Hound of the Baskervilles [1939]

Of all the Sherlock Holmes tales written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles (one of the four novels) remains the best-known. Adding a dash of the supernatural to the Great Detective's adventures, it is certainly one of the most dramatic--and an obvious target for screen interpretation. Prior to Jeremy Brett's indelibly making the role his own to modern TV audiences, Ian Richardson made for a suitably incisive and enthusiastic Holmes in this enjoyable 1983 adaptation. The much-filmed tale finds Holmes and Watson drawn in to the mysterious curse afflicting the well-heeled Baskerville dynasty. Is a monster stalking the heir to the Baskerville fortune, or is the culprit a far from demonic force? As Holmes, Richardson is blessed with the avian features that, like Basil Rathbone's or Peter Cushing's, effectively capture Sidney Paget's original likeness. Though Holmes's more antisocial facets are dispensed with, Richardson is engaging in such a well-explored role, recalling the razor-sharp wit and intelligence of Rathbone. Attracting a distinguished British cast (Brian Blessed, Denholm Elliot, Martin Shaw) and decent production values (though with a few Hammer Horror moments), this will not disappoint fans of Victorian literature's finest detective, nor those in search of a classic, chilling thriller. --Danny Graydon

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