It has long been an axiom of mine that “you can’t have too many copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Although I’m not a collector, I own more than 80 copies of the great Sherlock Holmes novel and a few versions. I recently acquired a film I’d never seen before.
It’s a 1983 British TV movie starring Ian Richardson. Only when I started watching movie did I realize that the script was by Charles Edward Pogue. As I wrote in a previous blog post, I once saw an original Holmes play by Pogue and met him afterward. Pogue also wrote the teleplays for The Sign of Four (1983) with Richardson and The Hands of a Murder (1990) with Edward Woodward.
According to Wikipedia, Pogue considers his take on The Hound his most satisfying achievement. Considering that The Hound has been filmed approximately 150 times, I’m in no position to compare it any meaningful way to other productions. But I can make a few observations.
Ian Richardson and his Watson, Donald Churchill, are thoroughly satisfactory in their roles. Holmes even wears a top hat in London; Sidney Paget would approve.
Among the better actors below top-billing was the phosphorous-coated Hound.
Sir Henry Baskerville, who comes from the United States rather than from Canada, sounds like an Englishman attempting a Texas accent.
The script departs in significant ways from the novel. Laura Lyons was having an affair with Sir Charles Baskerville. Her black-bearded husband, a violent artist, appears as a character. Pogue lifts the poker-bending scene from “The Speckled Band” to show that Lyons is tough but Holmes is tougher. Laura Lyons is strangled to death and Lyons is charged with her murder.
Holmes appears in disguise as a gypsy who reads Beryl Stapleton’s palm and is therefore able to tell that she formerly wore a wedding ring.
The purpose of the changes apparently was to strengthen the detective story aspect of the plot by creating a strong new suspect. As a Sherlockian purist, I don’t approve. But as a mystery writer, I applaud the effort. I stand with those who believe that Basil Rathbone’s 1939 Hound was the best filmed adaptation, but this one is worth your time.