What a stunningly BEAUTIFUL movie!!! By far the most visually sumptuous version of this often-filmed story, and between the directing and editing, one of the most exciting. Although they strayed from the book in a few places, mostly adding new things rather than leaving things out, it generally follows the story. All the new additions are balanced out by simplifying ("dumbing down"?) the dialog (MOSTLY obvious if you happen to watch it back-to-back with other versions) and TIGHT editing. There's hardly a casual entry shot anywhere in the film. Like the "007" movies, characters don't walk into a room, CUT!, they're already there and talking. Someone complained this was "too long", yet it feels CRAMMED with so much detail, I almost wish it were at least 15 minutes longer.
Ian Richardson, in retrospect, reminds me of an older version of Ronald Howard's Holmes-- lively, impish, full of energy and humor. Donald Churchill (inexplicably replacing David Healy from the previous Richardson film) seems to be doing a somewhat laid-back Nigel Bruce impression. Denholm Elliot is delightfully "amiable" (a word Holmes uses to describe him) as Dr. Mortimer. Edward Judd (who I recall from THE NEW AVENGERS episode "TO CATCH A RAT") is the butler Barrymore, while Eleanor Bron ("Ahme" from HELP!) is his wife. Stapleton is played by Nicholas Clay, who'd been "Lancelot" in John Boorman's Excalibur! Laura Lyons (a character who only appears in certain versions, including this one, Tom Baker's and Jeremy Brett's) is played by Connie Booth (from FAWLTY TOWERS) while her husband, not seen in any other version, is the larger-than-life booming figure of Brian Blessed. His addition gives the film an extra suspect and red herring.
This is simply an incredible movie to watch, although I do feel Tom Baker had a MUCH better script (though much poorer budget-- NOBODY mentions his, everybody goes on about Jeremy Brett's, which was SO BADLY directed it was a crime!). Continuing with comparisons, I was amazed some years ago when I decided the Basil Rathbone version, overall, was simply the "BEST FILM", although Peter Cushing's is incredibly fun to watch on its own merits (just as his version of Dracula also was-- no surprise, same director there).
I've seen SEVERAL versions of HOUND since this, and several others I haven't mentioned before this, but NONE of them come anywhere close to this (or Rathbone, or Cushing, or EVEN Baker!!).
Oh yes, and the ending, where Holmes reveals to Sir Henry exactly who Beryl really is, proves to be one of the best-written scenes in the film. Intelligent, and sympathetic. Wonderful piece of work!
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