Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Land Of The Baskervilles!

I'm pretty sure I first saw this 2002 version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's masterpiece The Hound of the Baskervilles last summer when I caught most of it on television somewhere. I don't remember being particularly impressed, but I'm enough of a Hound enthusiast that when I found it for small money at Half-Price Bookstore I snapped it up regardless. I'm glad I did as a second watching proved quite fruitful.

This version of the classic horror-mystery tale by Doyle does a fantastic job of evoking the atmosphere which exudes from the terrain of the story's setting. I've never seen another version which so convinced me the moors were truly dangerous and terrible. This one does by presenting a barren and frosty image of a territory which might indeed harbor both deadly criminals and snarling monsters.

Richard Roxburgh as Sherlock Holmes is a bit of a change up from the cliche the character has become. His version is distinctive without becoming the parody that mars the most recent big screen flicks starring Tony Stark (er...I mean Robert Downey Jr.). No deerstalker and no pipe, but lots of cigarettes and a snappy wit just the same. He came across as smart and especially manipulative, and singularly uncaring about the feelings of others.

Ian Hart as Watson was very good and very convincing. His Watson was given lots to do and he is presented as a proper partner for Holmes and not in any way a lackey. In fact the notion of how much these two men trust each other is considerable theme in the story. Hart though is apparently a very short man, and I only say that to note that I kept noticing how much shorter than the other characters, even the women, he is in shot after shot.

Richard E. Grant as Stapleton is extremely good, making me for the first time understand (in film anyway) just how cold-blooded a set crimes he is committing. His desire for a meticulous revenge on the family that never knew him is convincing and makes me buy the whole of the complicated scenario he rigs up. As the smiling and exceedingly cruel Stapleton, Grant time and again makes you wince as he inflicts pain on and power over is pawn of a wife.

Neve McIntosh as Beryl Stapleton is utterly compelling in the role, and for the first time again I get why she does what she does, which is be complicit in a murder against her will. Her palpable fear of her husband is totally convincing and her fate is one of the real surprises of this telling.

Also pretty dang good is John Nettles as Dr.Mortimer and as his wife Gerladine James who makes the medium  aspect of the story very interesting indeed.

But the star of this production is the landscape, bitter and cold and full of danger. Making this story compelling is difficult since the plot elements are so familiar, but this version manages to change it up just enough to keep it fresh as well as making the whole atmosphere compelling.

Good one indeed and highly recommended.

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