The Hound of the Baskervilles

Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes in the 1959 Hammer Studios film version

 When I grew up, watching television was nothing like it was today. We didn’t have cable and we had to rely on locally broadcast television. For reception, my family used an arial antenna which sat on the top of our TV that we had to fumble with and place our bodies in strange and bizarre positions to make work. Unlike the 150 or so odd channels people have to choose from today, my brother and I were prisoners of the 3 network channels (ABC, NBC and CBS (which always came in kind of fuzzy)) and PBS.  That’s not a big choice to choose from and, in the immortal words of comedian Robin Williams, “if the President was on (giving a speech) you were screwed”.

I watched a lot of PBS when I was a kid. PBS relied on local donations to operate and as they could not afford the high priced cable programs that were then available, they purchased a lot of programming from across the Atlantic from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). If you didn’t mind watching programs such as Doctor Who, Benny Hill, Monty Python or Are You Being Served coupled with servings of Upstairs, Downstairs and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, PBS wasn’t too bad to watch. Personally, I’ve a love affair with British TV. I’m a routine watcher of BBC America and the new Doctor Who. Their television dramas and mystery shows are top notch.

Through PBS, I was introduced to the cinematic Sherlock Holmes. Mostly, Holmes was played by Jeremy Brett but ocassionally, viewers would be offered the treat of watching horror legend Peter Cushing, known mostly for playing Count Dracula’s nemesis, Abraham Van Helsing, don the hat of the erstwhile master detective. Cushing played Sherlock Holmes in the very first Holmes film in color in 1959; The Hound of the Baskervilles. He repeated his role as Holmes in 1965 and 1968 in the BBC series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Cushing again played Holmes in old age in the 1984 BBC TV film, The Mask of Death.

While Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone are more famous for playing the role, Cushing tried to play Holmes as he appeared in Doyle’s stories. While Cushing added nothing new to the character of Holmes, he played the role intelligently and with great respect. A DVD of Cushing’s role as Sherlock Holmes can be purchased online from the BBC America shop.

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