The Seven-Per-Cent Solution-attachment0

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Movie Information

In Brief: Though both a popular book and movie, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution -- a concept that brings Sherlock Holmes (Nicole Williasmson) together with Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin) for a mystery that's worthy of both -- has not held up well. Solidly made with an impressive cast, but tepid.
Score:

Genre: Pastiche Revisionist Mystery
Director: Herbert Ross
Starring: Alan Arkin, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Duvall, Nicol Williamson, Laurence Olivier
Rated: PG

I last saw The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) 30 years ago, and I had remembered it as being at least pretty good. Seeing it again for this review, I found it … well, somewhat to the south of “pretty good.” It all seemed overblown, ill-conceived and—in some cases—dubiously acted. I have nothing against revisionism and radical takes on traditional characters. I like both of the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes pictures, and even Paul Morrissey’s Peter Cook/Dudley Moore parody version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, so it’s not a Sherlockian bugaboo that causes me to find The Seven-Per-Cent Solution wanting. (I will say that I find its revelation of the truth about Prof. Moriarty dispiritingly plebian—and I’m being generous here.) I even kind of like the idea of Holmes (Nicole Williamson) being dragged off to Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin) to cure his cocaine addiction, but the film doesn’t pull this off. Williamson makes a good drug-addled Holmes, but the screenplay lets him down at every turn. (Deducing that Freud is of the Hebrew persuasion from the menorah on his desk is hardly an “Amazing, Holmes!” moment.) Worse, Arkin is not very good as Freud (he sounds more like a dialect comic than a great doctor), though he looks pretty good when compared to Robert Duvall’s Watson (hands down, the worst Watson ever). The trouble doesn’t end there. Director Herbert Ross is out of his depth at every turn—whether it’s undercooked sub-Ken Russell drug hallucinations or the theoretically exciting climactic train chase. It doesn’t help that the mystery that the clean-and-sober Holmes undertakes with Freud seems tacked on and hardly worth the trouble. In its favor, the film certainly has solid production values and is an interesting curio, but it’s not very good as Sherlock Holmes or as a revisionist take.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Seven-Per-Cent Solution at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

25 thoughts on “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

  1. Erik Harrison

    I remember being quite fond of the novel as a kid, but I haven’t seen the film. Disappointing, really. It’s a bit of a tangent, Ken, but have you had a chance to see any of the BBC’s series “Sherlock”? I think you’d enjoy the hell out of it.

  2. Jeremy Dylan

    (hands down, the worst Watson ever)
    Be grateful that this is untrue, and he’s merely the worst you’ve seen.

    I only got around to seeing this a few years ago and was rather similarly disappointed. There is potential for a rather better movie to be made from Meyer’s book I think.

  3. Chip Kaufmann

    You’ve obviously never seen the 1976 made for TV movie SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK w/Roger Moore in the title role and Patrick Macnee as Watson. At least it has John Huston as Moriarty.

  4. Ken Hanke

    It’s a bit of a tangent, Ken, but have you had a chance to see any of the BBC’s series “Sherlock”? I think you’d enjoy the hell out of it.

    I haven’t and I might well, but damned if I know exactly when and how I’d fit in the time for getting involved with it.

  5. Ken Hanke

    There is potential for a rather better movie to be made from Meyer’s book I think.

    If the movie faithfully adapted the big, boring, de-glamorizing revelation about Moriarty, I’m seriously not interested.

  6. Ken Hanke

    You’ve obviously never seen the 1976 made for TV movie SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK w/Roger Moore in the title role and Patrick Macnee as Watson. At least it has John Huston as Moriarty.

    Actually, I think I did — in 1976. Thing is I can’t envision Macnee’s Watson being as bad as Duvall’s. Plus, I don’t expect much from a 1976 American TV movie — especially, when up against a big-budget all-star production.

  7. Dionysis

    BBC’ ‘Sherlock’ is the best thing to be seen on television in a long, long time.

    I’m no Holmes purist, but this movie, along with ‘Murder by Decree’ was not my cup of tea as far as Holmes variations go. I’d almost include ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ as well, although I’ve not seen the original, unedited version.

    Oh and Ken, maybe you can answer this question: having just finished watching the entire ‘Sherlock Holmes Collection’, why did Basil Rathbone’s Holmes have such a weird haircut in the first three Universal films (the Nazi hunting flicks), only to finally comb his hair from the fourth film on?

  8. Dionysis

    BBC’ ‘Sherlock’ is the best thing to be seen on television in a long, long time.

    I’m no Holmes purist, but this movie, along with ‘Murder by Decree’ was not my cup of tea as far as Holmes variations go. I’d almost include ‘The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes’ as well, although I’ve not seen the original, unedited version.

    Oh and Ken, maybe you can answer this question: having just finished watching the entire ‘Sherlock Holmes Collection’, why did Basil Rathbone’s Holmes have such a weird haircut in the first three Universal films (the Nazi hunting flicks), only to finally comb his hair from the fourth film on?

  9. Ken Hanke

    Holmes was a slave to fashion, I guess. Or someone told him that ‘do was right for fighting Nazis.

  10. Chip Kaufmann

    You mean a movie with Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee, and John Huston isn’t an all-star production? How about the 1972 HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES with Stewart Granger, Bernard Fox Anthony Zerbe and William Shatner?

  11. Jeremy Dylan

    I’m no Holmes purist, but this movie, along with ‘Murder by Decree’ was not my cup of tea as far as Holmes variations go.

    I’m a big fan of MURDER BY DECREE. Indeed, Mason is one of my favourite Watsons.

    Ken, have you seen this?

    • Dionysis

      I concede that Mason’s turn as Watson was the best thing about the film. I just didn’t buy Christopher Plummer as Holmes, and the scene when he started sobbing and then attacked a prison warden was as far from Holmes as can be.

  12. Ken Hanke

    So long ago that it hardly counts. I remember liking it pretty well, but that’s what I remembered about this one till I watched it again.

  13. Chip Kaufmann

    Actually I am fully aware of their TV movie status and I take that into consideration when dealing with them. Shatner’s death scene in HOUND has to be seen to be disbelieved.

    I too am a big fan of MURDER BY DECREE as well as its predecessor A STUDY IN TERROR which has the same Jack The Ripper storyline. Christopher Plummer and John Neville make for a fine pair of Sherlocks although Donald Houston’s Watson can’t match James Mason’s.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Actually I am fully aware of their TV movie status and I take that into consideration when dealing with them.

    I simply don’t think they’re comparable to something like Seven-Per-Cent Soultion. I didn’t and don’t expect anything from TV movies of that era.

  15. brebro

    BBC’s modern day Sherlock series is so great, that I bought the whole first season on bLu ray DvD even though it consists of only three episodes!

    • Jeremy Dylan

      Only three? That’s three feature films! It took Guy Ritchie three years to make two. In the same time frame, Moffatt and co made six.

    • Jeremy Dylan

      Only three? That’s three feature films! It took Guy Ritchie three years to make two. In the same time frame, Moffatt and co made six.

  16. Jeremy Dylan

    Only three? That’s three feature films! It took Guy Ritchie three years to make two. In the same time frame, Moffatt and co made six.

  17. brebro

    Agreed, they *are* three 90 minute episodes, after all, so I thought it worth even the rarely-discounted BBC pricey price (even though I had already watched them all for free when PBS ran them) for the discs.

    (That last three post series of yours, though, seemed more repetitive than epic to me, so I shan’t be revisiting them in the future.)

Leave a Reply