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The Seven-per-Cent Solution: 05/26/08

The Seven-per-Cent Solution

Sherlock Holmes is among an elite set of fictional characters who has outlived his creator and even his own written death (The Final Problem1893). Holmes continues to solve crimes as written by a number of authors including this 1974 version, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. The book was made into a film in 1976, which I've enjoyed watching a number of times.

One thing that is universal across all these Sherlock Holmes tales (those by Doyle and these later ones) is that the stories are never told from Holmes's point of the view. In the Doyle style, the job of reporting Holmes's adventures falls on Dr. John Watson. Holmes throughout remains too unusual and too superhuman to understand, though Watson and other characters try.

Another commonality of the post-Doyle stories is the inclusion of famous historical figures and events. Sherlock Holmes is far better traveled and even more famous in these novels than he ever was in the Doyle's short stories. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a classic example of Holmes-as-celebrity because he meets and manages to solve a mystery with Dr. Sigmund Freud.

In the film, maybe because Sherlock Holmes seems to lend himself to becoming a steampunk James Bond in movies, Dr. Freud is somewhat plausible. The entire cinematic adaptation borders on the surreal as an attempt to visualize the cocaine stupor Holmes is in for the first half of the story. That surreal approach makes Freud just one more aspect of the wackiness that is the 1976 film.

In the book, Dr. Freud seems like a forced detail. The whole business of Holmes's out of control addiction and the trickery that Watson goes through to get his friend to Vienna doesn't work. It's corny and out of character for both Watson and Holmes. It is a ridiculous means to and end to get the two to where the mystery is taking place.

There is nothing about the mystery of the missing heiress that couldn't be done in London or an estate in the countryside. Her ties to the Kaiser could still have been part of the plot without the silly trip to Vienna.

So if you like Sherlock Holmes stories, keep in mind that Nicholas Meyer's novel is flawed. See, though, if you can, the 1976 film adaptation of his novel. It takes advantage of the goofier bits of the novel to make a very entertaining film.

Read the review at Rick's Café Americain.

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