Friday, May 28, 2010
The Hound of the Baskervilles - a toupological analysis.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a 1972 TV movie (apparently a pilot for a proposed ABC TV series) and one of many adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes novel of the same name. This particular adaptation stars Stewart Granger as Holmes, Bernard Fox as Watson, with Bill Shatner in a relatively small role as George Stapelton.
Conan Doyle's novel tells the story of an apparent curse that has befallen numerous members of the Baskerville family living at Baskerville Hall in Dartmoor, Devon in England. Charles Baskerville has been found dead at the Hall, with evidence suggesting that he may have been killed by a ferocious hound. Sir Henry Baskerville is set to inherit the estate - will tragedy strike again? Sherlock Holmes is on the case...
The 1972 TV movie takes numerous, often odd, liberties with the original story - a review, which details some of these deviations can be read here.
But let's get to the point - this adaptation is pretty awful. The biggest issue is Stewart Granger as Holmes - it's a terrible, terrible piece of casting; the actor is woefully miscast: wooden, aloof and charmless. Screw that up and what do you have left? His chemistry with British actor Bernard Fox (Watson) is non-existent.
The script is expository, with characters just standing around talking for large segments of the film. Add to this production values that make Star Trek's third season look lavish - the moor, so central to the story, is essentially a cheaply decorated sound-stage - a kind of Star Trek-style planet set. When Trek had a budget, directors would shoot these sets carefully; when time and money was tight, the camera would hold back and basically shoot the action like a three-camera sitcom, merely zooming in for close-ups. And that is pretty much how The Hound of the Baskervilles is shot - like cheap, rushed TV.
The production was also filmed in the US, not England, and the strange mix of American actors with fake English accents and genuine English actors is distracting to say the least. The crummy Hollywood back-lot exteriors only underline this awkwardness. Nothing about this production suggests attention to detail, respect for the material or genuine creativity.
If we had to find a single thing to compliment, it would be a couple of fairly decent matte paintings, which, because of their quality, look dreadfully out of place in this production.
Bill Shatner, looking visibly depressed, plays Stapelton and really has nothing to do in the role other than make entrances and exits like he was in some amateur school theater production.
For those that are unfamiliar with the story, we won't give away too much about how his character fits in to the Baskerville mystery.
Moving to the hair... Shats also appears at the beginning of the movie in a flashback that takes place in the 18th century. He portrays the debaucherous Sir Hugo Baskerville, heavily disguised in a wig and beard. Shockingly, Bill Shatner's voice is dubbed over by another actor. How the hell can you dub over Shatner?!?!
There are a few subtle nods to the toup in the TV movie. At one point, Holmes scrapes a fake layer of painted skin off a portrait of Sir Hugo.
The likeness to Stapleton is suddenly clear...
In another scene, Holmes removes a wig:
As for Bill Shatner's toup - it's pretty bad, with a high hairline that is also just a little too thick at the front to be realistic.
The character meets an untimely fate at the end, with the toupee being the last to sink...
The Hound of the Baskervilles is unavailable commercially, but does air on TV from time to time. It can also be found on the Internet. A dreary, dull mess - really not worth watching at all.