Hound of the Baskervilles, The (1959) (Blu-ray)

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Released 2-Jul-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery Featurette-Andre Morell: The Best of British (18:57)
Gallery-(3:52)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 86:28
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Terence Fisher
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Peter Cushing
André Morell
Christopher Lee
Marla Landi
David Oxley
Francis De Wolff
Miles Malleson
Ewen Solon
John Le Mesurier
Helen Goss
Sam Kydd
Michael Hawkins
Judi Moyens
Case ?
RPI ? Music James Bernard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Generations previously the evil Sir Hugo Baskerville had murdered a young girl on Dartmoor before having his throat torn out by a massive hound. Since then the curse of the Baskervilles, a hound from hell, has plagued the moors and the Baskerville family. So when the current incumbent of Baskerville Hall dies mysteriously on Dartmoor, Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Dr Watson (Andre Morell) are hired by Dr Mortimer (Francis de Wolff), the Baskerville’s doctor, to investigate the mystery of the Hound of the Baskervilles and to protect the last surviving member of the family, Sir Henry Baskerville (Christopher Lee), who has inherited the Hall and the title. As Holmes has business in London, Watson accompanies Sir Henry down to Dartmoor. There he meets the Baskerville’s servant Barrymore (John Le Mesurier) and his wife as well as the Baskerville’s neighbour on the moor, Stapleton (Ewen Solon) and his beautiful daughter Cecile (Marla Landi). With a dangerous escaped convict, mysterious lights and the haunting cry of a hound on the moors, Watson has his hands full pending Holmes’ arrival. Can the mystery be solved before the hound strikes again?

     Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 for A Study in Scarlet. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Holmes is now the most portrayed movie character in history; The Hound of the Baskervilles, serialised from August 1901, is rated in many lists as being the top Holmes story. The book has been filmed over 20 times, movies and TV, in various countries, the first apparently in 1914! This 1959 version from Hammer is a fairly traditional telling of the story although it does take some liberties; for example, the Stapletons were married in the book, not father and daughter, and the fate of some of the characters are different. Nevertheless, for the film Hammer put together many of their best cast and crew, including Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Andre Morell, director Terence Fisher and composer James Bernard who individually or collectively were responsible for many of Hammer’s best films.

     The Hound of the Baskervilles certainly qualifies as among the best of Hammer. Cushing, as Holmes, is mesmerising to watch; he is rude and petulant, with steely eyes, wearing the deerstalker and saying “elementary, my dear Watson” with aplomb, but as he disappears for 30 minutes or so it is up to Morell as Watson to carry the film. His Watson is no fool, but an intelligent man in his own right and our entry into the story. He does not have Holmes’ powers of observation or deduction, of course, but who does! Christopher Lee’s Sir Henry is a flawed man; he is somewhat smarmy with some inherited Baskerville flaws about women but he is also charming and humorous. Indeed, The Hound of the Baskervilles is very funny in places with a delightful scene when Holmes and Watson first meet Sir Henry as well as the scenes involving Miles Malleson as the Bishop, which are a hoot.

     Terence Fisher, who directed 29 Hammer films including kicking off most of Hammer’s successful horror franchises, delivers a stylish film. The scenes on the mist covered moor are tense and atmospheric, only spoiled slightly for being so obviously day for night shooting but the interior sets of The Hound of the Baskervilles, filmed in Bray studios, are highly detailed, up to Hammer’s usual great standards; some of the exteriors were shot on set as well but the moors, shot in Surry, look suitably spooky. James Bernard’s score was good although somewhat strident to my mind.

     The Hound of the Baskervilles may look and feel old fashioned, given more recent depictions of Holmes on the big screen and TV, but it is beautifully directed by Terrence Fisher and remains a wonderfully entertaining film, atmospheric, funny and mysterious, with red herrings and Peter Cushing and Andre Morell in top form.

     Part of the fun of Hammer films is watching actors who later become very prominent. In this case it is John Le Mesurier who 10 years after this film found lasting fame in Dad’s Army!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Hound of the Baskervilles is presented in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p using MPEG-4 AVC.

     Colours are deep and rich, detail very good: the checked suits are no problem to the print! The night scenes were filmed in the day, so shadow detail is fine, blacks solid. Skin tones are natural, brightness and contrast consistent. The print does show a number of speckles throughout, but they are small and otherwise artefacts are not present. Grain is nicely controlled so this over 55 year old film looks very good.

     There are no subtitles available.

Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

     Audio is an English LPCM 2.0 mono at 1536 Kbps; the film was shown theatrically with mono sound.

     The audio does what is required. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand. There are few Foley effects but the howls of the hound in the distance are spooky and the music by James Bernard comes over clearly.

     There is obviously no surround or subwoofer use.

     I did not notice any hiss or distortion.

     Lip synchronisation looked fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
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Extras

Andre Morell: Best of British (18:57)

     Made in 2014 and using black and white photographs, Jason Morell (son of Andre Morell) and authors Jonathan Rigby (Studies in Terror), David Miller (The Complete Peter Cushing) and Denis Meikle (A History of Horrors) discuss the life and career of Andre Morell including his early work in theatre, his war service, TV work including Quatermass, his Hammer films, especially his interpretation of Watson in The Hound of the Baskervilles, his relationship with Hammer, subsequent career and death from lung cancer. A good informative extra.

Gallery (3:52)

     Approximately 60 film posters and black and white film stills. They advance automatically, with music.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Unlike many of the Shock releases here in Australia of Hammer films, unfortunately in this case The Hound of the Baskervilles misses out on most of the extras available in other regions.

     The Region B UK Blu-ray includes as extras:

    The Region A US Blu-ray has the following extras:

Summary

     The Hound of the Baskervilles is a wonderfully entertaining Sherlock Holmes film, Hammer at their very best. It may be a traditional telling of the story but with an excellent cast, assured direction by Terence Fisher, quality production values, humour and a score by James Bernard, The Hound of the Baskervilles remains a classic and loses nothing in comparison to more modern treatments of the book.

     The film looks very good on Blu-ray, the audio is the original mono. The extras, sadly for such a film, are minor compared to the commentaries and featurettes available on releases overseas.

     The Hound of the Baskervilles is available as a stand-alone Blu-ray release from Shock Entertainment but it is also included in Shock’s 17 disc Hammer Horror Blu-ray Collection. The specifications and extras on both releases are the same. If you only want the film, the Australian releases are fine.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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