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Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Hound of the Baskervilles - BBC Radio Four version - REVIEW

"Learn now my sons the tale of the coming of the hound of the Baskervilles"

So begins this audio dramatization that runs for almost two hours and was part of BBC Radio 4's program to record the entire Conan Doyle/Holmes canon. They did it too and this recording was, I believe, the last of the original canon to be recorded - BBC Radio 4 made history here as the only broadcaster to record the entire canon with the same pairing of Holmes and Watson. Chief writer on the project was Bert Coules and he was the man responsible for dramatising Holmes' most famous adventure as presented here on these discs.

Clive Merrison plays Holmes and Michael Williams is Watson but the supporting cast are equally impressive - we have Donald Sinden as Charles Baskerville and Oscar Winner Judi Dench (she was married to Michael Williams until his tragic death from cancer in 2001) is Mrs Hudson. As this is an audio presentation the voices are all important and the rest of the cast are all experienced voice actors and provide excellent support to the chief players.

Holmes and Watson
The audio drama works well and is a real movie for the ears - it's even structured something like a movie with flashbacks cutting into the early scenes, which outline the legend of the hound. These flashbacks presented in the fashion of a reading by Charles Baskerville work well and at no point is the listener confused as to what is happening. One moment we are at 221B with Holmes and Watson discussing the walking stick a client left behind and the next we are firmly in the 17th century witnessing the crimes carried out by Hugo Baskerville, described as a cruel and Godless man.The latter are played out in a violent opening scene that drips with atmosphere and reminded me of the Hammer Films' version of the tale. Of course we are seeing the production on a true 3D screen, a mental screen which displays the desolate massiveness of Dartmoor far more effectively than even IMAX can - the blood positively gushes when the hound tears out Hugo Baskerville's throat.

The play is available for download as well as on a double CD, and it was the CD which I listened to having found it for the bargain price of £3.99 in a local bookstore. In this age of digital downloads it is becoming more and more common to find such bargains in the CD format - I guess no one wants the inconvenience of lugging around the heavy digital discs.  Personally I'm old school and I'd rather have the physical product even if I do rip it to my hard drive and then file the discs away.

Writer Bert Coules and the BBC have done an excellent job in bringing the story to life - the production values are of the highest quality as is to be expected from Radio Four, and the sound-scape really brings the story to life.

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