The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Another Hammer movie poster – see also Dracula (1958) – this unusually simple piece of advertising (for its time), has an impact that can’t be denied. With its human cast relegated to the sidelines (literally), the hound is allowed to take centre stage and dominate the poster. It’s less of a hound and more of a wolf, of course, but its sharp, pointed teeth, tipped with blood, and yellow-eyed stare, is more than enough to put anyone off from wanting to encounter the beast on a lonely, deserted moor.
Its grey and white fur, offset by deep, shadowy blacks, frames the hound’s features to considerable effect, with its canines to the fore, almost as if it’s about to take a chunk out of the title. The eyes have a demonic gleam to them, and there’s a hypnotic quality to them as well, as if by staring at them for too long there’s a chance the hound will jump out of the poster and rip you to pieces – far-fetched, perhaps, but there is a certain, unnerving element to the image, one that is far more effective on closer inspection. And then there’s the moon, a grey smudge near the top right corner, hinting at lycanthropy and occupying a place that would otherwise have been completely blank (though no less effective for being so).
The bold red of the title, in its way splashed across the poster, demands attention from the eye, and the colour hints at the bloodshed that is likely to occur in the movie (even if it’s not quite as brutal as we’d like to imagine). The tag line at the top of the poster tries too hard to grab the attention away from the hound, while the main cast members are sequestered over on the left hand side, almost as an afterthought; even the acknowledgment to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle turns out to be in a smaller typeface than that advising of the movie’s having been made in Technicolor (as for the director et al., mentioned in the bottom left hand corner, unless you’ve got 20/20 vision, you won’t have a clue who they are).
It’s a simple, effective poster and deserves a wider audience, free from artifice and pseudo-intellectual interpretations: in short, a poster that’s way more compelling than you’d initially give it credit for.
Agree? Disagree? Please feel free to let me know.