Watson: Ian Hart
This is a perfect way to start A STUDY in SHERLOCK: a short series I plan on undertaking as part of the RIP Challenge: Peril on the Screen.
This is not a faithful adaptation in terms of minute plot points; but it is faithful to the horror and gothic elements of the harrowing story. The film opens in eerie fashion with Doctor Mortimer (here played by INSPECTOR BARNABY from Midsomer Murders) describing the horrible death of the wealthy Baskervilles upon the dreaded moors. It's a perfectly Hallowe'eny overture to the hauntings to come.
A lot of Sherlockians find major faults with this adaptation: mainly in its straying from being pure to the tale. I would like to defend it. First, it captures the spirit of The Hound of the Baskervilles: what with its supernatural premonitions that so enticed Doyle's fluid pen. Moreover, this Hound was released after a long drought in respectable Sherlock Holmes adaptations ( the Matt Frewer enterprise does NOT count as a respectable Sherlock Holmes adaptation. I don't care if they're as Canadian as I am). Secondly, though many cite that Richard E. Grant ( here chilling in his silent, smiling portrayal of Jack Stapleton) has a physiognomy better suited to the aquiline-profiled Holmes... especially when seen next to Richard Roxburgh, our Holmes in the tale, I like Roxburgh. What I appreciated about Richard Roxburgh was although decidedly of a different flavour than other actors ( sort of like when Daniel Craig emerged as the first blond Bond!), Roxburgh was not emulating any Holmes before him: his take is relatively fresh. He's alert, his ears stick out slightly as if always ready to preamble him into action and he has a delicious sort of irony about him.
I also adore Ian Hart's Watson. Hart had a chance to revisit the role opposite Rupert Everett in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking; but I much preferred him in this canonical adaptation. Watson is very much the antithesis here to the buffoon silly Nigel Bruce made him out to be: as in the novel, Watson is an essential part to the narration of the story ( as per always) because Holmes is off-screen for much of the action while Watson accompanies Sir Henry Baskerville to Baskerville Hall. Watson is a humane observer and he stands up to Sherlock when he needs to. He also asserts his own medical skills and slightly lesser powers of deduction. An ongoing spat between the two men about how trust weighs into their close friendship is welcome. You truly see Holmes' affection for his roommate/biographer and Watson returns the favour with awed respect, yes, but also a modicum of understanding Holmes' limits.
|I am an AWESOME Watson.|
The style and dialogue do not fail to capture the essence of Doyle's work and his passion for the supernatural. Sherlockians will appreciate small details, like Holmes' partaking of his infamous Seven Per Cent solution near the beginning of the film.
The villain is heartless and roguish and deceptively welcoming, the Baker Street rooms are comfy, beautiful and seem to completely adapt from our mental image of them and the moors are perfectly fogged and dim-lit as they paint the ground for the crumbling old gothic mansions which provide the action for the many scenes.
This is not the best Sherlock Holmes adaptation out there; but it has many, many memorable moments and is a swell undertaking for the initiated (and uninitiated) this spooky season.