound of the Baskervilles|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Terence Fisher|
Anthony Nelson Keys
|Screenplay by||Peter Bryan|
|Based on||The novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle|
Sir Christopher Lee
|Music by||James Bernard|
|Edited by||Alfred Cox|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|4 May 1959 (UK)|
|Box office||1,257,132 admissions (France)|
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1959 British gothic horror and mystery film, directed by Terence Fisher and produced by Hammer Film Productions. It is based on the novel of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It stars Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, Sir Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville and André Morell as Doctor Watson.
It is the first film adaptation of the novel to be filmed in colour. It is one of the most critically acclaimed films in Hammer Film Productions’ history.
The infamous and cruel aristocrat Sir Hugo Baskerville (David Oxley) is hosting a party at Baskerville Hall, when the daughter of a cruelly abused servant escapes from the mansion through a window, frightened by Baskerville's lustful intent for her. In spite of his friends’s misgivings and protests, Baskerville pursues her through the moor with a pack of beagles. The beagles and Baskerville's horse are spooked and back off. Baskerville dismounts and pursues her on foot, finds her and stabs her to death with a curved dagger in the nearby abbey ruins. Suddenly, a dog unseen but heard by the audience appears and kills Baskerville. From then on, as legend has it, the "Hound of Hell" has become known as the "Hound of the Baskervilles", and any night a Baskerville is alone on the moor, the hound will kill him.
Several centuries later, the death of Sir Charles Baskerville is being reported by his best friend, Dr. Richard Mortimer (Francis de Wolff), to Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Dr. Watson (André Morell), who are willing to meet the new owner of Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry (Christopher Lee). After meeting Sir Henry, Holmes remembers that he is going to be away on another case when Sir Henry returns to Baskerville Hall. Holmes puts Watson in charge of watching over Sir Henry. A tarantula attacks Sir Henry briefly in London; Holmes suspects foul play. Before he leaves, Holmes reminds Watson not to let Sir Henry go out onto the moor after dark.
On the way to Baskerville Hall, the coach driver, Perkins (Sam Kydd), warns that a convict named Selden (Michael Mulcaster) has escaped from nearby Dartmoor Prison two days ago. Watson remembers the case: Selden was convicted of murdering a number of street women; due to his being found insane, he was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of hanging. At Baskerville Hall, Watson and Sir Henry learn from the butler, Barrymore (John Le Mesurier), that one of the two paintings of Sir Hugo was stolen several months ago. Watson then inquires Barrymore about further details of Sir Charles's death since Barrymore was the first to discover the body. Barrymore explains that he was on his way to warn Dr. Mortimer of Sir Charles's disappearance and then found the body by chance.
The next day, Sir Henry and Watson meet the friendly local pastor, Bishop Frankland (Miles Malleson), who is also a keen entomologist. After leaving instructions at the post office in town, Watson meets a man named Stapleton (Ewen Solon) and his daughter Cecille (Marla Landi), who save him from sinking into quicksand in the Grimpen Mire. Cecille seems to act strangely around both Sir Henry and Watson. At night, Watson sees a light shining upon the moor. He and Sir Henry investigate the mysterious light. While they are out on the moor, a strange man rushes by them. Watson and Sir Henry pursue him, but he gets away from them. The Baskerville hound howls, causing Sir Henry to suffer a minor heart problem. A figure is silhouetted on a hill in the distance. Watson helps Sir Henry back to Baskerville Hall.
Soon, Watson discovers that the silhouetted figure was Holmes; Holmes had arrived hours after Watson did. They find out that the convict Selden, who is actually Barrymore's brother-in-law, was the one signalling with the light the other night and that Barrymore and his wife were the ones returning the signal. The hound has mistakenly killed Selden because Selden was wearing Sir Henry's clothes, given to him by his sister, Barrymore's wife (Helen Goss). Holmes then questions Bishop Frankland about a certain tarantula that the bishop had missed last Thursday and deduces that it may have been the same one encountered in London. Holmes is almost trapped inside the old tin mine while investigating.
