By the late 1950s, Hammer Film Productions has already established themselves worldwide with their famed gothic horror films. With Horror as their trademark–and being perhaps the best known British studio in the world at the time–it makes complete sense Hammer would turn their eyes to one of the most popular English characters ever invented, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
With all their gothic horror prowess behind them, Hammer naturally decided to take a stab (pun intended) at the Holmes story with the most supernatural overtones, The Hound of The Baskervilles. Released in 1959 and directed by Hammer stalwart Terrence Fisher, Hound features Peter Cushing as Holmes, André Morell as Watson, and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. Cushing was thrilled at the chance to be Holmes, and Lee was most delighted to be given something of a romantic leading role instead of a monster for a change.
The film opens with a recounting of the legend of the Baskervilles that began with Sir Hugo Baskerville–a cruel man, and the biggest bastard in the land (well on his way to being a presidential nominee, no doubt). Sir Hugo is filled with lust for the daughter of an abused servant. Scared of Sir Hugo, the servant’s daughter runs away, causing Sir Hugo to take chase across the moors in front of Baskerville Hall. Finding the girl in nearby ruins, Sir Hugo kills her with a knife–then himself is killed by a supposed “Hound from Hell.” The legend states that anytime a Baskerville is alone on the moors at night, the hound will come for them (My family has been haunted for years by a sock monkey named Terry, but that’s neither here nor there).
Several generations later, Dr. Richard Mortimer is telling the legend to Holmes and Watson, mentioning his good Friend Sir Charles Baskerville was killed on the moors alone at night. Dr. Mortimer asks Holmes if he would consider taking sight over Sir Charles’ son, Sir Henry. Holmes mentions he has another case he must attend to first, and sends Dr. Watson to keep his eyes on Sir Henry, instructing him to not venture out onto the moors alone at night–with Holmes suspecting foul play and not the supernatural.
The first color adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story, The Hound of the Baskervilles has all of Hammer’s gothic style filling the frame. Hammer had hoped that this would be a springboard for a series of Holmes films, unfortunately “Hound” underperformed at the box office, causing Hammer to set those plans aside. Cushing would go on about a decade later to play Holmes again in a series of TV adaptations for the BBC.
The Hound of The Baskervilles comes to Blu-ray through Twilight Time, and they’ve produced a nice edition. The image looks good, a touch soft at time, but not poor by any means–keep in mind we don’t know what shape the film’s elements are in. A nice array of bonuses are included as well. The most prominent are two audio commentary tracks. The first track with historians David Del Valle & Stephen Peros, and the second with the historian trio of Paul Scrabo, Lee Pieffer, & Hank Renieke.
An interview with Christopher Lee from the MGM DVD is included, as is Lee reading excerpts from the novel. A chat with the Hound mask creator Margaret Robinson, as well as the theatrical trailer round out the bonus features. Hammer’s take on “Hound” is one of the better adaptations of the most famous of all Sherlock Holmes adventures, Twilight Time’s blu-ray is worth seeking out for fans of the character, Hammer heads, or anyone looking for a nice atmospheric mystery for a stormy night.