The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988)

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Released 11-Apr-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Mystery None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 100:53
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Brian Mills
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Jeremy Brett
Edward Hardwicke
Neil Duncan
Ronald Pickup
Kristoffer Tabori
James Faulkner
Fiona Gillies
Case ?
RPI Box Music Patrick Gowers


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The Hound of the Baskervilles, for either TV or film, has been remade over a dozen times since the beginning of the 1900s. The last remake for the BBC had a real edge to it, and starred Richard Roxborough as Sherlock Holmes and Ian Hart as a very strong willed and wonderfully Victorian Dr Watson. The only fly in the ointment was the use of woeful CGI for the hound (they'd have done better using perspective and maintaining a semblance of reality). Still, my favourite Holmes has always been Jeremy Brett who, along with Edward Hardwicke, were the best pairing so far and over a 10 year period they made 40 episodes or movies from the works of Arthur Conan Doyle. Made for Granada Television and adapted by John Hawkesbury, The Hound of the Baskervilles was one of four telemovies. Made in 1988, it came during a major renaissance of the Holmesian epics but actually isn't the best of the series by a long shot.

    The six series made by this production team were The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984-1985), The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1986-1988), The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1991), several 2 hour movies (The Master Blackmailer, The Last Vampyre, The Eligible Bachelor, 1994) and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994). Jeremy Brett died in 1995 due to a heart problem and other complications, cutting short what was becoming a definitive collection of movies adapted from the novels and short stories of Conan Doyle.

    The Hound of the Baskervilles concerns itself with the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville (Raymond Adamson). "Stricken dead by heart attack" says the post-mortem. "By fear" says Dr Mortimer (Neil Duncan) who comes to London to engage Sherlock Holmes to investigate the mystery. Retelling the story of the Baskerville curse (whose details were left out at the coronial inquest because of their fanciful nature), he asks Holmes to help protect the last known surviving member of the Baskerville family, Sir Henry Baskerville (Kristoffer Tabori), newly arrived from the colonies to take up residence at his ancestral home. Sir Henry, who is busy chastising a member of the hotel staff over the loss of two of his boots left out for cleaning the night before, learns of the particular curse of his family over breakfast as Dr Mortimer recants his tale.

    After agreeing to help, Holmes believes he detects someone spying on them and gives chase, but loses his man who drives off in a Hansom cab. Returning to Sir Henry and Dr Mortimer, he insists that Watson and he accompany Sir Henry back to Baskerville Hall. After arriving at the station they notice policemen standing idly, and later on run across a patrol on horseback where they learn that Selden, the Notting Hill murderer, has escaped from Dartmore prison and has fled into the moor where he is being tracked down. Soon thereafter, they arrive at Baskerville Hall where they are met by the butler, Barrymore (Ronald Pickup) and his wife (Rosemary McHale). After a brief overnight stay, Holmes excuses himself, citing other cases that require his attention, but leaves the redoubtable Dr Watson to look after Sir Henry. He exhorts Sir Henry not to cross the moors on his own and instructs Watson to write to him daily concerning the daily routine surrounding the hall and its near neighbours.

    In the course of the next few days, Sir Henry and Watson make the acquaintance of his new neighbours, Stapleton (James Faulkner), a rather severe character who claims to be a collector of butterflies and his sister Beryl (Fiona Gillies), a beautiful, if troubled, woman who attempts to warn Watson, mistakenly taking him for Sir Henry. Being neighbourly (and beginning to be infatuated with Beryl), Sir Henry invites them to dine at the hall, along with the Vicar of Grimpen (Donald McKillip) and Frankland (Bernard Horsfall), a local magistrate. Here his guests relate their local gossip as well as discuss the legend of the mysterious hound that is said to haunt the moors. The next day, Watson, duteous to a fault, stamps around the countryside visiting everyone he can and sending copious details for Holmes to read, not knowing that Holmes has already returned and is undertaking his own investigation.

    Holmes formulates his theory about the Baskerville family and its curse and comes up with a dangerous plan to smoke out the culprit, but he must enlist the aid of both Watson and Sir Henry who will act as bait for the massive beast that he knows is both real and set to fall upon his client. The final act in this play will lead to a chase across the bogs of the moors and death.

