MIA On R1 DVD #9

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Herbert Ross, 1976)

An ugly fullscreen version of this, no doubt recycled from the similarly ugly laserdisc transer, was released about a decade ago by Image. It fairly quickly went out of print and has remained there these many years since. Used copies routinely go for at or near $100 (I think I got $80-something for mine). The British market came to the rescue about a year ago with a proper 1.85×1 ratio, much-improved transfer. Yet another reason to be multi-standard. It’s available now at Amazon UK, or any number of other international-shipping UK-based reatailers, and can be had for something like ten bucks.

The film itself is lots of fun for even a passing Sherlock fan, and rather star-studded once you get past Nicol Williamson in the lead. Laurence Olivier is his typical hammy self in the smallish part of Moriarty, Vanessa Redgrave is the distressed damsel whose red hair turns even Holmes’ head, and Alan Arkin makes an estimable showing as Sigmund Freud. Robert Duvall’s Watson is the memory most folks seem to walk away with – his strange accent is both annoying and unforgettable, sounding like a 45 RPM recording of someone with a head cold played at 33 1/3. Williamson’s drug-addled Holmes is convincing enough, but his post-withdrawal characterization isn’t as alarmingly sedate as in Nicholas Meyer’s original novel.

It’s also unique as a big-budget Holmes film that mostly eschews London and indeed England – most of the action takes place in Vienna. It makes a nice change seen at three decades removed, but I can’t help but wonder if the studio (Universal) fretted over that at the time. Several nice set-pieces – I’m especially fond of Freud’s tennis duel with the nasty anti-Semitic Baron. Recommended, Meyer’s novel even moreso.











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