Saturday, February 11, 2012

Movie: The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles
From a story by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have to confess that I've never read The Hound of the Baskervilles, though I recently took steps to rectify the matter and am finally working my way through it. Some years back, for whatever reason, I happened to watch a number of the many cinematic adaptations of the story and I thought I'd revisit this one.

Which is a pretty jim-dandy piece of work, if you ask me. It stars Richard Roxburgh as Holmes and Ian Hart as Watson and it’s the latter who really steals the show here. Even though I haven't read the story yet I know enough about it to know that it's largely Watson's show. In this adaptation I'd venture to say that this is even more so, not only in those times when Holmes is nowhere to be found but also when he's on screen. Hart dominates the proceedings so thoroughly that even when Holmes is there it seems that he's relegated almost to the role of a minor character.

Not to belabor the point, but Hart's Watson is also a very forceful and rather brooding sort of chap. He's a man of action and not as inclined to take his cues from the mighty Holmes as other Watsons we've seen on the big or small screen. There are even several scenes in which, quite simply, he rips the great detective a new one. This, for a variety of infractions, but most notably for keeping him in the dark about the facts of the case at hand.

Aside from the main characters there's plenty more to like about this one, including the dark, menacing setting (the Isle of Man, which fills in quite nicely for the real Dartmoor) and cinematography. The other actors acquit themselves quite nicely, with a special nod to Richard Grant for his especially smarmy incarnation of Stapleton. The one great drawback here, though it's not really a deal-breaker, is the hound itself, a dopey-looking piece of work that looks like an animatronic version of some critter on loan from an episode of the Muppets.

It's my understanding that the production did take some liberties with Doyle's yarn, as cinematic adaptations are prone to do. Obviously I can't speak to that with any authority, but I will say that, taken as a discrete unit, this was quite an entertaining and suspenseful piece of work, even if you do know how it's going to turn out.

Trivia fans take note, Hart later portrayed none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in Finding Neverland (2004), while Grant had previously tackled Holmes in a 1992 BBC TV movie called The Other Side.

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