“This is, I think, a two-pipe problem.”
Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Dr. Watson (Andre Morell) respond to a request by Dr. Mortimer (Francis De Wolff) to investigate the mysterious death of a nobleman, whose nephew (Christopher Lee) has recently arrived on the moors to take over his inheritance.
Critical opinions are highly mixed on this Hammer Studios adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s oft-filmed novel, with some claiming it to be the best Holmes-ian adaptation ever, and others less enthusiastic. I happen to fall into the latter camp. Despite Peter Cushing’s respectful attempt to portray Holmes with as much authenticity as possible (including emulating his drug-addicted appearance), he ultimately fails to project the kind of magnetic brilliance fans expect from this most iconic of literary figures; his trusty sidekick Watson comes across as almost equally competent. Meanwhile, Lee is miscast in the central role as an heir whose life is in perpetual danger; we’re so used to reading sinister overtones into Lee’s every move that it feels awfully strange to realize he’s simply a neutral foil here. Jack Asher’s color cinematography is lush and beautiful to look at but doesn’t evoke the same level of menace as the black-and-white hues of this film’s celebrated 1939 predecessor. The narrative itself remains relatively faithful to the original story, while incorporating some additional horror elements (i.e., a lethal tarantula) to satisfy those who associate “Hammer Studios” with overt chills and thrills; unfortunately, however, the dramatic finale with the “hound” is far from menacing — again, it was better handled in the 1939 version, which is ultimately the one I recommend film fanatics check out instead.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jack Asher’s cinematography
No, though it’s certainly worth a look, especially for fans of Hammer Studios films.