THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1958) Reviews and overview

‘Sherlock Holmes’ most terrifying adventure!’

The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1958 British murder mystery film about Sherlock Holmes‘ investigation of an ancient family curse.

Directed by Terence Fisher from a screenplay written by Peter Bryan, based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, the Hammer Films production stars Peter Cushing, André Morell, Christopher Lee and Marla Landi. Produced by Anthony Hinds and Kenneth Hyman.

Plot:

In London, Doctor Richard Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to investigate the death of his friend Sir Charles Baskerville, in Dartmoor, found dead by heart failure, lying in the moor surrounding his estate, Baskerville Hall. Mortimer believes that his good friend had been scared to death by the vision of a ghost hound, the same that centuries before killed Sir Charles’s ancestor, the devilish Sir Hugo…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Production Designer Bernard Robinson did a wonderful job laying out this spine-chilling locale, complete with fog, mist, and a hell of a lot of atmosphere. Each new scene set in these moors proves more disturbing than the last, culminating in a finale that’ll have your nerves hanging by a thread.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“Andre Morell is one of the most solid and realistic Watsons ever; there’s nothing whatever of the harrumphing Nigel Bruce, no comedy elements to the role at all. He’s straightforward, heroic in his own right. But the triumph of the film was the casting of Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes. Cushing’s Holmes is vivid, dynamic and arrogant; the actor does not even attempt to make Holmes likable, but instead plays the character exactly as Doyle wrote him.” AllMovie

“Fisher’s evocation of the uncanny atmosphere surrounding Holmes, and Baskerville Hall and the moors, aided by Asher’s wonderfully muted Technicolor photography, skilfully relies upon precise editing and dramatic compositional style which gives the movie spellbinding rhythm.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

The Hound of the Baskervilles might be one of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous stories.  The movie, of course, takes liberties with the story to amplify the horror and mystery, but maintains the basic principle themes and ideas of the story (with bonus scenes like a mine scene and scenes involving tarantulas).” Basement Rejects

“This film’s Doctor Watson is also not the bumbling acolyte of the Rathbone films, though that is, of course, closer to Doyle’s original conception. The film is strong on mood, with an impressively lush production design, though the climax tends to be probably at least a bit unintentionally funny due to some inartful choices in how to handle the “big reveal” with regard to the titular character.” Blu-ray.com

The Hound of the Baskervilles stands as one of Hammer’s best films, filled as it is with top-notch performances, excellent sets, and a great gothic crime story that never really gets old. Fisher’s direction is good, the production values are excellent and Peter Cushing is smashing in the Sherlock Holmes role that he was obviously born to play. Andre Morell does a splendid job of portraying Dr Watson as a humane foil to Holme’s more academic persona…” Blueprint: Review

” …any freshly entertaining possibilities in this much-filmed story have here been lost in a welter of blood, love interest and mood music.” Monthly Film Bulletin, 1959

” …we get the fun of Peter Cushing as the abrupt Homes you also have moments of horror from deadly spiders to of course what the mystery is, I won’t say so if you don’t know you will have to watch yourself. Of course, compared to modern horror movies the horror is not so in your face but because of director Terence Fisher’s styling it still packs a dangerous punch.” The Movie Scene

“A chilly gothic air overhangs everything and permeates every frame just as the dense fog crawls through the eerie moors and ominous forests surrounding the Baskerville estate. The Hound of the Baskervilles isn’t an upper echelon Hammer horror, but it does reveal how effortlessly the company could churn out perfectly admirable and enjoyable films.” Oh, the Horror!

“The movie never wants for atmosphere and it does an excellent job of building tension and suspense thanks not just to the clever writing but to the editing and camerawork as well. This is a very slick looking picture, it’s got plenty of polish, and it moves at a pace quick enough to remain exciting but slow enough to give us some decent character development.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

” …it helps that they have a rich piece of storytelling in Doyle’s classic text, allowing screenwriter Peter Bryan to hand his cast a script of intelligent dialogue and literate characters to play, making the film feel more gripping than some of Hammer’s other productions. At the heart of it all is direction by Fisher that creates a wonderful, theatrical universe on-screen, and performances by Cushing (far away from the calculating evil of Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars as the dashing Holmes), Morell, and Lee that put some emotional muscle of the bones of Doyle’s story.” Sonic Cinema

“Director Terence Fisher and his cast go about the film in brisk fashion; André Morell is a dependable Watson, but Cushing’s Holmes is a man with a tremendously active mind, full of energy and enthusiasm for the mystery, though, like his Van Helsing, with a strong moral sense and more than a little obsessive […] Everyone else is well chosen, with only Marla Landi as the “peasant” girl a curious addition on account of her hastily explained Spanish accent.” The Spinning Image

“The picture features some really good cinematography and the production is as lush as you know Hammer can make it while Fisher does a great job of bringing it all to life. There were differences to be found between book and movie as is always the case with every big-screen adaptation, but in the end, Hammer can lay claim to making one of the better pictures sourced from Doyle’s work.” The Telltale Mind

“Thanks to director Terence Fisher, cinematographer Jack Asher, and set designer Bernard Robinson, the whole thing has some excellent atmosphere on the moors, the interiors drenched in pure luscious color, the mystery tightly wound. Cushing is superb as Holmes, Lee as the threatened Baskerville. And there’s a gorgeous score by James Bernard. One of Hammer’s finest hours.” The Terror Trap

“Hammer lent its usual lush production values to this Holmes effort, filling the regrettably claustrophobic sets (the film was shot in a suburban studio that was actually a large house) with accurate period detail and creating an unforgettably creepy moor. The film is something of a disappointment, but the color and production values add a certain flair to it, as do the performances of Cushing and Lee.” TV Guide

Cast and characters:

Peter Cushing … Sherlock Holmes
André Morell … Doctor Watson (as Andre Morell)
Christopher Lee … Sir Henry Baskerville
Marla Landi … Cecile
David Oxley … Sir Hugo
Francis De Wolff … Doctor Mortimer
Miles Malleson … Bishop
Ewen Solon … Stapleton
John Le Mesurier … Barrymore
Helen Goss … Mrs Barrymore
Sam Kydd … Perkins
Michael Hawkins … Lord Caphill
Judi Moyens … Servant Girl
Michael Mulcaster … Convict
David Birks … Servant
Elizabeth Gott … Mrs Goodlippe (uncredited)
Ian Hewitson … Lord Kingsblood (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Bray Studios, Down Place, Oakley Green, Berkshire, England (studio)
Chobham Common, Surrey, England
Frensham Ponds, Farnham, Surrey, England

Filming dates:

13th September 1958 – 31st October 1958

Technical details:

87 minutes
Technicolor
Aspect ratio: 1.66: 1
Audio: Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Release:

UK: Premiered at the Pavilion in London on 28th March and went on wider release on 4th May 1959.

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