Tuesday, July 19, 2022

#2,786. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) - Sherlock Holmes in the 1970s


The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is an extraordinarily entertaining motion picture, and the credit for that must go to its screenwriter, Nicholas Meyer. Along with also penning the best-selling novel his script was based on, Meyer was the creative mind behind such smart, savvy movies as Time After Time and all of the good early Star Trek films (including fan favorite Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).

And with a premise like the one Meyer devised for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, teaming the great Sherlock Holmes with renowned psychologist Dr. Sigmund Freud, it’s no wonder that this 1976 movie is so much damn fun!

It’s been several years since Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) last visited his good friend Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson). Alas, when he does finally swing by 221-B Baker Street, Watson is shocked to discover Holmes has become a full-fledged cocaine addict, and is convinced the kindly Doctor Moriarty (Laurence Olivier), his former tutor, has become a master criminal.

With the help of Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Charles Grey), Watson tricks Holmes into “following” Dr. Moriarty to Vienna, where the great Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin), who has successfully treated other drug addicts, is waiting to cure Holmes of his cocaine dependency.

Though it takes some time and a great deal of effort, Freud’s treatment is successful. And, it seems, just in the nick of time, because a former patient of Dr. Freud’s, Miss Devereux (Vanessa Redgrave), is in the hospital, having only recently escaped the clutches of a kidnapper. With Holmes’ mind once again clear, he joins forces with Dr. Freud and Watson to find out who abducted Miss Devereux, and why, knowing full well that until they solve this case, she will continue to be in the greatest of danger.

As Meyer pointed out when discussing both his original novel and the screenplay for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, it is not so much a Sherlock Holmes mystery as it is a story about Sherlock Holmes, a man whose past traumas have not only shaped his career as a master detective, but his drug dependency as well. Williamson delivers a remarkable performance as Holmes, perfectly conveying the legendary character’s sharp mind and his desperate struggle with cocaine; the scenes in which Holmes is battling his addiction, suffering a series of horrific hallucinations as the drug leaves his system, are the film’s most harrowing.

Equal to Williamson’s portrayal of Holmes is Alan Arkin as Freud, whose mind is every bit as sharp as his star patient’s. He even gets to test his athletic prowess at one point; after being insulted at a gym by Baron von Leinsdorf (Jeremy Kemp), Freud, instead of fighting him in a duel, challenges the Baron to a tennis match! Rounding out the excellent cast is Duvall, who, despite his suspect British accent, does a fine job as Watson; and Redgrave as the film’s “damsel in distress”, who may not be as helpless as she first appears.

Working as both a cautionary tale and a pretty nifty mystery, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a whole mess of fun! I had a great time watching it!
Rating: 9 out of 10

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