Directed by: Herbert Ross
Starring: Alan Arkin, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert Duvall, Nicol Williamson, Laurence Olivier
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.
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.