• Hound Of The Baskervilles, The



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: June 2016.
    Director: Terence Fisher
    Cast: Miles Malleson, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Andre Morell, Marla Landi, David Oxley
    Year: 1959
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Hammer Films’ fantastic adaptation of one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best stories begins with an opening scene in which Sir Hugo (David Oxley), fired up from a night’s worth of bad behavior, murders a young woman trying to escape his clutches. Hugo himself is then killed by a massive hound – and from here, a family curse is born!

    Years later, one Sir Charles Baskerville is killed out in the remote moors that surround his massive estate. There are many that believe he too was the victim of the fabled hound that roams the countryside and kills any man it comes across – the same hound that killed Hugo. With Charles no longer among the living, the heir to the estate is a man named Henry Baskerville (Christopher Lee). When he arrives to take over the estate, Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Doctor Watson (Andre Morell) are called to the scene by Doctor Mortimer (Francis De Wolff). He would like their help in hopes of uncovering the truth behind Sir Charles' unusual death.

    Featuring gorgeous cinematography by Jack Asher and an appropriately lush score courtesy of James Bernard, Hammer really treats The Hound Of The Baskervilles right. 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.

    Of course, a huge part of the reason that this movie works as well as it does is due to the casting of Peter Cushing as Holmes. He very clearly took this role very seriously and his enthusiasm for the material and the character is evident in pretty much every second of his screen time in this film. He delivers his lines with just the right amount of pomposity and uses body language in interesting ways to create a Holmes that is one for the books. Andre Morell is also excellent here, his Watson is very likeable and he plays the part well indeed. Casting Christopher Lee never hurt anything either. A lot of times, because Lee was so often cast as the villain, we suspect his character before we even know his character but here he is more grounded and less sinister. It’s a good part for him and he makes the most of it.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Hound Of The Baskervilles arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Things shape up pretty nicely here as the transfer offers up fantastic color reproduction and strong black levels. Detail is strong throughout and there are no compression issues to note. Some shots show better detail and more refined grain than others, but print damage is never really a problem. Skin tones look good and there aren’t any obvious issues with edge enhancement.

    Audio options are provided in English only in DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles available in English only. The mono track fares well here, the dialogue is clean and clear and properly balanced and the score has more depth and range than you might expect to hear. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the sound effects have decent presence to them.

    The first audio commentary on the disc is with film historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros. This track spends just as much time talking about the history of Hammer Films and the legacy of Sherlock Holmes as it does the movie at hand but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a pretty interesting listen as the pair goes about offering up their thoughts on what sets this movie apart from other adaptations of the same novel, noting differences between this version and the book, and quite a bit more. These guys did some research here and it shows – and their enthusiasm is not only genuine, but rather infectious. The disc also contains a second track with input from film historians Paul Scrabo, Lee Pfeiffer, and Hank Reineke. This one is closer to a more scene specific talk, with each participant chiming in about the performances, the locations, the sets, the costumes and pretty much every actor or actress that appears on screen in the film. They also talk about the way that the film was marketed domestically and abroad, make some observations about the effectiveness of this adaptation of the original novel and quite a bit more. This second track is also packed with information and quite worthwhile.

    Previously found on the old DVD release from MGM is the thirteen minute featurette Actor’s Notebook: Christopher Lee. Here the late Hammer stalwart talks about his co-stars from this feature, his thoughts on working with Fisher and his appreciation for the source material on which this feature was based. He also shares some stories from the set and his memories of working with his friend and co-star, Peter Cushing. Lee also gets the spotlight in two readings from The Hound Of The Baskervilles: Mr. Sherlock Holmes and The Hound Of The Baskervilles. These audio recordings play over a selection of artwork from Sidney Paget, which is a nice touch. Another featurette found on the disc is the fifteen minute Hound Mask Creator Margaret Robinson On The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Here she discusses the week that she spent working on the set of the movie, making the mold for the mask based on one of the dogs’ faces and other details.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the requisite isolated music and effects track in DTS-HD format, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase alongside the Blu-ray disc is a color insert booklet containing liner notes from Julie Kirgo that do a fine job of explaining why this film remains as enduringly popular as it is will filling us in on some of the background details. Some stills and poster art accompany the essay in the booklet.

    The Final Word:

    The Hound Of The Baskervilles remains one of the finest big screen takes on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective. Not only does Fisher’s direction excel but Cushing really does a fantastic job as Holmes. It doesn’t hurt matters that he’s surrounded by a great supporting cast. There’s plenty of thrills and tension to be had with this one, and the Blu-ray release from Twilight Time presents the picture in excellent shape and with some strong supplemental features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!