Cecille takes Sir Henry out to the moor one night. By now, Holmes has solved the case: The Stapletons are illegitimate descendants of Sir Hugo and are next in line to inherit the Baskerville fortune and mansion if all of the Baskervilles perish. Holmes deduces this after questioning Barrymore about the missing portrait; it was stolen because it revealed Sir Hugo's right-hand fingers were webbed just like Stapleton's right hand. Cecile has taken Sir Henry out onto the moor so that he may be killed by the hound – a dog kept by Stapleton, not a ghost as many were led to believe. Holmes and Watson rush out just in time to hear Cecile reveal her intentions to a horrified Sir Henry. The dog attacks Sir Henry. Stapleton attacks Watson with the legendary curved dagger used by Sir Hugo and is shot and wounded by Watson. Holmes shoots the dog; it then turns on Stapleton and mauls him to death. Cecille flees after Holmes kills the beast, revealing it to be a Great Dane wearing a hideous mask to make it look more terrifying. Cecile accidentally falls into the mire and slowly sinks to her death. Holmes and Watson take a shocked Sir Henry back to Baskerville Hall.
Cushing would later reprise the role in the BBC Sherlock Holmes television series nine years later, filming sixteen episodes, two of which were a new interpretation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, this time with Nigel Stock as Watson.
Cushing was an aficionado of Sherlock Holmes and brought his knowledge to the project. It was Cushing's suggestion that the mantlepiece feature Holmes' correspondence transfixed to it with a jackknife as per the original stories.
Changes from the novel
There are several significant changes in plot details. Among them:
- Sir Henry arrives from Toronto in the novel, while he arrives from Johannesburg in the film.
- Sir Henry does not suffer a minor heart condition in the novel, as he does in the film.
- There is nothing involving a ritual sacrifice, a tarantula or a mine shaft in the novel, nor is Holmes thought to have been accidentally trapped in a cave-in.
- Rather than being Stapleton's daughter, Miss Stapleton is Stapleton's wife in the novel and is playing the part of his sister. In the novel, Holmes, Watson and Lestrade eventually find her bound, gagged and badly bruised after being mistreated by Stapleton. She does not hate Sir Henry, as she does in the film, and is a far more sympathetic character in both the novel and in nearly all the other film versions of the story. (In the 1939 film version she is Stapleton's stepsister, but she is completely unaware of his criminal actions until Holmes reveals the truth. Miss Stapleton falls in love with and presumably marries Sir Henry in the 1939 film.)
- Miss Stapleton survives in the novel, whereas in the film she drowns in the Grimpen Mire.
- In the novel, the hound is made to look "demonic" through the use of phosphorus paint, but in the film the same effect is accomplished with a mask. The hound was played by a brindled Great Dane.
- There is no attempt on the life of Sir Henry at the hotel in the novel, as in this film.
- The painting next to the staircase does not go missing in the novel, as Stapleton's webbed hand is a creation of the filmmakers.
- In the novel, Frankland is neither a bishop nor an entomologist. It is Stapleton, rather than Frankland, who is an acknowledged expert in entomology in the novel.
- Stapleton does not get mauled to death after being shot by Watson in the novel; he simply disappears and is presumed to have drowned in the Grimpen Mire.
- Dr. Mortimer is never put in charge of watching over Sir Henry in the novel; therefore he is not considered negligent by Watson when Sir Henry ventures out onto the moor alone.
In a contemporary review, the Monthly Film Bulletin stated that "any freshly entertaining possibilities in this much-filmed story have here been lost in a welter of blood, love interest and mood music". The review also noted unimaginative staging and direction and "dull performances".
Time Out called it "the best Sherlock Holmes film ever made, and one of Hammer's finest movies".
Peter Cushing's Holmes received mixed reviews at the time, with Films and Filming calling him an "impish, waspish, Wilde-ian Holmes", while The New York Herald Tribune stated "Peter Cushing is a forceful and eager Sherlock Holmes". André Morell's Watson has been praised as a far more accurate rendition of the character as envisioned by Arthur Conan Doyle, as opposed to the comical buffoon created by Nigel Bruce.
- "Hound of the Baskervilles, The, Great Britain, 1959". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 26 no. 300. British Film Institute. 1939. p. 94.
- Box office information for Terence Fisher films in France at Box office Story
- Barnes 2002, pp. 63–65.
- Eyles 1986, p. 104.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- "The Hound of the Baskervilles Review. Movie Reviews – Film – Time Out London". timeout.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- "Peter Cushing and Sherlock Holmes – An Overview". bakerstreetdozen.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- Barnes, Alan (2002). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. ISBN 1-903111-04-8.
- Eyles, Allen (1986). Sherlock Holmes: A Centenary Celebration. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015620-1.