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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972)

This bit of made for television fun is yet another adaptation of the classic Conan Doyle novel. This time around it was made as an ABC movie of the week and is heavy with familiar faces from sixties and seventies television. But before I go any further I suppose I should go over the plot, in case you haven’t ever read the novel or seen one of the other versions.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson miss a visitor to their accommodations on Baker Street, but a clue in the form of a cane was left behind. Holmes being Holmes figures out the likely owner and the pair go off to find Dr. Mortimer. He tells them that an old friend has died on the moors near his home due to an old family curse. Seems an ancestor was a bit of an ass and since then a supernatural hound has been hunting and murdering the male heir. With his father’s death Henry Baskerville is now coming home from Canada to take up residence at Baskerville Hall and Mortimer thinks he is in danger.

Of course the idea of an actual supernatural threat is ludicrous, but Holmes does volunteer that both he and Watson act as bodyguards. They travel to the estate and poke around a bit. Sherlock takes his leave to finish another case but in reality uses that to put the real villain at ease so he can poke around unexpectedly. Eventually the guilty party is located, the hound is shown to be a hoax of sorts, and all turns out well for the good guys.

I’m a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes having read everything that Doyle wrote. I’ve never been a huge fan of the book but some of the adaptations have been decent. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. I mean it isn’t terrible but cramming the story into the hour and fourteen minute run time forces them to make some shortcuts. Instead of cutting out some of the less needed things, like the typist and her marriage woes, they cut down the convicts in the swamps. This means a vital clue is deemphasized. One of the things that I love about mystery stories is being able to try and figure it out along the way with the detective. Despite my familiarity with this one or maybe because of it this omission bugged me.

The pacing and the dialogue are okay. I was also happy with the performances from the cast, with one glaring exception that I’ll mention later. Bernard Fox (Hogan’s Heroes, The Mummy) makes an excellent Dr. Watson. We also see Anthony Zerbe (The Omega Man, Star Trek: Insurrection), Alan Caillou (The Ice Pirates, The Devil’s Brigade), and everyone’s favorite William Shatner in supporting roles. These television movies are how a lot of actors kept themselves employed and I miss seeing this much talent and effort put into what are essentially low budget productions.

Shatner is looking dapper!
My only complaint is that the most important character, Sherlock Holmes, is poorly portrayed by Stewart Granger. He should be the most interesting person in every seen but is overshadowed by the actors in the supporting cast, especially Bernard Fox. When your Dr. Watson is more fun to watch than your Sherlock Holmes you have made a horrible mistake!

This being a period piece set in Victorian England the low budget of a made for television movie is painfully obvious. You get a very cheap looking model standing in for an old train. This might have been passable in the thirties, but it is so cheap in appearance that it was bothersome. Also the sets are limited to a couple of streets and a castle that is obviously on a soundstage. When the alien planets from Star Trek the original series look more realistic you know there are issues.

In the end I’ve seen this story told much better elsewhere and because of that I can’t recommend this one. If you do want to check out a much better version may I suggest the adaptation from the late fifties starring Peter Cushing as Holmes. Even better yet is the made for television version from the Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett. Either of those are worth a watch.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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