1957 marked an important year for horror fans. Hammer Studios, a film studio in England, had decided to tackle Mary Shelly's famed masterpiece, "Frankenstein" - capturing the Gothic elements which were prevalent in the novel as well as the acclaimed 1931 film from Universal studios. What emerged in 1957 was "Curse of Frankenstein," starring Peter Cushing as the Baron Frankenstein and Christopher Lee as his creation. Both men give great performances, and they perform against a real blood-and-thunder backdrop, and this film introduced audiences to the bright red Technicolour blood which is now so famous among Hammer audiences. A year later, the two were reunited in "Dracula," where Peter Cushing starred as Van Helsing and Lee as the vampire count. A year later when it came time to find new material for Hammer to produce, it seemed rather obvious that the studio's next film should be based on Doyle's quasi-ghost story.
What I think is so great right from the start is that Hammer's film is simply oozing atmosphere. If there was ever a studio who could capture the Gothic trappings of Doyle's novel, Hammer was that studio. All of the scenes have a very gritty and dark feeling, and when the film shifts to the moorland setting, the atmosphere grows even more as our three leading men move through creepy sets wrapped in fog. What people seem to forget is that Doyle's original book, in addition to being a first-rate detective story, is a fantastic horror novel.
|Sherlock woke up on the wrong side of the bed|
The other stand-out performance in this movie is Andre Morrell as Dr. Watson. Morrell is one of the best portrayals of Watson ever, bringing a warm sensibility and levelheadedness to the role. Remember, until this time Watson was considered bumbling and blustering (thanks to the ever lovable Nigel Bruce) and now this performance was very different as we see how Watson was originally written by Doyle. Lastly, I'd like to touch on Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. This performance as the baronet was his first real chance to play a humane character in a Hammer horror film, and he shows what a capable and versatile actor Lee really is.
|The atmospheric French poster|
In all, this 1959 version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" could be my favourite. The star's performances are all excellent and the atmosphere of the picture is so wonderfully done. The elements of Gothic horror are tremendously executed throughout the movie and I feel that any Sherlockian fan has to see this movie at some point in their lives.