Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 1st, 2015
BluRay released: June 1st, 2015
Approximate running times: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: PG (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
The Hounds of Baskerville was directed by Terence Fisher whose other notable films include, The Horror of Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Three years after directing The Hounds of Baskerville Terence Fisher would return to the character with the film Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace and this time around Sherlock Holmes would be portrayed by Christopher Lee. Key collaborators on The Hounds of Baskervilles include screenwriter Peter Bryan (The Brides of Dracula, Seven Deaths in a Cat’s Eye), cinematographer Jack Asher (The Man Who Could Cheat Death) and composer James Bernard (The Devil Rides Out).
Where Hammer Films appropriation of the three of Universal’s most famous monster proved to be financial successes at the box office. The same cannot be said for The Hounds of Baskerville their one and only adaption of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes. At time that this film was made The Hound of Baskerville was arguably Sherlock Holmes most famous adventure and Hammers adaption is far from a faithful adaption. Also leave it to Hammer Films to give Sherlock Holmes a horror makeover. These are just a few of the ways that Hammer adaption differs from the novel.
Hammers adaption features a rock solid narrative that opens with a flashback scene that establishes the origins of the curse that now centuries later is still proving to be very fatal. And when it comes to pacing things always move along briskly from one revelation to the next. Also when it comes to the use of misdirection this film does very well in this regard. With this film’s most shocking revelation being saved for this film’s superbly realized finale.
Visually this film delivers and then some with its Gothic imagery that gives the film a tremendous amount of atmosphere. With the scenes at night near the abandoned structure where the hound resides being this film’s most satisfying moments visually. Another strength of this film is James Bernard’s haunting score which does a remarkable job reinforcing the mood set by this film’s aforementioned striking visuals.
From a performance stand point Peter Cushing (Corruption, Shock Waves) and André Morell (The Bridge on the River Kwai, Barry Lyndon) in the roles of Holmes and Watson respectively make a superb duo. Other performances of note include Christopher Lee (The Horror of Dracula, The Wicker Man) in the role Sir. Henry Baskerville and David Oxley (Night Ambush) in the role of Sir Hugo Baskerville, he is the sadistic descendent whose act of violence set in motion the curse that now plagues his family. Ultimately after initially struggling to find its audience, The Hound of Baskerville has since become widely regarded as one Hammer’s best films.
The Hound of the Baskervilles comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in great shape, as colors vibrant, black levels and shadow details look consistently strong and details look crisp, with a tremendous amount of clarity when it comes to close-up’s. Grain is present throughout and it always looks natural and there are no issues with compression and DNR is kept tin check.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM Mono mix in English and an Isolated Music and Effects Track. The audio sounds clean, clear and balanced. Dialog is always easy to follow and film’s score sound’s appropriately robust. Range things sound good considering the age of the film and the limitations of the mono source. Also when it comes to the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack these things are well represented. This releases second audio track a music and effects track is much welcomed addition. Also included with this release is removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, an image gallery, a trailer for the film (1 minute 59 seconds), The Hounds of the Baskervilles excerpts read by Christopher Lee (14 minutes 36 seconds) and (6 minutes 24 seconds), an archive interview with actor Christopher Lee (12 minutes 59 seconds), a featurette titled ‘André Morell: Best of British’ (19 minutes 43 seconds – 1080 Progressive), a documentary titled ‘Release the Hound!’ (30 minutes 20 seconds – 1080 Progressive), a vintage documentary from 1986 tilted ‘The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes’ (46 minutes 4 seconds) and an audio commentary with Hammer experts Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby.
Topics discussed in the vintage interview with Christopher Lee include, Sherlock Holmes and his thoughts on the character, working with Terence Fisher, Peter Cushing’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes and Lee’s friendship with Cushing.
The extra titled ‘André Morell: Best of British’ is a featurette looking at the late great actor André Morell and his work with Hammer.
Topics discussed in the documentary titled ‘Release the Hound!’ include, The Hounds of Baskerville and how the film differs from the novel, Peter Cushing portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, André Morell’s portrayal of Watson, in Camera special effects and Terence Fisher’s direction. This extra contains comments from hound mask creator Margaret Robinson, film historian Kim Newman, third assistant director Hugh Harlow, actor/documentarian and co-creator of BBC’s Sherlock Mark Gatis and charge-hand props Peter Allchorne.
The extra titled ‘The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes’ is narrated by Christopher Lee and this extra discusses the cinema incarnations of Conan Doyle’s celebrated character.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, they discuss key sequences, Terence Fisher’s direction, the cast and their thoughts on their performances, the film’s score, script to screen differences between the novel and the film and how this film was Hammers Films only Sherlock Homes adaption.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a twenty six page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled ‘Strange Things on the Moor’ written by former Hammer archivist Robert J.E. Simpson and information about the transfer. Overall The Hounds of Baskerville gets a first rate release from Arrow Video.