Blu-ray: Hammer’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ on Twilight Time

Peter Cushing is Sherlock Holmes in the Hammer version of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) (Twilight Time, Blu-ray) – Hammer Films had just launched their full color revivals of the classic movie monsters when they tackled Sherlock Holmes, giving him the Gothic treatment in a mix mystery and supernatural horror.

Twilight Time

Peter Cushing is perfectly cast as the great detective, the very embodiment of science and reason (which also made him such a great Van Helsing in the Dracula series) in a case wound around a legacy of aristocratic cruelty and a devilish dog wandering the swampy moors. Christopher Lee is a less satisfying fit as young lord Baskerville, the last of the “cursed” family, waffling between fear and apathetic disregard, but Andre Morell is a fine Dr. Watson and a far cry from Nigel Bruce’s sweet bumbler from the Hollywood incarnation of the 1940s.

Director Terence Fisher was Hammer’s top stylist and the film drips with the mood of the moors, mist hanging in the air, the dying vegetation itself threatening to come to life and trap the next unwary traveler. It was, as Twilight Time’s house historian Julie Kirgo notes, the first Sherlock Holmes feature shot in color and Fisher brought Hammer’s distinctive, rich palette to the material. It’s a shame that Hammer did not continue making Holmes movies; Fisher brings a different kind of sensibility to the material and Cushing makes one of the great Holmes (he reprised the role in BBC TV series later in the 1960s).

Never before on Blu-ray in the U.S., this edition is mastered from a new HD transfer by MGM. The elements are a little faded and the video quality fluctuates a little. This is not a restoration but it is a high-quality master from archival elements and a major improvement in clarity and color from the earlier DVD release.

The U.S. Blu-ray debut of the film features two commentary tracks—one by horror historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros, another by film historians Paul Scrabo, Lee Pfeiffer, and Hank Reineke—plus a 13-minute archival interview with Christopher Lee discussing Sherlock Holmes, a new interview with Margaret Robinson, who created the Hound mask (almost 15 minutes, originally recorded for the British Arrow Blu-ray release), two audio-only excerpts of Christopher Lee reading from the original novel (set to illustrations), and original and rerelease trailers. Also includes Twilight Time’s trademark isolated musical score and an eight-page booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo. Limited to 3000 copies.

On sale from Screen Archives Entertainment through Friday, March 31 (4pm EST). Also available from Twilight Time Direct and Amazon.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) [Blu-ray] (Twilight Time Direct)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) [Blu-ray]

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About Sean Axmaker

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

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