Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (1976)

The Seven-Per-Cent SolutionIn my opinion, this is probably the best Sherlock Holmes film ever made, and one of only a couple that ring true as being faithful to the spirit of the original stories. This is no Hollywood butchery pitting Sherlock Holmes against Jack the Ripper or Dracula, but a truly excellent film.

The story centers around a cocaine-addicted Sherlock Holmes beginning to lose touch with reality, and the effort by Watson to save him from this fate by recruiting the aid of none other than Sigmund Freud. The three lead actors are thoroughly outstanding. This is especially true for Robert Duvall as Dr. Watson, who is really the lynch-pin of the film. It is a pleasure to see Dr. Watson portrayed well (a doctor and accomplished chronicler after all!) instead of nothing more than the stereotypical bumbling oaf. The story is compelling and entertaining with action and humor in just the right measures. Tennis, fencing, and high-speed chases (by train)!

I can imagine that some Holmes purist might take exception to film, but I think that this original flight of fancy is far better than anything out of Hollywood based on stories that Conan Doyle did write. And the film itself even takes a bit of a bow to the Holmes mythos and Doyle's own designs. I won't give it away, but just listen the last lines in the film as Holmes says goodbye to Watson.

As to the quality of the DVD, however, this one is unexceptional. Just try to let yourself enjoy this 5-star film and don't get too caught up in the media (still, to be fair, the DVD has too lose a star because of the DVD, even if the film itself is great).

This is an off-beat Sherlock Holmes film that rings true. If you're looking for pure fare, just the way Doyle wrote it, look for something by the BBC, such as the Jeremy Brett series of the past decade. If you like this film, try "They Might Be Giants" starring George C. Scott. It, too, is a bit of a 'strange' Sherlock Holmes film that nevertheless seems right.

This is the best Sherlock Holmes motion picture.

The plot, characters, acting, direction, production are all quite good. Nicholas Meyer wrote the screenplay for this adaptation of his very fine novel which resulted in a handsomely crafted and very engaging entertainment. Meyer remains faithfull in spirit to the Canon and takes us on an enjoyable and plausable adventure that moves along at a good pace. Highly recommended!

I regret to say, this early Universal DVD is NOT presented in it's theatrical widescreen ratio. Pan and scan is evident in a few scenes and the images feel claustrophophic. The sound is mono but I thought it was stereo back in 1976. There are no extras. Neither is this disk 16x9 enhanced.

This film deserves to be redone and reissued. And please, Universal, redo that cover. This IS a Sherlock Holmes story. Your theatrical poster art would be welcome here.

There are substantialy less than a handful of Sherlock Holmes films on DVD. Why this is so is a mystery. At the very least we should have Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Christopher Plummer and James Mason in Murder by Decree, and Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

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From the opening to the closing credits, filled with illustrations that originally accompanied Doyle's stories in the Strand, the details of the movie are painstakingly accurate when compared to those in the canon. This is one non-canonical Holmes story that exists in the same world as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

The movie takes the liberty of assuming that all of Dr. Watson's accounts of Sherlock Holmes are true, except for one. That would be "The Final Problem", in which the great detective supposedly dies at the hands of his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty. The movie suggests that this story is merely a cover up for a period in time in which Holmes was getting help with his cocaine addiction from none other than famous psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.

The settings and characters ring true to both Doyle's mysteries and the Sydney Paget illustrations that accompanied them. Sherlock Holmes' deerstalker and cloak, though never mentioned by Doyle, look more like Paget's illustrations than ever before, more rugged than in most film interpretations. American actor Robet Duvall, despite sometimes struggling with the British accent, portrays Watson as an intellectually and physically fit comrade for Holmes, not a bumbler. Laurence Olivier's Prof. Moriarty matches the vision of Doyle and Paget rather than the cliché mustache twirler of other movies. Only now, Moriarty isn't really a criminal mastermind. He's Holmes' childhood math tutor.

Alan Arkin depicts Freud as a man of intelligence, insight, and above all, honor.

The inclusion of lesser known characters like Mycroft Holmes and Toby is a plus. There are also references, both direct and sly, to canonical Holmes stories.

While Nicol Williamson's performance as Sherlock Holmes lacks the vigor and spark of Basil Rathbone or Christopher Plummer, Williamson succeeds in showing Holmes as a troubled individual rather than a god. The movie mixes drama, subtle humor, mystery, and even action, finally showing Holmes as the capable fighter he was in the canon. The end of the film strays from the books in order to explore the uncharted territory of Holmes' childhood, providing a deeply moving climax.

This may come truer to Sir Arthur's original vision than any other pastiche written for film so far.

Read Best Reviews of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (1976) Here

I own this movie on 12" laserdisc format. Unfortunately I haven't had the laserdisc player hooked up in a long time. I've always loved this film. Certainly far above average. I only wish Nicol Williamson would have finished the Granada television Holmes series after Jeremy Brett died. That was sort of a fantasy casting idea. He is superb as Holmes in The Seven Percent Solution. And what can you say about Robert Duvall? You know he's up to the task.

The DVD is out of print in the USA as of this writing (August 2009), and it costs an arm and a leg on the used market.

However, if you have a region-free player, I would check the UK amazon site. You can probably get a Region 2 PAL copy of this movie for about $8 plus shipping. It's also been re-released on DVD in Australia (which the site I'm looking at says is also PAL format -I don't know, I've never bought anything from Australia).

With most DVD players, you can find a little trick with the remote to make it region-free (Google is your friend). Wikipedia's article on "DVD Region Code" states, "Most freeware and open source DVD players, such as VLC, ignore region coding. Most commercial players are locked to a region code, but can be easily changed with software." Likely you could view it on your computer with VLC player. So, if you're a fan of this movie, and you don't mind a small technical challenge... it is available at reasonable prices. I think I'm going to get the import.

Update 10/2011: I did indeed buy the import, and the picture quality is fine. Since I only watch movies on my computer, it was no problem to convert it to a format that can be played with common software players. The movie appears to have been filmed largely through a gauzy lens -i.e. the focus is soft, there is not a lot of detail. I don't believe it is a flaw in the mastering of the DVD. That's just the way the original film looks. I'm very glad I bought this from, as it is one of my favorite films, the best non-canonical Holmes ever done.

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It's the only Sherlock Holmes-inspired movie I have ever thoroughly enjoyed. It's funny, intriguing, clever and even romantic. It takes a lot of poetic liberties with the characters, both the fictional (Sherlock & co) and the real ones (Sigmund Freud), but it ennobles and humanizes them, so fans of both can have nothing to complain about.

The movie does something very interesting: Freud psychoanalyzes Sherlock and 'explains' him.If only it was that easy in real life...but you know that you can never walk away with a full proof 'explanation' to the conundrum that is Sherlock Holmes. Still, as the saying goes, if they did not get it right, they have made a very good point.

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