The Seven-Per-Cent Solution


1h 54m 1976
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Brief Synopsis

Sherlock Holmes seeks psychiatric help from Sigmund Freud and gets caught up in mystery.

Film Details

Also Known As
Seven Per-Cent Solution, Seven Percent Solution, The, Seven-Per-Cent Solution
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Release Date
1976

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 54m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

The world's two greatest masters of deduction: Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud meet for the first time to solve a delightful mystery.

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Film Details

Also Known As
Seven Per-Cent Solution, Seven Percent Solution, The, Seven-Per-Cent Solution
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Suspense/Mystery
Release Date
1976

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 54m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Costume Design

1976

Best Writing, Screenplay

1977

Articles

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution


Writer-director Nicholas Meyer scored the biggest hit of his film career when he somewhat surprisingly steered Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, into the top ten list of box office champions for 1982; it grossed more than 48 Hrs. and Poltergeist. But one could argue that Meyer's most inventive screen work is his script for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), which he adapted from his own, critically-acclaimed novel. Although The Seven-Per-Cent Solution was ably directed by Hollywood mainstay Herbert Ross, its real draw is Meyer's audacious pairing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, with the very real father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. It's an engaging combination that makes for a fascinating, often playful film.

In Meyer's rather modernistic take on Holmes, Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) grows concerned with Holmes' (Nicol Williamson) increasing dependence on cocaine (the "seven-per-cent solution" of the title refers to the injection that Holmes administers to himself; 7% cocaine, 93% water). Hoping to cure the detective of his addiction, Watson contrives to have him meet the up-and-coming Freud (Alan Arkin). Holmes and Freud impress each other with their respective powers of deduction, and soon team up to save a patient of Freud's, Lola Deveraux (Vanessa Redgrave), who has been kidnapped.

Meyer raised the bar high when he set out to write his novel. Given the seriousness of Freud's groundbreaking work, Meyer could have wound up trivializing one of the giants of analytical thought. Then again, playing too fast and loose with the Sherlock Holmes persona could have alienated legions of Holmes purists. Certainly, not everyone was happy to see such overt emphasis placed on Holmes' cocaine addiction, and the re-imagining of his arch nemesis, Prof. Moriarty, comes out of left field. But, in both the book and the film, Meyer never takes a wayward step. In fact, he was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Adapted Screenplay, with the eventual winner being William Goldman, for his brilliant work on All the President's Men.

Meyer had long been a Sherlock Holmes fan. When his father, a psychoanalyst, couldn't be persuaded to write a tome on Holmes and the psychological pull of detective stories, Meyer decided to research the topic himself (he remembered his father once telling him that being a psychoanalyst was not unlike being a detective). A screenwriters' strike suddenly left him with nothing else to do, so, as he put it, he "just sat in for six months and immersed myself in Holmes." While pouring through assorted books, he also got in touch with The Baker Street Regulars, a Sherlock Holmes fan club that boasts over 15,000 members. When the dust settled, Meyer had a novel based on, as he put it, "the meeting in Vienna of the world's two most brilliant detectives."

Meyer had more than his share of legal trouble while writing both the novel and the screenplay. You can't just swipe a licensed character out of somebody else's work and use him in your own book, so Meyer's lawyers had to convince Baskerville Investments Ltd. (the legal name of the Doyle estate) to loan Holmes out for a while. Then, when the movie was in development, Sigmund Freud's daughter, Dr. Anna Freud, refused to have herself fictionalized by Hollywood. That's why Freud has a son in the picture, rather than a daughter.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, by the way, would have featured music by Bernard Herrmann, who, of course wrote a string of remarkable scores for Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s. Herrmann had to back out at the last minute, due to illness. Taxi Driver (1976) would turn out to be his final film credit.

