|The Hound of the Baskervilles: A Thumbnail Review|
|By Charles Prepolec|
|To begin with, the greatest accolades for this recent production should go to Production Designer Jean Baptiste Tard. The sets and locations were beautifully dressed and the high point of the production. The Baker Street rooms were a touch grand, but looked splendid. His location dressing was equally, possibly even more, impressive.
Kenneth Welsh is next on my list. Thankfully he gave us a Watson that was competent and believable enough to carry the film. He was a solid foil to the arrogant and waspish Holmes as given by Matt Frewer. So he is a touch older than he should be? If that's the worst we can say about him, then he was, in my books at least, successful in the role. Considering that Welsh told me he didn't bother to read any of the Doyle stories beforehand, I'd say he did very well indeed. I'm looking forward to seeing what Welsh does with Watson in the coming productions.
Young Jason London I thought managed a very good Sir Henry. The business with the country dress and the "Call me 'Henry'" bit are certainly not his fault, as the script called for it. The Doyle text describes Sir Henry as 30-ish. The actor is, I believe, 28 years old and was the only American actor in the cast. Too good looking for the part? Yup, but again not a real problem and goes a long way in explaining Beryl Stapleton's attraction to him and willingness to help him. I expected very little from Jason London and was pleasantly surprised with his performance. He was good.
The supporting players were all fairly well cast, with the exception of Dr. Mortimer. As has been noted elsewhere, Gordon Masten would have made a great Jabez Wilson. Arthur Holden as Barrymore was spot on as the dour butler. Mrs. Barrymore was also quite acceptable. A highlight for me though was Scott's actor John Dunn-Hill as Frankland. He stole every single scene he appeared in and had me laughing out loud. He reminded me very much of the same character in the Rathbone Hound. Jack Stapleton as played by Robin Wilcock was delightfully goofy but slipped into the sinister villain role when needed. I enjoyed his performance. Emma Campbell was a stunningly lovely Beryl Stapleton, but was given very little to work with. As a result, she appeared to be walking around in a daze for much of her screen time. Laura Lyons was a touch too old, but played her one scene with just the right amount of coyness and outright indignation. And finally, Eno the black German Shepherd was a suitably vicious looking hound from hell, but again, as noted elsewhere, he should have been larger, or at the very least filmed so as to appear larger.
Matt Frewer...what can I say? It struck me that Mr. Frewer desperately wanted to make up for his lack of screen time. To do so, it seems he didn't just go over the top, but took a running jump over the top with a boost from a springboard! He didn't seem to take Holmes seriously at all and played him as a grossly exaggerated caricature. The day before the program aired, I caught a bit of an interview with Frewer and Welsh on Canada AM. When the interviewer asked him "How did you approach the character of Sherlock Holmes?", he burst into a longish laughing fit. That should sum up his approach, I think. Matt Frewer has stated that once he had met the audience expectations of how Holmes should be played, then he could add his own distinct touches to the character. Personally, I think perhaps that his desire to create a distinct screen Holmes may have blinded him to the realization that there are very definite elements to Holmes character that must be there, whether interpreted as audience expectation or not. Credit is due though for achieving a very unique representation of Holmes, it just wasn't Doyle's Holmes. My main hope for future productions is that a strong director, armed with a solid script can contain Frewer's exuberance and enforce a more well rounded approach to the character. The Sign of Four, which wrapped production in late November, has the same director, Rodney Gibbons working with a script by Joe Wiesenfeld, who also scripted Hound. Mr. Gibbons handled Hound well, but either liked Frewer's performance, or just couldn't extract a more suitable one. We can only hope that familiarity and a greater comfort with the part will improve Mr. Frewer's interpretation of the Great Detective.
The biggest flaws with the production, Matt Frewer's performance aside, come directly from the script. The 'call me Henry' business as well as the nearly pointless discovery by Watson of Holmes moorland hiding place being prime examples. The former is nearly overcome by the way in which Welsh and London handle the unlikely scenario. The latter, is simply ridiculous as the scene lead nowhere as Watson doesn't discover Holmes at this stage, and should have been cut entirely. It appears to have been left in just to facilitate the strong exchange around the telescope between Watson and Frankland. A case of the writer liking his own dialogue without knowing how to justify it. Whatever Mr. Wiesenfeld's specialty is, it certainly isn't a Holmes story.
In the end, the flaws overwhelmed my liking of the production, which is unfortunate, as this dog had bite, but simply suffered from very little bark!
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|For a full article and interviews with Matt Frewer and director Rodney Gibbons, pick up Scarlet Street Number 40.
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