In 1971 NBC premiered its NBC MYSTERY MOVIE. This was an umbrella series with three shows appearing on a rotating basis each episode 90 to 120 minutes long. The three shows were COLUMBO, MACMILLAN AND WIFE, and McCLOUD. Needless to say, the NBC MYSTERY MOVIE was a hit. Not only did each individual show garner high ratings but the NBC MYSTERY MOVIE itself finished in fourteenth place for the year. This did not escape rival network ABC’s attention.
ABC wanted their own mystery movie night, but they decided to approach it a little bit different. Rather than present new detectives they decided to create an umbrella series with rotating shows based on classic detectives. The first of those pilot films was THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1972) starring Stewart Granger.
THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1972) is a made-for-TV mystery film executive produced by Richard Irving, produced by Stanley Kallis, and associate produced by Arthur Hilton. It is directed by Barry Crane and stars Stewart Granger, Bernard Fox, and William Shatner.
Stewart Granger as SHERLOCK HOLMES
Bernard Fox as DOCTOR WATSON
William Shatner as STAPLETON
Jane Merrow as BERYL STAPLETON
Anthony Zerbe as DOCTOR MORTIMER
Ian Ireland as SIR HENRY BASKERVILLE
Brendan Dillon as BARRYMORE
Arline Anderson as MRS. BARRYMORE
Sally Ann Howes as LAURA FRANKLAND
John Williams as ARTHUR FRANKLAND
The movie opens with a flashback sequence in which we see how the evil Sir Hugo Baskerville, in attempting to force himself on a young girl, is savagely killed by a hound from hell. Thus begins the curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
The current heir to the title, Sir Charles Baskerville, has died under mysterious circumstances. His friend and executor of his estate, Doctor Mortimer, is worried that something is going to happen to the new heir – Sir Charles’ nephew Sir Henry Baskerville of Canada. He implores Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to look into the matter for the sake of Sir Henry. They agree to do so and travel with him to his new home in Dartmoor.
They meet the servants – the Barrymores, they meet the neighbors – the Stapletons, they meet the townspeople – the Franklands. Everyone has a secret. Everyone is not who they pretend to be – and it is up to Sherlock Holmes with an able assist from Doctor Watson to piece together all the facts before there is another victim of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
- This is the first American color adaptation of this story.
- THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is a hard story to tell. It is amazing that it has been brought to the screen so many times. One of the problems is that it has a story within a story. The story of Sir Hugo Baskerville and how he brought the curse upon his family is a story within the bigger story of Sir Charles Baskerville’s death and the attempts on Sir Henry Baskerville. Each adaptation tackles Sir Hugo’s story differently. Here they make a mistake. William Shatner plays a dual role in this film – one of them as Sir Hugo. But no wig and fake beard could cover up the fact that it is William Shatner and that spoils the mystery. Having him obviously be Sir Hugo spoils the climax.
- I’m afraid that there having been so many adaptations of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES that this film suffers in comparison. It is rather cheaply made with sets and props left over from westerns. Now it may not be fair to compare this movie with other adaptations but the last time I checked there are over eighteen Hound of the Baskervilles movies. There is no way to avoid comparisons and I’m afraid this movie comes up short.
- There is a tendency when making a film out of a classic story to think you can improve upon the original. I see that all the time with recent Hercule Poirot movies – as if you can improve upon Agatha Christie. Here they took liberties with the classic story – as if they can improve upon Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You cannot and they did not.
- THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES is the Sherlock Holmes story that most perfectly melds mystery and horror. Unfortunately, this film is more mystery and very little horror. And the mystery is spoiled by the fact that we have seen it all before. You know how it ends because you’ve seen it in 1932, then again in 1939, and then in 1959, and so on. When one watches a Hound of the Baskervilles movie now it is not for the mystery but to see how the filmmakers do it. In this case they didn’t do it too well.
- Stewart Granger makes an excellent Sherlock Holmes. I wish someone had thought to have him play Holmes when he was a bit younger. Nevertheless, I loved his Holmes.
- Bernard Fox makes a good Doctor Watson. He is not perfect. There is still a tad of the bumbling Nigel Bruce in his interpretation of Watson. But he is very good and plays well against Granger’s Holmes.
- It is always fun to see William Shatner ham it up and overact in another role. The only problem is that you spend so much time laughing you forget this is supposed to be a dramatic part.
- It’s a Sherlock Holmes movie. Right or wrong, good or bad, it’s a Sherlock Holmes film and that automatically means you have to love it. To paraphrase the movie THREESOME (1994) – Sherlock Holmes is like pizza, even when it’s bad it’s still pretty good.
Reviewing a mystery is always rough because you don’t want to give anything away and spoil it for someone who perhaps has not seen the film. Your synopsis comes across as cutesy when you didn’t mean it to. You feel tied when you speak about the movie. This month is our month to exam mysteries – which means I’m going to be struggling all month.
This is not one of the better adaptations of this story. On the other hand, it is not the worst either. As Sherlock Holmes movies go it is kind of middle of the road – with the best thing about this movie being Stewart Granger’s involvement.
I am going to recommend this movie but with reservations. It is not a sterling production, it is not going to take your breath away, it will not have you at the edge of your seat. But, if you are a Sherlock Holmes fan and have not seen this movie I suggest you check it out. If you are a Stewart Granger fan and have not seen this movie, check it out. If you are a William Shatner fan – yes, there are William Shatner fans – and have not seen this movie check it out. Hardcore geeks will understand. The things we do for geekery go beyond the call of duty.
On our gray geeks scale I give THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1972) three gray geeks.
That takes us thru the first of these ABC classic mystery movies. Next time we will tackle THE ADVENTURES OF NICK CARTER (1972) starring Robert Conrad. Until then, may the sun shine warmly on your cheeks, may the wind always be at your back, and may the bird of happiness poop on your head. Hasta la vista!