The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983)

Sherlock Holmes: Ian Richardson
Dr. Watson: Donald Churchill
Year: 1983
Case: The Hound of the Baskervilles


The screenplay

I chose to start with this, because I do feel that this version closely approximates Canon. As such, this version can be considered quite faithful.

That being said, there are some deviations from Canon, which, pleasantly, do not take away from the story –in fact, in some circumstances, these deviations actually add to the story, creating false leads and new areas of intrigue.

I won’t comment directly on these deviations (least I spoil anyone), but I will say that they are warranted, and enhance, rather than detract, from the original story.

The cinematography

This, I think, is one of the better things about this film. The filming of it (in terms of lighting, location, scenery, props) is stunning. The Moor is exactly how I pictured it (dark and gloomy and foreboding). A lot of the filming was done at night, too, without the use of too bright, artificial light to illuminate scenes. This adds a sense of darkness and mystery to the adaptation, which works really well with the original story.

The day time scenes, again, are brilliant, complete with incredible fall-like rich colours that created a really visually appealing backdrop for the story.

Special effects

Here, of course, I’m talking about the Hound. Tisk, tisk. This was poorly done (although, I suspect living in the age of digitally rendered characters has spoiled me, and I am certain, at the time, the special effects were likely mind-blowing –still, I would love to see a modern adaptation that makes use of CGI technology).

The supporting characters

Any movie that casts Connie Booth (Monty Python fame) in a supporting role earns my approval.

Aside from that, portrayals of note include Denholm Elliot as an absent-minded Dr. Mortimer (he played this role brilliantly) and Brian Blessed as Geoffrey Lyons (I adore this man’s intensity).

Less impressive was the casting of Ronald Lacey as Lestrade (I just didn’t see it) and Martin Shaw as Henry Baskerville (American is one thing, wild-west cowboy something else entirely).

The rest of the supporting characters (and the related actors) worked for me, standing out as neither brilliant, not horrible.

Holmes and Watson

Of course, I had to save the best for last.

Donald Churchill as Watson:

There is something about the choice of actor here that didn’t quite work for me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was a far better Watson than most of the actors I’ve seen, but in terms of appearance I couldn’t quite reconcile him to the Watson that lives in my head.

I was, however, impressed with Watson’s characterization. Oh, there were times when he was a little too ‘bumbling’, but overall he gave quite the strong performance (and I love the idea of Watson being annoyed with Holmes’ theatrics –i.e. Holmes constantly keeping Watson out of the loop in order to make for a more dramatic conclusion).

Overall, Watson was very Watson here, and it was quite refreshing to see.

Ian Richardson as Holmes:

I’ve read two camps on this. There are people who adore Richardson as Holmes, and people who despise Richardson as Holmes. I fell somewhere in between.

I didn’t hate him (there were moments when he was quite Holmes-esque), but I didn’t love him either.

I think Richardson got the facial expressions down, and when he wasn’t speaking, I could easily see him as Holmes. I think, too, that he got Holmes’ whimsical sense of humour down (this was actually an interesting part of the movie). There was something about the way that he delivered his lines, though, that didn’t quite ring true for me.

Richardson’s performance, though, wasn’t really a big issue in this film (largely due to the fact that Holmes isn’t in half the story) and when he was in the film, he was often in disguise (his gypsy was quite amusing).

Overall, I think I could take or leave Richardson as Holmes. And I think that’s about as neutral as I get.


I do have to point out one aspect of this movie that made me squee –in fact, I squeed more so because it was one of the deviations from canon that I mentioned above.

Watson straightens Holmes’ clothing.

You can imagine the sound I made, I’m sure. It was very married, and very adorable, and done in this manner that suggested that it was a regular, every day occurrence. If you see this movie for no other reason, see it for this scene.

I’ve taken off points for Holmes, but added points for the slash and the deviations. Overall, I’ve given this movie 3 out of 5 pipes.