Cast & Crew
In turn-of-the-century England, Dr. Mortimer visits well-known detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson to relate the story of the curse of the Baskervilles: In the late 18th century, Sir Hugo Baskerville, reputed for his cruelty and arrogance, tracks a local farm girl to the nearby abbey ruins where he assaults her and stabs her to death only to be attacked and killed by a mysterious, huge dog moments later. In the present, Mortimer explains that Sir Charles Baskerville has just died a few days earlier, his body found in the same abbey ruins where Hugo met his demise. Upon learning specific details of the death, Holmes concludes that Charles died of fright, but agrees to meet his nephew, Sir Henry, the last of the Baskervilles, who is arriving from South Africa to take over Baskerville Hall in Dartmoor. The following day, Holmes and Watson meet Mortimer and Henry at a hotel where Henry dismisses Mortimer's fear of a curse on the family and reveals that he will be inheriting a million pounds from Charles's death. Holmes declares that he is unable to accompany Henry to Dartmoor, but asks Watson to provide an escort. Still skeptical, Henry complains about his missing boot, only to be terrified when a large tarantula crawls out of his remaining boot and up his arm before Holmes hits it away and kills it. Holmes suggests that the spider was placed there intentionally and advises Henry to be cautious. Mortimer and Watson accompany Henry on his journey to Baskerville Hall and when Mortimer departs to walk into the village, Perkins, the coach driver, warns him that a dangerous convict, Seldon, has escaped from a nearby prison and is reported to be hiding on the moors. At Baskerville Hall, Henry and Watson meet Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore, the hall's butler and cook. That night, Watson is awakened by the sound of a woman weeping from a room at the top of the house and is startled when he clearly hears a distant howl of a dog. The next morning, Henry is welcomed to the area by kindly but bumbling Bishop Franklin who also informs Henry of the coming village "jumble" sale over which he must preside. Meanwhile, Watson walks into the village and on his return nearly steps into a hunting trap, but is warned in time by a farmer, Stapleton. In explaining his use of traps instead of a gun, Stapleton shows Watson his webbed and crippled hand, then alerts him to the dangerous mires in the area. A little later, Watson comes across a young woman sitting on a boulder. Refusing to answer the doctor's query, the girl flees and when Watson follows, he falls into a bog, where he is rescued by Stapleton. The girl, Stapleton's daughter Cecile, joins the men on the cart ride back to the hall and she apologizes to Watson, claiming she thought he might be the escaped convict. At the hall, Henry is captivated by Cecile's rough charm. That night, Henry is awakened by the sound of a woman weeping and, together with Watson, examines the spare room, which they find empty. Watson then spots a light across the moor and the men race outside after it. As they find a solitary lantern on a hill near the ruins, Henry is startled by the appearance of a strange figure and collapses. Although Watson sees a caped figure standing in the ruins, he ignores it to help Henry back to the hall. Before returning to the ruins, Watson summons Mortimer and makes him promise to remain with Henry. Hurrying back to the abbey, Watson is surprised to find that the caped man is Holmes, who explains that he has been there investigating privately since the day they arrived. Holmes admits the strange figure was indeed the escapee, Seldon, with whom he spoke at length. The men's discussion is interrupted by the distant howling of a dog. Hurrying to the top of the hill, Holmes notes that Mortimer's cart is no longer at the hall and as they hasten out across the moor, they hear a man screaming. Following the sound, the men find a mauled body whose tweed clothes match those of Henry. Returning to the hall, Holmes is taken aback to find Henry alive and deduces that Seldon was the victim of the attack. The next morning, Holmes, Barrymore and Watson return to the moor, but are unable to find Seldon's body until they are led by bloodstains to the abbey, where they find the horribly mutilated body and a large knife. Later, Holmes interviews the Barrymores and tricks Mrs. Barrymore into admitting she is Seldon's sister. Mrs. Barrymore acknowledges giving Seldon clothes that Henry had donated for the jumble sale, and hanging a lantern near the abbey as a signal when it was safe to