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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hammer's Growling Good One


Cushing/Morrell Are Holmes/Watson in Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959)

Covered at Greenbriar before, but seen again thanks to Netflix HD, thought focused this time on dream teaming of Cushing's Holmes with Andre Morrell's Dr. Watson. Oh, for continuation of this parlay and regret that Hound would prove a one-off, Sherlock Holmes and Hammer being made for each other, as were Cushing and Morrell in co-star mode. That was even better demonstrated in the couple years' later Cash On Demand, released on DVD since last I saw Hound and making me all more appreciative of how effective these players were in tandem. Cushing was himself a Holmes devotee, having a personal library of Strand magazines wherein SH stories first appeared, and Morrell said later that he avoided seeing Nigel Bruce's rendition of Watson so as not to overlap buffoonery of that actor's interpret (but wouldn't watching Bruce have only stiffened Morrell's resolve not to duplicate the comic turn?). The Hound itself was a gentle pet, says Chris Lee and others, masked to look a fright, and not disposed to ferocity, so Baskerville's pay-off is anything but, though for all of atmosphere leading to it, who'd complain?

2 Comments:

Blogger JoeM said...

http://www.amazon.com/Sherlock-Holmes-Collection-Peter-Cushing/dp/B001TE6P78/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1376753765&sr=1-1&keywords=peter+cushing+sherlock+holmes

You may want to check out The Sherlock Holmes Collection starring Cushing, which is a collection of the surviving episodes of the long-thought-lost 1960s BBC TV series. The set contains five surviving episodes starring Cushing, including a remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles, which many (although not myself prefer). Also there was Masks of Death (1984) with Cushing as Holmes, John Mills as Watson, which was directed by Roy Ward Baker.

11:39 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson has some very interesting thoughts on Sherlock Holmes and both versions of "The Hound Of The Baskervilles":


A big fan of both the Rathbone version (Fox) and the Hammer version. The films are so different in content as well as tone you can't really set them against each other.


Portraying the hound has always been a problem. You have to build it up as a beast from hell, but at the end it has to be readily exposed as an unterrifying (albeit vicious) canine with a bit of glow-in-the-dark gunk smeared on his face (the films tossed in a mask). That's easy enough in print for an assured talespinner like Doyle; not easy if you have to show it.


The movies -- like the book -- keep the hound offstage as much as possible, letting implication build up the monster. Hammer intelligently upped the stakes by having the unseen master of the hound plant a tarantula in a man's boot and later slash up a dead body, with hints of some profane cult. So even if you didn't buy the hound, you knew there was at least one human to be very afraid of. The Rathbone version, although blessed with some creepy and eccentric suspects, came down to a clever schemer after a fortune.



Also, Holmes (or was it Watson?) has to gun down a dog who's been abused into viciousness. Most audiences would rather see a human villain suffer (Fox and Hammer both dispatched the hound very quickly, and both let the moors swallow a human villain -- previously described as a nasty death). Side note: In the book, Dr. Mortimer has a spaniel who goes missing partway through. At the end Holmes discovers the spaniel was one more victim of the hound. It's as if Doyle wanted to assure us he had a soft spot for non-homicidal dogs.


"Cat People" can be viewed as an inverse of "Hound." It flips the plot by having most characters naturally dismissing the supernatural while "Hound" puts the burden of proof on Holmes to debunk it. While rationalism triumphs at the end of "Hound", "Cat People" ends by confirming the girl's fears were all real. Wonder if Val Lewton was ever interested in doing "Hound of the Baskervilles", playing up the idea of someone manipulating people in an environment that encourages dread and superstition, and eventually becoming a victim of that same environment.


Last idle note: Laurie King's series of "Mary Russell" novels, about a young woman who becomes close to the retired Holmes, includes a sort of sequel titled "The Moor." Her villains try to revive the hound legend based on Watson's book and find out it wouldn't work.

8:34 AM  

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