Air Date: Feb. 12, 1972 (ABC)
Production Companies: Universal Television
Running Time: 74 min.
Available on: YouTube
Written by: Robert E. Thompson
From the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle
Directed by: Barry Crane
Cast: Stewart Granger, Bernard Fox, William Shatner, Anthony Zerbe, Sally Ann Howes, Jane Merrow, Ian Ireland
We’ve been working through our 70’s TV movies chronologically. However, we’ll occasionally backtrack to see if any we missed the first time have become available. Such is the case with today’s film.
Since I’m not a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, I can’t vouch for the faithfulness of this adaptation (one of many) of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I can tell you it’s similar to Hammer’s 1959 version, minus any of the horrific entomological details it incorporated. Unfortunately, it’s also minus much of the excitement and thrills.
This 1972 TV movie isn’t slow-moving. In fact, it feels like a Reader’s Digest condensed version of the story, hitting most of the plot points with which I’m familiar. It doesn’t break any new ground. The highlight, if anything is going to make you want to watch it, is probably that it features William Shatner in the pivotal role of George Stapleton.
He feels out of place in this setting with all the English actors; I don’t recall if Stapleton is supposed to be an American, or if it was called out here. On the other hand, he’s in only a few scenes, so he doesn’t do much harm. At least he doesn’t attempt an English accent. You’re more likely to have qualms about other casting choices, particularly Sherlock Holmes.
Stewart Granger does fine, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a gray-haired Sherlock Holmes. I couldn’t quite get past it. He’s adequate but does nothing to make his mark on the role. Much more enjoyable is Bernard Fox (Dr. Bombay from Bewitched) as Dr. Watson. His attempts to outsmart Holmes and his reaction when he doesn’t are delightful.
With his scarred face, Anthony Zerbe (Matthias from The Omega Man) is a suitable red herring for those not familiar with The Hound of the Baskervilles. I was even wondering if the story would take liberties with the original to surprise us. No, there’s not much to surprise us here. It’s about as average as average gets.
Audiences and critics were not as kind as I am when it originally aired. It was intended to be a pilot for a series of rotating detectives, including Robert Conrad as Nick Carter. However, it got poor ratings and even worse reviews, so that never materialized. Even for 1972, it must have needed some “modern” flourishes to spark any excitement.
Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch The Hound of the Baskervilles as well as all the great movies from this series...