bring Seldon food. Holmes then calls upon the bishop, who he has learned is an expert entomologist and collector of spiders, and discovers his recent loss of a rare tarantula just after being visited by Mortimer and a man named Smith. Interested in seeing Cecile again, Henry visits her at her farm where she describes the great difficulties she and her father have had running the farm. Henry asks her to meet him that evening on the moor and she agrees. Meanwhile, Holmes tells Watson that Seldon mentioned hearing the howling of a dog from underneath the ground. Examining a map, Holmes learns of an abandoned silver mine located under the Stapleton property and, accompanied by Stapleton, Perkins and Mortimer, visits the mine. While Holmes is deep inside the mine, a runaway hand cart breaks loose and crashes into several beams, causing a cave-in. The others dig furiously but are unable to get back into the mine. Moments later, however, they find Holmes waiting for them at the cart, having escaped through one of the mine's many tunnels. At the hall, Holmes shows Watson a large bone he discovered in the mines, then grows anxious upon discovering that the knife from the ruins has been stolen from his room. Henry informs Holmes and Watson of a dinner invitation from the Stapletons, but Holmes refuses, sending Henry off alone, to Watson's bewilderment. When Watson asks Holmes about a missing portrait of Hugo that hung in the stairway, the detective reveals that Barrymore told him that the portrait revealed that Hugo had a webbed and deformed hand, like Stapleton, confirming Holmes's suspicion that Stapleton is a Baskerville descendent responsible for the mysterious deaths in an attempt to gain the Baskerville inheritance. Explaining that Henry is being lured into a trap that evening, Holmes takes Watson to the moor where Henry has met Cecile. To Henry's surprise, Cecile rejects his amorous advances and reveals that she and her father are also Baskervilles who have been denied their rightful inheritance. At that moment there is a howl and a huge dog leaps from the ruins onto Henry, who manages to knock the creature out. Stapleton then appears and threatens Henry with the knife, but is shot by Watson, who has arrived with Holmes. Watson shoots the reviving dog as Cecile struggles for the knife, but Holmes intervenes, sending the girl racing across the moor and into the mire. Holmes then tells the shaken Henry that in the mine he discovered a passageway to the abbey ruins and found a bone and Henry's lost boot, provided to incite the starved dog, who was held by the Stapletons until needed for an attack. With the "curse" officially lifted from the Baskervilles, Holmes and Watson return to London.
Francis De Wolff
John Le Mesurier
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
At the time of production, Hammer, a small British film studio, was at the height of its success, enjoying huge profits from two trend-setting horror films, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Horror of Dracula (1958). Peter Cushing gave definitive performances in both of those period thrillers and producer Anthony Hinds and director Terence Fisher knew he would make a great Sherlock Holmes. The announcement of his casting generated a great deal of excitement about the project in the British press and Cushing was soon joined by Andre Morell as Dr. Watson and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville, the unfortunate heir to a dreadful curse. Lee was anxious to escape his villainous typecasting (he played Frankenstein's monster and Dracula in the previously mentioned Hammer horrors) and relished the opportunity to play the victim for a change.
Cushing heavily researched his role prior to creating Holmes' character and took care to incorporate the sleuth's well-known addiction to morphine into his physical appearance and behavior. He even provided his own costumes which accurately matched the famous Paget illustrations from the Sherlock Holmes series published in the Strand magazine. Cushing added, in an interview for The Evening News, that "everything is accurate right down to the famous 'mouse-colored' dressing-gown which I charred with cigarettes to get the burns Holmes made during his experiments. The producer had some absurd idea that I should not wear a deerstalker. I told them you might as well play Nelson without a patch over his eye! But still I am avoiding the more obvious props - the things like the huge curved pipe and magnifying glass that make Holmes a music-hall joke. Quite a bit of time, I wear a homburg on the moors - which is absolutely right, I find."