Producer/Director: Herbert Ross
Screenplay: Nicholas Meyer (based on his novel)
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Editing: Chris Barnes
Music: John Addison
Production Design: Ken Adam
Art Design: Peter Lamont
Set Design: Peter James
Costume Design: Alan Barrett
Cast: Alan Arkin (Sigmund Freud), Vanessa Redgrave (Lola Deveraux), Robert Duvall (Dr. Watson), Nicol Williamson (Sherlock Holmes), Laurence Olivier (Prof. Moriarty), Joel Grey (Lowenstein), Samantha Eggar (Mary Watson), Jeremy Kemp (Baron von Leinsdorf), Charles Gray (Mycroft Holmes).
C-114m. Letterboxed.

by Paul Tatara

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

Writer-director Nicholas Meyer scored the biggest hit of his film career when he somewhat surprisingly steered Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, into the top ten list of box office champions for 1982; it grossed more than 48 Hrs. and Poltergeist. But one could argue that Meyer's most inventive screen work is his script for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), which he adapted from his own, critically-acclaimed novel. Although The Seven-Per-Cent Solution was ably directed by Hollywood mainstay Herbert Ross, its real draw is Meyer's audacious pairing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, with the very real father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. It's an engaging combination that makes for a fascinating, often playful film. In Meyer's rather modernistic take on Holmes, Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) grows concerned with Holmes' (Nicol Williamson) increasing dependence on cocaine (the "seven-per-cent solution" of the title refers to the injection that Holmes administers to himself; 7% cocaine, 93% water). Hoping to cure the detective of his addiction, Watson contrives to have him meet the up-and-coming Freud (Alan Arkin). Holmes and Freud impress each other with their respective powers of deduction, and soon team up to save a patient of Freud's, Lola Deveraux (Vanessa Redgrave), who has been kidnapped. Meyer raised the bar high when he set out to write his novel. Given the seriousness of Freud's groundbreaking work, Meyer could have wound up trivializing one of the giants of analytical thought. Then again, playing too fast and loose with the Sherlock Holmes persona could have alienated legions of Holmes purists. Certainly, not everyone was happy to see such overt emphasis placed on Holmes' cocaine addiction, and the re-imagining of his arch nemesis, Prof. Moriarty, comes out of left field. But, in both the book and the film, Meyer never takes a wayward step. In fact, he was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Adapted Screenplay, with the eventual winner being William Goldman, for his brilliant work on All the President's Men. Meyer had long been a Sherlock Holmes fan. When his father, a psychoanalyst, couldn't be persuaded to write a tome on Holmes and the psychological pull of detective stories, Meyer decided to research the topic himself (he remembered his father once telling him that being a psychoanalyst was not unlike being a detective). A screenwriters' strike suddenly left him with nothing else to do, so, as he put it, he "just sat in for six months and immersed myself in Holmes." While pouring through assorted books, he also got in touch with The Baker Street Regulars, a Sherlock Holmes fan club that boasts over 15,000 members. When the dust settled, Meyer had a novel based on, as he put it, "the meeting in Vienna of the world's two most brilliant detectives." Meyer had more than his share of legal trouble while writing both the novel and the screenplay. You can't just swipe a licensed character out of somebody else's work and use him in your own book, so Meyer's lawyers had to convince Baskerville Investments Ltd. (the legal name of the Doyle estate) to loan Holmes out for a while. Then, when the movie was in development, Sigmund Freud's daughter, Dr. Anna Freud, refused to have herself fictionalized by Hollywood. That's why Freud has a son in the picture, rather than a daughter. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, by the way, would have featured music by Bernard Herrmann, who, of course wrote a string of remarkable scores for Alfred Hitchcock in the 1950s. Herrmann had to back out at the last minute, due to illness. Taxi Driver (1976) would turn out to be his final film credit. Producer/Director: Herbert Ross Screenplay: Nicholas Meyer (based on his novel) Cinematography: Oswald Morris Editing: Chris Barnes Music: John Addison Production Design: Ken Adam Art Design: Peter Lamont Set Design: Peter James Costume Design: Alan Barrett Cast: Alan Arkin (Sigmund Freud), Vanessa Redgrave (Lola Deveraux), Robert Duvall (Dr. Watson), Nicol Williamson (Sherlock Holmes), Laurence Olivier (Prof. Moriarty), Joel Grey (Lowenstein), Samantha Eggar (Mary Watson), Jeremy Kemp (Baron von Leinsdorf), Charles Gray (Mycroft Holmes). C-114m. Letterboxed. by Paul Tatara

