Having just seen Bill Condon’s Mr Holmes at the Berlin Film Festival, in which Ian McKellen plays a testy 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes upset that Dr Watson had fibbed about his deerstalker and pipe-smoking, it will be curious to see one of the many adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles brought to the screen again at the Barbican this weekend.
This one, made in 1921 by Maurice Elvey and shown on Sunday (Feb 15, 2015), is actually the one British silent version and the Barbican has arranged a special piano accompaniment by Neil Brand. Eille Norwood plays Holmes and Hubert Willis is Watson.
It was not by any means the first film version of the story — the Germans made at least half a dozen before — but it was the one Arthur Conan Doyle saw and was said to have much admired.
What he would have thought of some of the other versions is anyone’s guess, but one doubts he would have been too pleased with Paul Morrissey’s with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in 1978 or with the 1962 Bollywood adaptation, Bees Saal Baad, directed by Biren Nag.
Elvey’s film is a surprisingly frightening version despite its lack of modern special effects.
It comes from the days when horrific happenings were suggested rather than shown in full with buckets of blood. You had to use your own imagination, and Elvey lets you do so.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is screening at the Barbican cinema on Feb 15, 2015.