The Hound of the Baskervilles (TV episode 1988)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
<< S04E04 The Bruce Partington Plans S05E01 The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax >>

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles (episode No. 26) is the 2nd TV movie of the Granada series: Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Edward Hardwicke as Dr. Watson, aired on ITV on 31 august 1988. 101 min.

The episode is an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's novel : The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902).

While faithful to the original story, it is not, by Michael Cox's own statement, the adaptation of his dreams. As for Jeremy Brett, he regretted that the film had not been developed sufficiently to achieve the perfect accuracy required to adapt this famous masterpiece.

A weakened hound because of restrictions

The excessive expenses involved in the production of Silver Blaze and The Devil's Foot having dried up the series' budget, Michael Cox and June Wyndham-Davies believed that this episode could provide two hours of entertainment at a lower cost than the last episodes initially planned, if it were to be turned into an economy. This austerity policy led to the suppression of captivating but costly sequences such as the one in which Holmes and Watson chased the spy following Sir Henry in London. Even worse, it led to the filming in the studio of scenes where the set is essential and which require space, such as the final attack of the monster, thus depriving us of the spectacle of the immense moor gradually invaded by an evil fog and especially of the exciting race of Holmes and Watson flying to Sir Henry's rescue. The financial shortage even forced Bryan Mills to reuse shreds of previous episodes that turned his film into a disconcerting patchwork.

A very light shiver

The fascinating attraction of the novel is essentially its fantastic and frightening atmosphere. But if, in the original story, there is a fear for the brave and bold Watson, this is unfortunately less true in the film, where he takes few initiatives and rarely acts alone. Moreover, Trevor Bowen, trying to compensate for Holmes' long eclipse, suggests that he is secretly present on the moor: Watson therefore appears too quickly deceived but also protected by the detective. As for the fierce criminal Selden, the scenario makes him a diminished being, more pitiful than frightening. But the most detrimental to the terrifying mystery is, as Jeremy Brett thought, the treatment of the legend of the dog from hell. Instead of an initial flashback, recreating its Gothic atmosphere, spreading it throughout the rest of the film, Holmes, initially sceptical, reads an insipid summary of it that takes away all its magic.

A very light dramatization

Due to lack of money, the wanted director, John Madden, could not be hired. He was replaced by Brian Mills who failed to create a fantastic atmosphere that was truly engaging. It was certainly almost impossible, before the appearance of computer-generated images, to create a monster worthy of the novelist's formidable description, but why is the distant barking of the infernal hound here only an inaudible breath and the escape of Sir Charles a pale substitute of panic terror? And the film sometimes lacks rhythm and tone: by placing the analysis of the anonymous letter in a public place where discretion is essential, for example, we inevitably restricted the actors, forced to a half-tone interpretation.

And yet, the potential was there!

The best moments proves it, such as when Sherlock Holmes, examining the Dartmoor map, refuses to exclude any intervention by the demon in human affairs, thus opening the door to the supernatural. The Granada team was able to produce a perfect hound, but the drastic financial restrictions imposed harmful constraints on artistic quality and generated unease: There is a lot of mumbling in this film, writes Michael Cox, as if the actors did not have complete confidence in what they were saying.




Plot summary (spoiler)

Did the extremely wealthy and charitable Charles Baskerville die of a heart attack or by an infernal creature? Indeed, according to an old legend, a demoniac hound killed the pervert and cruel Hugo Baskerville and would hunt down all his descendants. As soon as he arrived in London, Sir Henry Baskerville, heir to the deceased, received an anonymous letter urging him not to join his estate at Dartmoor, where he was in danger of death. But Sir Henry decided to go beyond this, and Holmes, detained in London, entrusted him to Watson's vigilant guard, which he charged with faithfully reporting everything that would happen to him. Watson's zeal and bravery will not be superfluous, as mysteries and dangers hang over Baskerville lands. Beryl Stapleton, courted by Sir Henry, fears for him an unknown and fatal danger and an escaped assassin haunts the moor, where the butler of Baskerville Hall sends disturbing light signals while a mysterious creature moans lugubriously. But Holmes resurfaces in time to discover that Jack Stapleton, Charles' unknown nephew, is using the legend to usurp his uncle's fortune. Thwarting his criminal machinations, Holmes and Watson will save Henry in extremis and Stapleton will have the end he deserves.

  • Credits : Monique Claisse (texts), Sarah Fava (photos), Granada.