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Review: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Well, my internet is currently out, and since it’s far too late and cold to go prancing about the city, I decided to work through my Blu-ray backlog. After careful consideration, I settled on Shout! Factory’s release of The Seven Per-Cent Solution.

As evidenced by the copious references to Shakespeare and Moby Dick in his Star Trek films, screenwriter Nicholas Meyer is an avid lover of literature, and this 1976 cinematic adaptation of his own novel puts a fascinating revisionist spin on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, positing that The Final Problem—the account of the legendary detective’s tragic demise before his miraculously speedy resurrection—was a complete fabrication, and purporting to tell the “true story” behind his disappearance for the first time. In this version of the tale, the fiendish Moriarty is little more than a White Whale—a mild-mannered mathematics tutor that our hero’s drug-addled mind has transformed into an all-consuming obsession in the absence of a worthy intellectual challenge. Desperate to save his friend from his crippling addiction to cocaine, Watson leads him on a wild goose chase to Vienna and straight into the office of none other than Sigmund Freud. But the good professor suspects that our hero’s substance abuse is merely a symptom of some deeper trauma—and unraveling Holmes’ repressed childhood memories may prove to be the greatest mystery of all.

Of course, our intrepid protagonists inevitably encounter a genuine case that requires solving—revolving around a particularly heinous crime, at that—but the plot remains firmly focused on character development, spotlighting Holmes’ struggle against his demons with Watson’s steadfast support. And with such talented performers as Nicol Williamson (who also played a delightfully quirky interpretation of Merlin in John Boorman’s Excalibur) and Robert Duvall (no introduction needed, I should hope) in the lead roles, you can rest assured that the emotionally-charged narrative is in capable hands.

[Originally written November 18, 2018.]

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