When is a Hammer film not a Hammer Horror? Can it be anything but if Terence Fisher directs, Jack Asher takes care of the cinematography, Peter Cushing holds the lead role, Christopher Lee supporting, with a score by James Bernard, produced by the duo Michael Carreras and Anthony Hinds?
The short answer is no.
These guys did what they did and they did it bloody well, and so Sherlock Holmes gets the Hammer Horror treatment.
And treat it is.
Inundated with adaptations of the Doyle penned hero nowadays, it's hard to imagine a time when Basil Rathbone held an iron grip upon the role. Benedict Cumberbatch has managed to capture the imagination of entire generations with his Gatiss and Moffat scribed adaptation. Knowing that Gatiss is a huge Hammer fan, it is extremely interesting to view The Hound of the Baskervilles from a contemporary lens.
Cushing nails it, but we've become accustomed to expect no less from him. His Sherlock is most definitely, the definitive version. Cumberbatch or rather Gatiss is most indebted to Hammer in this respect.
Cushing's Sherlock has a fast rate of delivery, a brash almost rude manner - but still manages to come across as playful. Sound familiar?
André Morell plays a much more serious Watson than Nigel Bruce did in the Rathbone flicks. Well Bruce originally played a rather serious Watson but by the second film in the Rathbone series had taken upon a more comedic foil archetype, so rather Morell plays the role of Watson Bruce had originally intended to inhabit. This version of Watson is much appreciated and is something we are more used to, especially with Martin Freeman's spectacular contemporary take on the character.
Still somehow, Morell seems to come off as bumbling next to Cushing, even though the Watson character proves himself time and time again within the narrative.
As for the narrative, as I'm sure you know, Hammer love their prologues, and this film is no different. Thankfully it doesn't drag on too long (a la Vampire Circus). Turns out it is actually rather fantastic for it's vulgarity and its brief exploration of the nihilistic nature of aristocracy. Setting the hounds on the poor girl was a stroke of violent genius, and Fisher captures all of it in spectacular Technicolor.
Smash cut to present day, Holmes and Watson are invited to meet with Sir Henry Baskerville, played by the ever tall and imposing Christopher Lee. His family infamously cursed (because there is always a curse), and at the meeting Sir Henry is attacked by a tarantula and Holmes suspects that there is a game afoot.
Also a quick note... the blood here was darker than the usual Kensington variety, which definitely gave the film a more realistic and macabre vibe, as opposed to other Hammer productions where the blood seems more garish and comical.
Sometimes the beauty in these old Hammer films are simply down to the supporting cast, and this has never been more true with The Hound of the Baskervilles, because this film? This film had John Le Mesurier.
Filling out the cast is Marla Landi as Cecile Stapleton and Ewen Solon as Stapleton playing the roles exactly as was expected of them. And that is fine.
It's a pretty thrilling adventure, and it's expertly shot by Jack Asher (there is something to be said that after Asher's death Hammer films became distinctly cheaper looking), directed by the forever wonderful Terence Fisher. My favourite take on the Sherlock tale, equal to, I guess, the modern Gatiss penned take.