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Movie: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

The Hound of the Baskervilles

This is a Hammer Production which is evident in the scenery, cast and melodramatic plot. This is not necessarily a bad thing if you like the ambience and general feel of those 50s and 60s B-movies.

Apart from the opening scene for which the outdoor scenes have been actually filmed outdoors (footage from another movie that came in handy?) everything is filmed in the studio. The impression that those buildings, moors and paths have been used in many other films is not completely absurd. John, who does know the odd Hammer movie, swears that he has seen the same buildings in “The Devil-Ship Pirates”, and the path along the moors bears a striking resemblance to a walkway in Frankenstein. Oh, well, it all adds to the flair.

The choice of contract actors made it necessary to change the characters in the movie quite a bit. Amiable Dr Mortimer is now a condescending, lord-y prick who looks like he could play Rasputin at the drop of a hat and probably did. Naturalist Stapleton is a middle aged farmer with a webbed hand (the natural conclusion we have to draw here: webbed hand -> disfigurement -> evil), and the lamblike Beryl Stapleton is now a wild barefooted gypsy girl in an Esmeralda-like outfit who is running away through the heather whenever someone tries to speak to her. Mr Frankland now is a muddle-headed bishop who likes his sherry early and who also stands in for the entomologist part which is obviously not suitable for Stapleton in this constellation. 
All in all this is quite an eclectic cast even if it has little to do with the original.

Also it seems that the usual Hammer props had to come into play. A Hammer  film without huge spiders? I think not. What is easier to have one of the bishop’s/entomologist’s  tarantulas stolen and placed into Sir Henry’s boot at his London hotel?  As a consequence we get to enjoy a scene where the tarantula marches up Sir Henry’s sleeve, whose face is distorted with fear (a rare sight in Christopher Lee – see above cover), until Holmes rescues him with his stick and a fast move.

Every scene is underlined with a dramatic musical score that indicates impending doom every second. That is, except for the kissing scenes  which had a romantic undertone. Needless to say the kissing was quite arbitrary and came out of nowhere. Then again, running away from a man, stumbling in the moor (naturally, without sturdy shoes) and kissing one’s rescuer 30 seconds later is a sure method to induce love and passion.

This movie is not suitable to educate anyone on Sherlock Holmes but it is definitely entertaining in an involuntary way.

The Hound of the Baskervilles at imdb.

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