Quotes

Doctor Watson, Mr. Holmes is convinced that I am some sort of criminal mastermind of the most depraved order. I know he is a great and good man. All England resounds with his praise. But in my case he fosters a ghastly illusion and I come to you as his friend rather than turning the matter over to my solicitor.
- Professor Moriarty
Who am I, that your friends should wish us to meet?
- Sigmund Freud
Beyond the fact that you are a brilliant Jewish physician who was born in Hungary and studied for a while in Paris, and that certain radical theories of yours have alienated the respectable medical community so that you have severed your connections with various hospitals and branches of the medical fraternity, beyond this I can deduce little. You're married, with a child of... five. You enjoy Shakespeare and possess a sense of honour.
- Sherlock Holmes
I never guess: it is an appalling habit, destructive to the logical faculty. A private study is an ideal place for observing facets of a man's character. That the study belongs to you exclusively is evident from the dust: not even the maid is permitted here, else she would scarcely have ventured to let matters come to this pass.
- Sherlock Holmes
Go on.
- Sigmund Freud
Very well. Now, when a man collects books on a subject, they're usually grouped together, but notice, your King James Bible, your Book of Mormon, and Koran are separate, across the room in fact, from your Hebrew Bible and Talmud, which sit on your desk. Now these books have a special importance for you not connected with a general study of religion, obviously. The nine-branched candelabra on your desk confirms my suspicion that you are of the Jewish faith; it is called a menorah, is it not?
- Sherlock Holmes
Yah.
- Sigmund Freud
That you studied medicine in Paris is to be inferred from the great number of medical texts in that language. Where else should a German use French textbooks but in France, and who but a brilliant German could understand the complexities of medicine in a foreign tongue? That you're fond of Shakespeare is to be deduced from this book, which is lying face downwards. The fact that you have not adjusted the volume suggests to my mind that you no doubt intended referring to it again in the near future. (Hm, not my favorite play.) The absence of dust on the cover would tend to confirm this hypothesis. That you're a physician is evident when I observe you maintain a consulting room. Your separation from various societies is indicated by these blank spaces surrounding your diploma, clearly used at one time to display additional certificates. Now, what can it be that forces a man to remove these testimonials to his success? Why, only that he has ceased to affiliate himself with these various societies and hospitals and so forth, and why do this, having once troubled to join them all? It is possible that he became disenchanted with one or two of them, but NOT likely that his disillusionment extended to all. Rather, I postulate it is THEY who became disenchanted with YOU, doctor, and asked you to resign, from all of them. Why, I've no idea. But some position you have taken, evidently a medical one, has discredited you in their eyes. I take the liberty of inferring a theory of some sort, too radical or shocking to gain ready acceptance in current medical thinking. Your wedding ring tells me of your marriage, your Balkanized accent hints Hungary or Moravia, the toy soldier on the floor here ought, I think, to belong to a... small boy of five? Have I omitted anything of importance?
- Sherlock Holmes
But how will you live?
- Dr. John H. Watson
When my arm is better, you would do well to follow the concert career of a violinist... named Sigerson!
- Sherlock Holmes
But your readers -- my readers -- what will I tell them?
- Dr. John H. Watson
Anything you like! Tell them I was murdered by my mathematics tutor; they'll never believe you in any case!
- Sherlock Holmes
Journeys alone are always so tedious, don't you find? 'Specially when they are long.
- Lola Deveraux
Will this be a long journey?
- Sherlock Holmes
That all depends. But I do think it will seem shorter if there are two of us... don't you?
- Lola Deveraux
I hope it will not seem too short.
- Sherlock Holmes
These are the most intelligent horses in the world, and they have been trained TO KILL!
- Sigmund Freud

Trivia

While the book showed Dr. Sigmund Freud with a daughter, the child he had in real life, the movie showed him with a make-believe son because Dr. Anna Freud threatened a lawsuit if she was included. Since her father was dead she had no control over how he was portrayed.

Bernard Herrmann was to do the score, but had to bow out because of illness.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1976

Released in United States on Video April 16, 1996

Released in United States on Video November 12, 1987

Released in United States 1976

Released in United States on Video April 16, 1996

Released in United States on Video November 12, 1987