Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Soviet Hound of the Baskervilles (1981)

This weekend we're going to take a look at two versions of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles. However the versions we're going to look at are going to be from places you wouldn't expect to come to mind when you think of Sherlock Holmes, The former Soviet Union and Germany during the time of the Nazi's. Neither film is at all ideological, they are just adaptions of the classic tale from unexpected places.

First up
Priklyucheniya Sherloka Kholmsa i doktora Vatsona: Sobaka Baskerviley

This is the longest version of the story I've seen running some two hours and 40 minutes. It's a feature film cut together from episodes of a Soviet TV series. I read in one place that the series was basically doing a Jeremy Brett and filming all of the stories or the novels. IMDB lists this as one of six or seven features. (What I need to do is get my hands on a book a believe is called Sherlock Holmes on Screen which I gave a friend of mine for Christmas about five years ago and had a write up of the series and the films.) According to IMDB the films are all quite good, I've only seen Baskervilles, which is good enough to make me want to see the rest.

For the few people who don't know the plot has Holmes and Watson taking the case of the weird events going on at Baskerville Hall in the North of England. The old Lord has died and title and the land has gone to an heir who was raised in North America. Watson travels north because Holmes claims that he can best handle the case from London where a blackmail case is also unraveling. Complications upon complication arise and Holmes...well if you don't know the story you'll just have to either read the book or see one of the adaptions.

For the most part this is an excellent adaption of the story with a real genuine chemistry and warmth between Holmes (played by Vasili Livanov) and Watson (Played by Vitali Solomin) that would seem to pre-date the Jeremy Brett series. This feels the way the stories should feel. Actually the film is so comfortably Holmesian that even though the film was subtitled in English I was completely unaware that the language being spoken was Russian and not English. Indeed, I was so comfortable in the telling, which I find so spot on, I found myself speaking the classic lines where Holmes quizzed Watson about his powers of observation concerning the walking stick that had been left in their rooms as they were spoken on screen.

Basically director Igor Maslennikov and his team nailed it.

This isn't to say that the film is perfect it's not. If there are any flaws in the film it would be that Henry Baskerville is not English raised in North America rather he's decidedly Russian in manner. Its a bit odd. Then again the films second half seems a little off once we get to Baskerville Hall since some of the halls and some of the moors seems less England and just a tad Russian stepes. They of course remain ominous and really aren't a problem unless you are an absolute Sherlock Holmes purist.

Actually anyone I know who's seen this version has really liked it with the only complaint from the small circle of friends who've seen this being it's a bit too faithful and could have been trimmed down to closer to two hours instead of almost three.

If you are a Holmes fan, or a mystery fan you really should try and track this down. As far as I know Sinister Cinema has it, and other versions of the story available, not to mention other Sherlock Holmes films

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