Sherlock Peoria: Jonny Watson, his pal Henry, and his dad Sherlock Holmes
At Sunday’s meeting of the Crew of the Barque Lone Star, Bob Katz went to great lengths to lead the discussion down the path of The Hound of the Baskervilles being a tale of suspense, rather than a mystery. You never know what Sherlockians are going to draw from one of those familiar tales, and getting someone to pick out “Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” seemed to be like pulling teeth. The discussion made for a good re-examination of the classic novel, which was turned into what was definitely a horror movie to kids of 1939.
To kids of other eras, who didn’t see it in the same theaters they saw Lugosi’s Dracula and Karloff’s Frankenstein in the same decade, the effect might not have been the same. The thought of The Hound of the Baskervilles competing with any modern horror movie seems a little ludicrous, even though I’d love to see a modern sequel where the curse of the Baskervilles was real. It wasn’t even that scary back in the 1960s, when we were watching it on Sunday afternoon TV on my local station.
Horror, no. Suspense, maybe. Adventure . . . YES!
Bob Katz’s dive into Hound’s genre on Sunday made me realize what The Hound of the Baskervilles really was to me when you broke it down: An episode of Jonny Quest.
The 1960s version of the cartoon Jonny Quest was a kids ultimate fantasy, going on amazing adventures in exotic locales with your best pal. And there was always something monstrous lurking nearby, whether it was frogmen in monster suits, overgrown komodo dragons, or even a pterodactyl who somehow survived tucked away in South America with a Nazi or two. The demon hound that chased Sir Charles Baskerville to death would have fit in perfectly in Jonny’s world.
Sometimes Jonny Quest’s monsters were real, and sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes fake abominable snowmen got taken out by real abominable snowmen. But Jonny and Hadji (we won’t dwell too long on Hadji with a modern eye for this post) got treated with respect by the adults around them, and, as with so many kid heroes of the day, were definitely not over-protected in their explorations.
Yet like Jonny Watson and his new pal Henry Baskerville, whom I now see and Jonny and Hadji parallels — when things got to their most tense, and the monsters were about, they could depend on a man of science and a man of action to make sure they came out all right. Sherlock Holmes filling in for Dr. Benton Quest is an excellent fit, so much so that I’ll allow Inspector Lestrade to be Race Bannon in my mental match-up of The Hound of the Baskervilles to a Jonny Quest adventure.
As I explained this to the good Carter, she immediately wanted to place Hound as a Scooby Doo parallel, but Scooby Doo was always a goof, with funny chase scenes and never a real threat of danger. Jonny Quest took its mysteries and monsters seriously, just as Watson’s Dartmoor adventure does.
The Hound of the Baskervilles may not be a proper Sherlock Holmes story, with the detective missing out on a goodly portion of the narrative, but as a Jonny Quest story, with Watson as Jonny?
It couldn’t be more perfect. It practically animates itself in my head, with the hellhound appearing in the opening credits montage. And that’s just fine with me.