In The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Dr John Watson (Robert Duvall) has begun to fear for Sherlock Holmes’s sanity (Nicol Williamson) after he begins a campaign of victimisation against his old Maths tutor, Professor James Moriarty (Laurence Olivier). With the help of Mycroft Holmes, Watson manages to get Holmes to journery to Vienna, where he is committed into the care of Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin).
If you hadn’t already guess, this film is so far removed from canon that it makes the Asylum Sherlock Holmes appear to be by the very hand of Conan-Doyle.
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution doesn’t really go anywhere. The opening premise that it will pull back the curtain on why Holmes really disappeared for three years after The Final Problem is probably only of interest to Sherlockians. Not that there’s anything wrong with a bit of niche marketing, but then where does that leave the general public. Well, the movie seems to answer this by going ‘Sssh! Here comes a chase scene involving two trains, it’ll be really exciting, we promise.’ But it’s not, it just feels tacked on. In fact the whole things feels like it’s two movies spliced together. One, the dark machinations of a drug addled mind and the paranoia that comes with. The other, a bawdy romp.
Aside from the wafer thin script, the main problem appears to be the cast. Robert Duvall doesn’t really know how to play Watson. One minute stuffy and the other, stuff and nonsense. Laurence Oliver is wasted as the sought after Moriarty. His scenes adding up to nothing more than simpering and crying ‘that’s not fair’. Alan Arkin must have only flicked through the first half of the script, because whilst his eventual face off with Holmes is the stuff of a Victorian literature fan’s wet dream, Freud is eventually boiled down to nothing more than Dr Exposition. Arkin is a brave man when he manages to say ‘They’re not just horses! They’re the most intelligent horses in the world… AND THEY’VE BEEN TRAINED TO KILL!’ with a completely straight face. The only person who comes out with any credibility is Nicol Williamson who manages to bring life to Holmes despite spending most his time either with the DTs or fainting at inopportune moments.
Overall, it’s all a bit of a mess with a final twist that just seems completely unnecessary. Maybe one to watch when all other possibilities are exhausted.