Blu-ray Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Newly released on Blu-ray is Twilight Time's limited edition The Hound of the Baskervilles, the 1959 Hammer Productions' Sherlock Holmes adaptation. Though not a horror film, Hammer fans won't want to pass up the opportunity to see this classic mystery in high definition. The 1902 source novel (of the same name) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been adapted many times for both the big and small screens. But nowhere else will you see Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes, co-starring with Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. The Baskerville family is "cursed," something we learn in a brief prologue depicting the death (via a "Hound of Hell") of Sir Hugo Baskerville (David Oxley). Over the course of the following decades, anyone in the family presiding over Baskerville Hall must avoid falling victim to the curse.

It's up to Holmes and Watson (AndrĂ© Morell) to get to the bottom of the so-called "curse," all while keeping Sir Henry out of harm's way (there's already been an apparent attempt on his life with the stealth deployment of a tarantula). This old-fashioned mystery is drenched in Hammer atmosphere that will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the studio's better-known horror outings. Director Terence Fisher, a regular at Hammer, scores points with his economy here—at 87 minutes, not a moment is wasted. For all its historical value (this was also the first color adaptation of Baskervilles), the film does suffer at bit from a dry, academic tone. But the Fisher keeps the clues, both real and false, coming fast enough to maintain interest throughout. 

Hound of the Baskervilles booklet (299x380).jpg Short of a full-on restoration, it seems doubtful The Hound of the Baskervilles could look much better than it does in this Blu-ray presentation. That said, there was a U.K. Blu-ray release in 2015 that I haven't seen. What I can say is that this is a significant upgrade from the old MGM standard DVD of 2002. Twilight Time's BD boasts a very satisfying level of clarity and an age-appropriate level of natural grain. If we're nitpicking it might be worth mentioning some mild print damage and debris pops up on occasion, but this never rises to the level of serious distraction.

Audio is offered in DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono and it's generally good. There's a bit more sibilance than I'd like to hear, but considering its age Baskervilles is in pretty solid sonic shape. As is customary with most TT releases, an isolated M&E mix (DTS HD MA 2.0) allows for dedicated enjoyment of the score. In this case, it's by Hammer stalwart James Bernard.

Twilight Time has included an enriching array of supplements, including two newly-created film historian-hosted audio commentaries. One features David Del Valle and Steven Peros, the other has Paul Scrabo, Lee Pfeiffer, and Hank Reineke. There's a video interview with Baskervilles hound mask maker Margaret Robinson. Ported from the MGM DVD is "Actor's Notebook: Christopher Lee" (a 13-minute interview with the late, great star) and "Christopher Lee Reads Excerpts from The Hound of the Baskervilles."

With only 3,000 units issued, Hammer and Holmes fans will want to get over to Screen Archives or the official Twilight Time site for ordering information. The Hound of the Baskervilles also includes newly-penned liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo.

Hound of the Baskervilles BD (301x380).jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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