    This is possibly the least interesting episode of the entire series, partially because it's all been done before and this is no better, or worse, than anything else that's been offered. A recent adaptation starring Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) was in many respects as good as this effort but it's a story that has been done before, so unless there is something unique it takes a lot to make it stand out. It was said that Jeremy Brett was ill during the making of the movie, but ill or not, this isn't a patch on the rest of the series or on the other movies. As the quintessential Holmes, this had to be made, but as a fan, this was not one that I cared much for except that it will hopefully lead to the rest of the series making it to DVD sometime soon.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This 1988 telemovie is showing a lot of signs of age. The picture quality isn't that spectacular, probably rating somewhere just above good VHS, but is definitely not as good as other presentations in this series.

    The transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33: 1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture is mostly soft and sometimes almost shapeless with lots of blurred background figures to contend with. As a result, shadow detail is poor with very little fine detail available and if you were at the pictures you'd be screaming for focus. Grain is very noticeable during the opening few minutes and maintains a fairly high profile throughout, although it does settle down after a while - either that or you simply become inured to its presence. Low level noise doesn't appear to have been a problem.

    The colour is fairly pedestrian with some moments of quality. Overall, the palette is fairly drab, but that isn't a problem with the transfer, more a feature of the period being presented. Saturation levels aren't as good as normal with some decidedly faded moments. Skin tones were fine, but colour bleed was present here and there (eg: 5:37 in an obviously ghosted outline and again at 58:50) although no colour bleed was in evidence. Cross colouration was noted at 12:52 on a tweed jacket, but there was no chroma noise.

    There are artefacts aplenty in this transfer; 0:32, 6:59, 7:35, 9:54, 10:24, 23:57, 36:28, 38:06, 50:48 amongst dozens of others. Most are either large black flecks or the more annoying white ones and many are sprays or obvious chunks out of the print. At 55:18 there is a distinct water mark in the middle of the picture but apart from these problems there was no obvious pixelization, aliasing or moiré artefacts in evidence, possibly due to the level of grain and the general blurriness of the picture.

    There were no subtitles on this disc.

    This is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sound for this disc was fairly pedestrian but at least it was clean, clear and suffered from no echoing or hollow timbre which has been present on other discs and tapes of this series. There is only one soundtrack on this disc, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 offering at a bitrate of 224 kilobits per second. The sound is decent with minimal separation across the fronts but at least you can hear them talking without the clutter from the ambient noise.

    As I said, dialogue was okay without being spectacular, but at least it was audible. Syncing was not an issue that I noted any problems with.

    The music from the series by Patrick Gowers was used with some variations added, but nothing out of the ordinary. The underlying score is actually very good since, like most good series, you can immediately tell upon hearing a refrain what it comes from, which is about as good as any television series can ask for from its music.

   There was minimal interaction from the surrounds on this disc, as some of the music makes it way into the rear channels but nothing that adds any elements of immersiveness.

    There was no subwoofer usage on this disc.

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

Extras

     There were no extras on this disc. A menu an extra does not make!

R4 vs R1

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

    From the looks of it, the Region 1 and Region 4 versions of this disc on DVD are about the same (except possibly for the menu structure). No extras or additional features appear to be present on either disc, so therefore I'd be more inclined to give the nod to the Region 4 version without any knowledge of the picture quality of the Region 1 offering.

Summary

    The Hound of the Baskervilles is a classic tale of deception, treachery and revenge. Although not one of the better efforts in the series made by Granada Television, it is nonetheless an important part of any telling of the stories of Sherlock Holmes and Jeremy Brett was one of the best to take on the persona. It's a pity this isn't better, but fortunately the rest of the series is!

    The video is mediocre at best, poor at worst, but it can't degrade any further at least.

    The audio does better than the video. Even though it's only in 2 channel stereo, it is clean and clear which is something of a bonus, especially if you've had to listen to any of the VHS versions around.

    There is a complete lack of extras on this disc.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Friday, April 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD5300, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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