Monday, January 11, 2010

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
DIRECTED BY: TERENCE FISHER
WRITTEN BY: PETER BRYAN
NOVEL BY: ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
OVERALL SCORE: 6.50/10


Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Dr. Watson (Andre Morell) is called in to investigate the mysterious death of Charles Baskerville, while protecting the last sole heir to the Baskerville family, Sir Henry (Christopher Lee).

Last week me and TheAnswerMVP from Common Sense Movie Reviews agreed to a little film exchange. I would watch two of his Hammer films (of his choosing) and he would watch two of my Kurosawa films (of my choosing). A sort of opportunity for us to bridge the massive gap between our two film tastes. Judging by his review of Yojimbo (a major favorite of mine) we'll still be left a good distance apart by the end of this thing.

My first film for Hammer is the retelling of the classic Doyle story, Hound of the Baskervilles. Odds are you've read the story at some point in school, not real need for me to break it down for you piece by piece. Overall though my opinion of people's fascination for low-budget old monster and mystery movies still doesn't change. To me it feels like being an expert on Wal-Mart brand cheerios, or Sam's Club soda. Cheaply made, cheaply sold, and only really intended to be used by those who either can't afford or oddly enjoy them. So as you may imagine when I first popped this into my player I was expecting something between disaster, and terror.

To be honest the opening 5 minute sequence left the thought: "dear god what did I let MVP get me in to." The acting was somewhere between awful and laughable (I'm not sure if I should even swap it). Then Peter Cushing stepped onto the screen. MVP lucked out in many ways by picking a Peter Cushing movie (an actor I insanely enjoy), as Cushing's Bones-esque take on Sherlock Holmes as the ever intelligent, ever critical, and unwavering logical imperative man was quite fun. The tale is classic, and it offers the same suspense you'd expect. Lee is dreadfully underused (anyone with a voice could have done his role), but I enjoy his presence all the same. Morell even manages to carry the film nicely during the (unnecessary) absences of Holmes.

While watching this movie it's no real surprise to see why Hammer aficionados love and admire it. The acting, while over the top at times, is grounded based on their relative skills by director Terence Fisher. Fisher even manages to create a very theatrical take during some of the more intense scenes, giving it a nice more open flair. As well the movie's brisk 1 hour and 26minutes runtime glides by incredibly quickly (something I assume is important for Hammer fans). Even still the movie failed to make me really care. Sir Henry could have easily been just some obscure tall guy, the mystery is sort of obvious (only 2 possible suspects, we could all use a coin), and it felt more like a TV episode than feature film. Even still the movie is quite entertaining, and something I don't regret having seen.

Entertaining, quick, and with a nice performance from Cushing, this 1959 take on the classic Doyle tale is a solid, all be it uninspired, mystery film.

6 better thoughts:

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Well I'm glad you at least somewhat enjoyed it! Peter Cushing is a staple in the Hammer filmography, he's in a lot of them, perhaps Hammer's first Frankenstein film may be more to your liking. That may be my second pick for you, I was a little underwhelmed by it, but it actually might be something you would enjoy seeing when I'm usually underwhelmed by something you love it.

I've actually never seen this first film I chose for you but always heard it was one of the better Sherlock Holmes films. It's a shame about Christopher Lee, he's a great actor but usually he is quite underused in these Hammer films, and some of the roles where he's the monster he's sorely underused. I'll think about having you watch the first Frankenstein film though, after watching your pick and my feelings of underwhelment towards what Hammer regards as one of their best horror films you might actually like that one.

thistimeitwillbedifferent said...

Not sure why you'd want this title but if you wished to become a Hound Of The Baskervilles completist then the BBC put out a new version a few years ago with Richard Roxburgh as Holmes and good support from Richard E. Grant, John Nettles and others. I watched it again over Christmas and it's not half bad.

The Holmes absence by the way is in-keeping with the book and I reckon he's probably only in about 50% of the Roxburgh one.

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

Just curious, how many views did you get on this review?

Univarn said...

@MVP Only 10 :(...

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

I wouldn't consider that all too bad. Hammer films are cult classics, the reviews become more popular the longer they are allowed to flourish on your blog.

buddy2blogger said...

Peter Cushing is one of my all time favorite actors. His dedication to his craft is evident in each of his performances.

He gave one of the best performances as Sherlock Holmes.

I recently saw 'The Silent Scream' (Hammer House of Horror). Cushing gave another great performance. Check out my review .

Cheers!

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