Several exterior sequences for The Hound of the Baskervilles were shot near Frensham Ponds, Surrey, which served as a reliable stand-in for the real Dartmoor, but the majority of the filming took place on the Bray studio set. Animation techniques were first considered for introducing the monstrous hound, but cost factors prevented it so the production crew was forced to use a real dog. In Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, crew member Margaret Robinson said, "They had two dogs originally. One had been typecast because he once bit a barmaid! This was Colonel, who actually played the part. The other dog was owned by Barbara Wodehouse, and cost five times as much to hire. Also, Barbara wanted to double for Christopher Lee!" Robinson was charged with creating a frightening mask for the dog to wear and added, "I made the mask out of rabbit fur, and the dog wouldn't allow anyone else to put the mask on him. He was a lovely dog - to me, at least!" As for the climactic scene between Sir Henry and the hound, Robinson revealed that "they duplicated the part of the set in miniature where the dog was to leap onto Sir Henry. A small boy named Robert was dressed to duplicate Christopher Lee. The dog couldn't bear the sound of crumpled paper, and the idea was he would go straight for a prop man as he crumpled it. What we didn't know is that Colonel hated small boys, too! The prop man caught the dog in mid-air before he got to Robert." Otherwise, the rest of the filming went smoothly, even Christopher Lee's hair-raising encounter with a deadly tarantula.
In the end, The Hound of the Baskervilles succeeds as a stylish and colorful period thriller which demonstrates Terence Fisher's skills as a director (For one thing, he was able to compress the entire Baskerville legend into a ten minute opening sequence!). Unfortunately, it was not successful enough at the box office to justify Hammer's plans to continue the series despite Peter Cushing's fine portrayal of Holmes. And in the United States, the film was marketed as a creature feature and not a murder mystery since the Hammer name was more synonymous with horror there. The Hound of the Baskervilles has since been remade by Andy Warhol protege Paul Morrissey who directed a parody of it in 1978 starring Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, and again by Douglas Hickox, who helmed a 1983 television version with Ian Richardson as Sherlock Holmes.
Producer: Anthony Hinds
Director: Terence Fisher
Screenplay: Peter Bryan, based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Production Design: Bernard Robinson
Cinematography: Jack Asher
Special Effects: Sydney Pearson
Film Editing: Alfred Cox
Original Music: James Bernard
Principal Cast: Peter Cushing (Sherlock Holmes), Andre Morell (Dr. Watson), Christopher Lee (Sir Henry Baskerville), Marla Landi (Cecile), Miles Malleson (Bishop Frankland), David Oxley (Sir Hugo Baskerville), John Le Mesurier (Barrymore).
by Jeff Stafford
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
The first Sherlock Holmes movie to be filmed in color.
This film was planned to be the first in a series of many Sherlock Holmes films starring Peter Cushing, produced by Hammer Films. The audience disapproved of a Hammer film without any monsters and failed to turn up. The planned franchise was then dropped.
For his role as Sherlock Holmes he of course had to have a pipe but as Peter Cushing was either a non-smoker or didn't like the taste of the pipe, he kept a glass of milk always to hand to remove the taste.
The order of John Le Mesurier and Ewan Solon's names are reversed in the opening and closing cast credits. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel was first serialized in The Strand magazine between August 1901 and April 1902. According to a July 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, the British company Seven Arts Productions intended to produce a version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, the first of several "Sherlock Holmes" films, but the item May have named Seven Arts in error, or Hammer May have taken over production.
According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the American release of the film ran 84 minutes. British reviews indicate that the running time when released in Britain was 87-88 minutes. The Hound of the Baskervilles was the first of several Sherlock Holmes films to be shot in Technicolor. For information on earlier versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, please consult the entry for the 1939 release in the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40.
Released in United States 1959
Third film adaptation of Doyle's novel after 1932 and 1939 versions. Two more were to follow in 1980 and 1983.
Released in United States 1959