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The Hound of the Baskervilles
Your September Random Movie Club Results Are In!

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Pizza: Dominos

Preshow Entertainment: HAIR, LET THE SUN SHINE IN


Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson. Man, I love this series. They made 14 of them and I've seen every one, many more than once (yeah, I'm talking to you, Scarlet Claw!). They're like movie Bon Bons, and HOUND is the one that started it all.

Though it has great title recognition, it's not the best one. In fact, Holmes himself is absent from a lot of the movie, a shame as the character, as well as Rathbone's rendering, is much of the fun of the franchise.

In the south of England is an area rich with moors called Dartmoor. Hounds of hell, headless horsemen, the devil and even (ready?) hairy hands are part of Dartmoor's legend. So it's only fitting that Conan Doyle chose this real life setting for HOTB.

The Dynamic Duo - Holmes (Basil Rathbone) and Watson (Nigel Bruce)
Holmes and his lovable, buffoonish, oft-clueless sidekick Dr. Watson (I'd sure like to see his medical credentials) are out to protect Sir Henry Baskerville from the legend of a killer hound. But is it a legend? Of course it is, you moron.

The movie begins with a man running through the moors, clutching his heart and then... dropping dead. A hound howls (he'll howl a few more times before the movie ends). At an inquest, it is decided that Sir Charles Baskerville died from heart failure, but ornery Mr. Franklin is not convinced, and judging by the suspicious looks of the others in attendance, neither are they. I mean, what good is a murder mystery without a murder and a roomful of suspects?

Holmes examines the cane
It's midnight on Baker Street, and Holmes, after reading about the Baskerville death, is convinced Sir Henry Baskerville, who is on his way to England from Canada, will likely be murdered. How does he arrive at this, a claim that seems all but elementary to me? Well, because he's Sherlock Freakin' Holmes, holmes, and he has powers of deductions far greater than that of mortal men. Witness his exact profiling of a Dr. Mortimer, a man he's yet to meet, just by examining his cane. It's a smart and bouncy scene that serves to introduce us to the Holmes character, even showing the pipe first, before we tilt up to him. And it is in this midnight hour that Dr. Mortimer, the Baskerville's doctor/friend, tells Holmes and Watson of the story of the supernatural monster hound, a legend that dates back to a Baskerville incident in the 1600s.

Holmes disguises himself as a peddlar
A lot happens in HOUND; two people meet and get engaged (after one day), two housekeepers have a secret, a litigious neighbor cries foul, a rock breaks a window, an escaped convict is on the loose, the hound howls, Henry's boot goes missing, a neighbor holds a seance (Conan Doyle was a spiritualist) and of course, a murder is solved.

HOUND, as with all the Rathbone/Bruce Holmes movies, is a pleasing mix of comedy and mystery. There are the intentional laughs, like:
Watson: It's a pity you didn't think about bringing that infernal violin of yours - to regale me with some of your music!

Holmes: I did, my dear Watson! Anything to oblige! (Begins playing)
Then there's the unintentional comedy, like when Holmes barks at his hansom cab's driver to go faster. A wheel breaks off and they crash, rendering the carriage inoperable in the middle of the moors. Before Holmes and Watson run off, Holmes pays the stranded driver, who with sincerity utters, "Thank you." Ahh, the English.

The two things that struck me odd tonight:

1- Out of about 2000 movies, this is the third time in 11 years that the Random Movie Generator chose a Rathbone/Holmes movie

2- I swear, in a scene in a cave, Holmes plays the first 4 notes of STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN... on a zither.

HOUND's been remade so many times I've lost count (Wikipedia tallies it at 24). And out of the 14 in this franchise, it's the only one that calls attention to Holmes' drug use. The last line of the film? "Oh Watson! The Needle!" No wonder he kept Watson around.

Hair - Let the Sunshine In

I love HAIR. Yeah, go ahead. Make your own private male-pattern baldness jokes. But the truth remains, I love HAIR. I saw it on Broadway when I was 13 (Dad was so cool), and I had the record then as well, which I actually took with me to sleepaway camp (it still says, "Richie Nathanson. Bunk 7" on it) along with The Cowsills and The Classic IV. And although I was too young to understand what it all meant, I was old enough to love the music. That love remains today. It's a great score.

Throughout the years, I've seen many versions. Lots of college and even a high school production (two, if you count the hour-long abbreviated version I directed in high school). In fact, a few years back, me and RMCer Steven formed The Hair Club For Men. We've now seen 12 different productions of HAIR in the Los Angeles area, including one entirely in Russian.

HAIR, LET THE SUN SHINE IN is a documentary of the show, focusing on its origins and the new production, currently on Broadway. But "HAIR is not a show, it's a movement," says original cast member Ben Vereen. Other interviews: cast member Keith Carradine, producer Michael Butler, James Rado, director Tom O'Horgan, songwriter Galt McDermitt and some great stories from Milos Forman, who directed the 1979 movie. The doc also featured lots of footage of these people today and back in the 1960s, as well as the original cast on The Smothers Brothers show doing AQUARIUS back in 1968.

There's also a heartbreaking story from touring cast member Jonathan Johnson. Wow.

It's a great doc if you belong to one of the Hair Clubs for Men (now accepting women too!). In fact, I Netflixed the DVD so I can watch some of the extras not available when it ran on TV.

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