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Film / The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983)

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The Hound of the Baskervilles (a.k.a. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles) is a 1983 British made-for-television mystery thriller film directed by Douglas Hickox, starring Ian Richardson as Sherlock Holmes and Donald Churchill as Dr. John H. Watson. It is based on Arthur Conan Doyle's 1902 novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The cast includes Denholm Elliott, BRIAN BLESSED, Martin Shaw, Glynis Barber, Nicholas Clay Elanor Bron, Edward Judd and Connie Booth.

This adaptation of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle tale follows Sherlock Holmes and his trusty companion, Dr. Watson, as they look into an alleged curse on the family of Sir Henry Baskerville. Tormented by sightings of a large vicious dog, Baskerville is convinced that the canine brings death, which seems to be the case when people begin turning up dead out on the misty moors.

As this adaption hews very closely to the original novel, only tropes not in the original novel will be identified.

Tropes unique to this adaptation:

  • Adaptational Nationality: Sir Henry Baskerville is American rather than Canadian.
  • Adapted Out: The film omits the character of Frankland: Sir Charles' neighbour and filer of nuisance lawsuits. He is largely replaced by the Canon Foreigner Lyons, with Frankland's daughter Laura now being Lyons' wife.
  • The Adjectival Man: The mysterious figure tailing Sir Henry Baskerville is referred to as 'The Bearded Man' because his beard is his only distinguishing feature. He is eventually revealed to be Jack Stapleton in disguise, but actor Nicholas Clay gets a credit as both Stapleton and 'The Bearded Man'.
  • The Alcoholic: Canon Foreigner Geoffrey Lyons is a struggling artist whom Dr. Morimer describes as "an artist by trade and a drunkard by nature".
  • Artistic Licence – Gun Safety: Dr. Watson, a veteran of the Afghan Wars, demonstrates to Holmes that he is armed by pointing his revolver at Holmes' head with his finger on the trigger, and then twirls the gun around his finger before putting it away.
  • Canon Foreigner: BRIAN BLESSED's character Geoffrey Lyons never appears in the novel. In this film version, Lyons is presented as an imposing suspect who is at one point falsely imprisoned for strangling his wife. Holmes' solution to the case ultimately frees him.
  • Death by Adaptation: Laura Lyons dies in the film, strangled by the murderer to protect his identity. She does not die in the novel.
  • Fortune Teller: Rather than contenting himself to hide in one of the abandoned huts on the moor to observe proceedings as he does in the novel, Holmes disguises himself a Gypsy fortune teller and capers around offering to tell various characters' fortunes. This does give him an excuse to examine Beryl Stapleton's hand and perform his usual Sherlock Scan (her perfume is jasmine, which also scented the warning note sent to Sir Henry, and a pale band on her ring finger indicates that she was wearing a wedding ring until recently).
  • Gun Twirling: Watson does this completely unnecessarily before putting his revolver in his pocket at 221B Baker Street.
  • Hand of Death: When the killer sneaks into the Lyons' home, the camera focuses on the gloves being drawn on to his hands, and then on the gloved hands closing around Laura's throat and strangling her before planting evidence in her hand. His face is not shown.
  • Identical Grandson: Sir Hugo Baskerville, the cause of the curse upon the Baskerville family, is almost identical to his descendant Jack Stapleton. While the resemblance is commented on in the novel, here they are played by the same actor (Nicholas Clay).
  • Murderer P.O.V.: The attack on Sir Charles is shown from the Hound's P.O.V., rapidly intercut with shots of the Barrymores running towards Sir Charles' screams.
  • Outfit Decoy: Holmes drapes his hat and cloak over a table and some boxes in the hut where the dog is kept to create a silhouette of himself that he tricks Stapleton into shooting.
  • Same Language Dub: Martin Shaw (Sir Henry Baskerville) is dubbed by American actor Kerry Shale.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Sir Hugo’s victim is implied to have survived in this adaptation.
  • Sword Cane: The Bearded Man attempts to assassinate Sir Henry in London using an air gun concealed in a walking stick.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Laura Lyons, who is beaten by her drunken brute of a husband, and who found solace in the arms of Sir Charles. The killer used a letter from her lure Sir Charles to his doom. (The equivalent character in the novel is not married, and so is not an adulterer).