Russell Baker on The Hound of the Baskervilles
Former New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Russell Baker has been the host of Masterpiece Theatre since 1993. Mr. Baker introduces each program episode, and his personally researched and written comments add context and background to our understanding of the film we're about to watch. His comments frequently provide a uniquely American perspective on the mores and lifestyles of the British.
More commentaries by Russell Baker, as well as commentaries by his predecessor in the hosting chair, Alistair Cooke, can be found for select programs in The Archive.
A hundred and fifty years ago, children growing up in the rugged high moors of Devonshire were told a folk tale about a terrifying creature, a sort of ancient pagan devil who walked Dartmoor with a great black dog. Travelers who met them would be chased into deadly quicksand bogs or over a cliff, where they would fall to death on the rocks below.
Or so the legend went.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was on a golfing holiday when he first heard this tale and others like it from an old friend who had lived on Dartmoor as a child. Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was instantly fascinated by the idea of a mystery story set in this sinister locale with a hint of the supernatural about it.
With his friend, a man named Fletcher Robinson, Doyle immediately constructed a plot, and within a few days they had left the golf links, taken rooms at a Dartmoor hotel, and were studying ancient ruins, villages, and high cliffs.
This was to be -- uniquely for a Sherlock Holmes story -- a tale about landscape, a sinister and haunted place, a place where men could literally be scared to death by fear of a supernatural beast.
Now The Hound of the Baskervilles.
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