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SHERLOCK HOLMES’ MOST TERRIFYING ADVENTURE!

Sherlock Holmes is the most filmed character of all time – but it is arguably this 1959 re-telling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic tale The Hound of the Baskervilles, from legendary horror studio Hammer and starring genre stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, which stands as the super sleuth’s finest cinematic hour.

Rising up out of the swirling mists of Dartmoor, Baskerville Hall stands tall and gloomy. Its occupant, Charles Baskerville, has been found dead in mysterious circumstances. Could Sir Charles have been the victim of the so-called “Baskerville Curse”, which tells of a deadly beast that stalks the surrounding countryside? Unperturbed by the legend, next-in-line Sir Henry Baskerville (a rare leading man performance from Lee) sets out to Dartmoor to assume inheritance of the family estate, under the auspices of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and right-hand man Dr. Watson (Andre Morell).

Imbued with an atmosphere as thick as fog, The Hound of the Baskervilles is a superlative gothic yarn which benefits from game performances from Cushing, Lee and Morell, as well as the expert direction of Terence Fisher, known for helming many of Hammer’s most celebrated efforts including The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Devil Rides Out.
(Taken from the official synopsis.)

Video


According to the accompanying booklet The Hound of the Baskervilles’ high-definition master was produced by MGM and made available to Arrow through Hollywood Classics. This doesn’t reveal much about the restoration process, but recent collaborations between Arrow and MGM have been impressive and indeed the 1.66:1 framed image here is relatively pleasing given the film’s age and the comparatively low-key nature of the Blu-ray release.

The first thing that struck me about said image was the overall darkness, but thankfully it doesn’t come at the expense of shadow detail and blacks are not crushed. In any case, it adds tremendous atmosphere to the exterior scenes on the moors, especially when combined with the ever-present, rolling mists. Colours are natural and vibrant, while the image exhibits a reasonable level of detail, although without knowing much about the cinematographic processes I can't be sure if it's a close approximation of the intended look. There are a fair few film artefacts on show, although none of these white specks is particularly large or obtrusive. To be completely truthful I think Arrow could have done a better job with the material had it transferred and restored the film in-house, but the presentation is still a reasonably good one all things considered and it should please fans, if not hard-core videophiles.

Audio


The original mono audio track is reproduced here in LPCM 1.0 and it sounds every bit of its fifty-six years. That’s not meant as an insult you understand, but rather it is intended to temper audience expectations in an age where bombastic 7.1 mixes are the norm. While sounding very much of its time the track balances the various elements well, allowing for clear dialogue reproduction throughout. Of course dynamic range is very limited and there isn’t any bass to speak of, but again this is to be expected. It's a decent effort given the limitations of the source material, which is all one can reasonably ask.

Extras


Arrow has assembled a fine collection of bonus content for this release, comprised of material both new and old. There’s a strong Christopher Lee presence to be found here, with a number of the supplements featuring either filmed appearances or narration from his unmistakable bassy tones.

  • Isolated Music and Effects Soundtrack
  • New audio commentary with Hammer experts Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby
  • Release the Hound!: A brand new documentary looking at the genesis and making of the Hammer classic, featuring interviews with hound mask creator Margaret Robinson, film historian Kim Newman, actor/documentarian and co-creator of BBC’s Sherlock Mark Gatiss, and others
  • André Morell: Best of British – a featurette looking at the late great actor André Morell and his work with Hammer
  • The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes – A 1986 documentary looking at the many incarnations of Conan Doyle’s celebrated character, narrated and presented by Christopher Lee
  • Actor’s Notebook: Christopher Lee – An archive interview in which the actor looks back on his role as Sir Henry Baskerville
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles excerpts read by Christopher Lee
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Extensive image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul ShipperCollector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by former Hammer archivist Robert J.E. Simpson, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Overall


Although not an expert by any means, I do have fond memories of watching the Hammer films with my grandparents as a small child. Those were usually tales featuring werewolves, mummies or the vampiric exploits of one Count Dracula, so this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel was a new experience for me. While the fairly lackadaisical pacing and comparative lack of violence might put modern horror audiences off, the film drips with atmosphere and benefits immensely from the gravitas of stars Cushing and Lee, along with able supporting performances from the likes of André Morell. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Blu-ray is another good genre release from Arrow, which continues to impress with the variety and quality of its licences. The MGM-sourced visuals are solid, both from a transfer and encoding perspective, while the mono audio does justice to the film’s original mix. I’m not as big on the bonus stuff as some, but if you’re a fan of the film or the Holmes character in general you’ll be over the moon with the added content. Based on these factors it's easy to recommend this release.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Hound of the Baskervilles, The
 Hound of the Baskervilles, The
 Hound of the Baskervilles, The
 Hound of the Baskervilles, The
 Hound of the Baskervilles, The
 Hound of the Baskervilles, The
 Hound of the Baskervilles, The
 Hound of the Baskervilles, The


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