Seven-Per-Cent Solution The (1976) – full review!

Seven-Per-Cent Solution The (1976) – full review!

Produced & directed by Herbert Ross (The Turning Point (1977)) novelist Nicholas Meyer used Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters to write an interesting crime mystery involving Sherlock Holmes his loyal & trusty companion Dr. Watson and Dr. Sigmund Freud! Though the drama begins as an exploration into the destructive nature of cocaine addiction (the title refers to the concentration of cocaine Holmes self-injected) and how it almost leads to the famous detective’s undoing it devolves into a comedy adventure of sorts after Freud helps Holmes fight this weakness. The cast which is excellent includes Nicol Williamson as Holmes Robert Duvall as Dr. Watson (and the film’s occasional narrator) Alan Arkin as Dr. Freud Laurence Olivier as Holmes’s nemesis Professor Moriarty plus Vanessa Redgrave Joel Grey & Jeremy Kemp who figure in the mystery. Samantha Eggar appears briefly as Watson’s wife Morstan. Screenplay writer Meyer and Costume Designer Alan Barrett received their only Oscar nominations for their work on this film.

Watson (Duvall) is naturally concerned that his friend the eminent detective Sherlock Holmes (Williamson) has become a paranoid recluse that believes that Professor Moriarty (Olivier) is out to get him. In fact it is Moriarty who Holmes is stalking that makes Watson aware of the detective’s irrational obsession. Upon investigation Watson discovers that Holmes is under the influence of cocaine. He’d also learned that there is some tragedy in the two’s shared past beyond the fact that Moriarty was a difficult calculus instructor of Holmes’s; Moriarty refused to reveal anything else. Watson decides to visit Holmes’s brother Mycroft (Charles Gray) who is able to use this secret past against Moriarty to get him to lead his brother to Vienna where Dr. Freud (Arkin) has been able to help those with similar addictions. The most incredible display of the great detective’s powers of perception and deductive reasoning occurs shortly after Holmes meets Freud – merely by walking through the doctor’s flat Holmes is able to tell Freud’s life story to date!

After a long and arduous ‘drying out’ period wrought with hallucinations and assisted by some hypnosis from Dr. Freud Holmes is introduced to one of the doctor’s former patients a famous actress named Lola Deveraux (Redgrave). Deveraux had been ‘cured’ of her cocaine addiction by Freud but she is found in a hospital partially under its influence again after allegedly trying to kill herself. Holmes deduces that she’d been bound and forced into using the drug and had actually been trying to escape. This leads the three men (Holmes Watson & Freud) to follow a strange little man (Joel Grey playing Lowenstein) that fits Deveraux’s brief description of her abductor. After this man leads them into a trap in which they’re almost killed Holmes realizes to late that they’d been distracted so that the perpetrator could recapture Ms. Deveraux. It turns out that the man responsible for her abduction is Baron von Leinsdorf (Kemp) who had earlier made an antisemitic comment to Freud at their club and lost a real tennis (not what you think) match to the doctor who’d wanted satisfaction. Assisted by Deveraux who’d dropped flowers like ‘bread crumbs’ enabling them to follow her the three men capture Lowenstein and figure out that the Baron is responsible.

It is at this point in the story that the film becomes a wild cross continent chase more than anything else with predictable results. However we do finally learn while Freud has Holmes under hypnosis the root causes of the detective’s cocaine addiction and the reason why Moriarty was involved in his fantasies.

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