Friday, October 24, 2014

Hound of the Baskervilles [2002]
Hound of the Baskervilles [2002]
2 Entertain Video, DVD, 17 February, 2003
Director: David Attwood
Actors: Richard E. Grant, Richard Roxburgh
Features: PAL
List Price: £15.99
New Price: £10.98
Used Price: £2.35
Third Party Price: £1.97
Availability: Usually dispatched within 24 hours
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Customer Reviews

HOUND'S BREAKFAST
Unfortunately there is not a 'no stars' option for the worst adapatation of the Hound I've ever seen. I believe the BBC sacked the Script Boy because as they were about to start, he tripped over, all the pages went flying and got mixed up. The bloke who was supposed to play Sherlock Holmes and who looks most like him, got the lines of Stapleton and the fair-haired bloke who should have played Stapleton, got Sherlock's lines. Even the characters got bits of each others traits, an irascible Watson that Sherlock's always trying to get out of his moodyness etc. It's ironic that when the BBC have got money to spend on production standards, they employ a famous today, gone tomorrow antipodean to play our only 'superhero'. If they had to employ a non- British actor, why didn't they get the excellent, well established, already hired, South African-born, aforementioned Richard E? After all SA's have a good track record for playing Sherlock - dear old Basil? If only the BBC had had the dosh when the superb PeterCushing played the part in the sixties, instead of skimping on production values(hire that one, it's still 'Baker Streets' ahead of this one). If the BBC think SH is going to come 'home' on the basis of this claptrap, they better commission a few more soap operas and 'reality' shows. Hey, I've got an idea, why not a show to audition for actors to play the next Sherlock and Watson?

A fine 'alternative' version in which Richard E Grant is scarier than the Hound!
Other reviewers have done a great job of putting this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles into context. I fully understand why some like this production and others hate it. The story is somehow a public asset and any liberties taken may seem to be an affront.

This review is just limited to a couple of personal observations about Richard Roxburgh as Holmes and Richard E Grant as Stapleton which hopefully will add to the debate and encourage you to buy the DVD.

I agree with those who say that Richard E Grant would have made the more obvious Holmes. However, as Moriarty might have said to Richard Roxburgh "It has been an intellectual treat to me to see the way you have grappled with this role (Holmes)."

For me, at least, the casting of Roxburgh brings a new slant to my viewing experience. By his own admission, Roxburgh was only familiar with the Basil Rathbone portrayal which suggests that, in a way, this was just another job for him rather than a labour of love.

Thus, when he hears the story of Sir Charles's death and in particular about the `footprint of a gigantic hound' I want him to be captivated by the story on two levels - as Sherlock Holmes and also as Richard Roxburgh.

The way he pauses to collect himself and says "You saw this?" shows that the possibilities of an immense crime are flooding into his consciousness (as Holmes) and simultaneously that he is the lead in a great piece of literature (as Roxburgh).

Again, the casting of Grant as Stapleton is out of the ordinary. I always felt that Philip Bond was definitive as Stapleton in the 1968 BBC Hound starring Peter Cushing. Having said that I really do feel that Richard E Grant is actually playing the role of the Hound himself.

This may sound silly but if you watch the programme using this point of view then Grant really is quite terrifying. His superior intelligence, flashing smile and sparkling conversation in the first half contrast dramatically with his icy violence and stoney countenance as he dances at the end of the Christmas party.

When Stapleton first meets Holmes and examines his skull, his eyes seem to roll in his head like the `dead' eyes of a shark and the glimpse of white teeth seem more menacing than those of the hound, itself. Combine these physical characteristics with a cold, cruel and intelligent mind and you have a powerful performance.

Then again, the hound has been brutalised and starved by Stapleton to turn it into the frightful creature it has now become. Furthermore, Stapleton displays an amazing and disturbing stillness as he listens to Holmes's explanation of the crime after his arrest by Lestrade. That slight smile that comes to his lips as he listens is the precursor to an unexpected ending. This performance really is a tour de force by Grant in my opinion.

I was unhappy about the way the ending was changed on this occasion as I thought it lacked imagination and this is why I have given the production 4 stars. Nevertheless, these changes certainly did have the effect of making me want to watch to the bitter end to see what on earth was going to happen next!

A story I will never grow tired of....
I read the novel of HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES several years ago, after having seen at least three of the many filmed versions. Despite my being forewarned of the plot I still found it an atmospheric and enthralling read, a true testament to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing talents. It remains my favourite SHERLOCK HOLMES story (I've read every single one!) thanks to the clever blending of superstition and modern thinking (perhaps reflecting the times in which Conan Doyle wrote it) and I always welcome any new adaptation of this classic tale.

Sadly, the time when the BBC produced quality television as a matter of course has long passed; They now treat such prestige productions as this as an 'event' that arrives annually, perhaps in the hope that we appreciate it enough to forgive the rubbish they feed us the rest of the year. This latest version of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is indeed such an event: A quality production dripping with atmosphere and successfully infusing the tale with new slants and suprises. There can be very few members of the public that have not, by now, seen at least one adaptation of this famous yarn so I have much admiration for a writer who successfully takes such familiar material and makes it worth me watching all over again. Credit to all involved, as that is exactly what's been done.

The cast is uniformly excellent: Richard Roxburgh does on occasion seem to be supressing his Australian accent a little too much, but other than that makes a fine HOLMES. Both his performance and comments made by the actor on the DVD clearly demostrate that he understands the character, and the chance to see a younger, more energetic HOLMES is very refreshing. The same applies to Ian Hart as WATSON; He's a revelation in the role and carries his scenes with confidence. Nigel Bruce's bumbler to Rathbone's HOLMES is now a thing of the past, and Hart's assured performance stands along side my personal favourite WATSON, David Burke in the first Jeremy Brett series. Support from familiar names like John Nettles, Richard E. Grant and even Liza Tarbuck is very well delivered.

The story is so familiar I won't bother recounting it - It's the detail that make this film so enjoyable. The "spectral hound" itself proves that, despite horrendous overuse in rubbish like THE MUMMY, computer generated images can be effective and convincing. The direction is confident, the music suitably menacing and both the sound and art design are engaging&convincing.
There have been changes to the plot but as I mentioned earlier, such things are essential to keep such a familiar story fresh. My favourite adaptation remains the Hammer Studios version with Peter Cushing and Andre Morell, yet that takes enormous liberties with the storyline. One critcism I do share with a fellow reviewer is the scene of HOLMES injecting himself with drugs. He only needed the stimulus when not on a case, so it's inclusion here is wrong (as it was in the recent BBC SHERLOCK HOLMES film "The Case of the Silk Stocking" with Rupert Everett). The writer explains that HOLMES also took morphine to 'calm his thought processes' but I don't buy that - Still, it can't undermine what was a truly wonderful production mounted all too infrequently by the BBC.

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