Today: February 28, 2024
Donald Churchill (Dr. John Watson) can go along to protect Sir Henry because Ian Richardson (Sherlock Holmes) is otherwise occupied with another important case.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles

For many, Jeremy Brett was the quintessential Sherlock. Period. However, go back to 1983 – just a year before Mr. Brett stepped onto the set of Granada Studio’s Baker Street – and one man looked set to inherit the Holmes mantle left behind by Basil Rathbone. That man was Ian Richardson.

American producer Sy Weintraub and Brit Otto Plaschkes had planned at least a half a dozen feature-length Sherlockian dramas, with Ian Richardson playing the great detective. Granada had plans of their own and an expensive law suit followed. Weintraub took a payout and Brett stepped into history. Not before, however, the duo had produced two features of their own: The Hound Of The Baskervilles and The Sign Of Four, which was released the same year.

The results are a mixed bag. Expensive though not especially atmospheric sets. Thoughtful if uninspired direction. Some appalling casting choices, set alongside some excellent ones. A plot that borrows heavily from the original, while in other places veering wildly from source. In one place disturbingly so, with a lurid and utterly unnecessary rape and murder scene that would appear to have been spliced in from ‘70s Hammer Horror.

Bringing something new to a tale we all know so well is no small task. Director Douglas Hickox’s Hound Of The Baskervilles struggles in places but ultimately wins hearts and minds thanks to some nicely-judged performances.

Brain Blessed manages to escape his own reputation for bombast with a performance that oozes danger and allure in equal measure. Nicholas Clay is solid and utterly authentic, holding the drama together when it starts to split at the seams, which it sadly does too often. Donald Churchill is woefully underused as Watson, providing little more than comic relief without the material to really make it work. However it’s Ian Richardson who steals every scene as an utterly charming and whimsical Holmes – much more prone to a bursts of laughter than moody introspection. And yes, that’s quite canon.

It would have been fascinating to have seen Richardson develop his character over all six films. What we have instead is an intriguing ‘what-if’.

Given a lush restoration treatment for its Blu-ray debut, Richardson’s Hound Of The Baskervilles is fun if flawed. But, sometimes, that’s enough to provide the entertainment.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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