The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (film)

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a 1976 Oscar-nominated British-American mystery film directed by Herbert Ross and written by Nicholas Meyer. It is based on Meyer's 1974 novel of the same name and stars Nicol Williamson, Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin, and Laurence Olivier.[2]

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
Directed byHerbert Ross
Screenplay byNicholas Meyer
Based onThe Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer (novel)
Arthur Conan Doyle (characters)
Produced byStanley O'Toole
Herbert Ross
Arlene Sellers
Alex Winitsky
StarringNicol Williamson
Robert Duvall
Alan Arkin
Georgia Brown
Samantha Eggar
Charles Gray
Jeremy Kemp
Joel Grey
Laurence Olivier
Vanessa Redgrave
CinematographyOswald Morris
Edited byChris Barnes
Music byJohn Addison
Alex Winitsky/Arlene Sellers Productions
Herbert Ross Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • 24 October 1976 (1976-10-24)
Running time
113 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$5 million[1]


Dr. John H. Watson (Robert Duvall) becomes convinced that his friend Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson) is delusional—particularly in his belief that Professor James Moriarty (Laurence Olivier) is a criminal mastermind—as a result of his addiction to cocaine. Moriarty visits Watson to complain about being harassed by Holmes. Watson enlists the aid of Sherlock's brother, Mycroft (Charles Gray), to trick Holmes into traveling to Vienna, where he will be treated by Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin).

During the course of his treatment, Holmes investigates a kidnapping case with international implications and Freud uncovers a dark personal secret suppressed in Holmes's subconscious.



The film was made at Pinewood Studios with location shooting in the UK and Austria (including the Austrian National Library); the tennis match/duel between Freud and von Leinsdorf was filmed on one of the historic real tennis courts at the Queen's Club in West Kensington, London.[4] The production designer was Ken Adam.

Stephen Sondheim wrote a song for the movie ("The Madame's Song") that was later recorded as "I Never Do Anything Twice" on the Side By Side By Sondheim cast recording.[4]


The Seven-Per-Cent Solution was well received by American critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 73% of 15 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.1/10.[5]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "nothing less than the most exhilarating entertainment of the film year to date."[6] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film four stars out of four and called it "the classiest motion picture of the holiday season" and "a rare combination of money and brains."[7] He placed it ninth on his year-end list of the best films of 1976.[8] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called it "an outstanding film. Producer-director Herbert Ross and writer Nicholas Meyer, adapting his novel, have fashioned a most stylish, elegant, and classy period crime drama."[9] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "It is a particularly handsome period piece, beautifully staged and acted and most genuinely charming."[10] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film "an amusing, elegant, and unusually appealing adventure movie, a swashbuckler with literate, intellectual heroes."[11]

British reviewers were more critical[12] with The Times calling it "a turgid concoction which draws no life from the Holmes/Freud confrontation and seems particularly ill-plotted."[12] The Daily Telegraph said "The tale drags on for reel after reel before we cotton on to the fact that it is meant to be funny."[12] The Sunday Times said "the basic conflicts in Conan Doyle's original dissipate into whimsy, cuteness and slow, period-laden self-indulgence."[12]

Mike Hale of The New York Times, after mentioning Robert Downey Jr.'s version of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock and Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary, opined that Nicol Williamson's Holmes was "the father of all those modern Holmeses"[13] claiming the film "established the template for all the twitchy, paranoid, vulnerable, strung-out Holmeses to come."[13]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Nicholas Meyer Nominated [14]
Best Costume Design Alan Barrett Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 5th Place [15]
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actor Robert Duvall 3rd Place [16]
Saturn Awards Best Science Fiction Film Nominated [17]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Nicholas Meyer Nominated [18]

Home mediaEdit

Shout! Factory released the film on Blu-ray on January 22, 2013 along with a DVD in the package.[19]

Meyer appeared in an 18-minute interview for the Blu-ray release by Shout Factory.[20] Meyer discussed the genesis of the idea (his father was a psychiatrist and Meyer was a fan of Holmes' creator Arthur Conan Doyle) and how he took the opportunity to write the novel when the Writers Guild of America went on strike.

Meyer revealed that he had often fought with Ross because Ross was too faithful to Meyer's novel. He believed that the script would not be cinematic enough if it was too faithful with the source.

He discussed the casting including his push for Alan Arkin as Freud. He shared a story about how he and Ross decided to cast Duvall "in revolt" against Nigel Bruce's portrayal of Watson as a "Colonel Blimp"-type character. Meyer and Ross wanted to try to capture Watson's intelligence that had so far not been portrayed on-screen in Holmes movie adaptations.[20]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. p. 163. ISBN 9780857687760.
  3. ^ Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. p. 165. ISBN 9780857687760.
  4. ^ a b "Filming locations for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
  5. ^ "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (October 25, 1976). "'Seven-Per-Cent Solution' Movie An Exhilarating Collector's Item". The New York Times. 36.
  7. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 24, 1976). "Three cinematic chances to enjoy that holiday release". Chicago Tribune. Section 1, p. 13.
  8. ^ Siskel, Gene. "Gene Siskel Top Ten Films as Published in Chicago Tribune (1970-1997)". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  9. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (October 6, 1976). "Film Reviews: Seven Per-Cent Solution". Variety. 20.
  10. ^ Champlin, Charles (November 12, 1976). "Holmes, Sweet Holmes". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  11. ^ Arnold, Gary (November 12, 1976). "A 100 Per Cent 'Solution'". The Washington Post. B1.
  12. ^ a b c d Barnes, Alan (2011). Sherlock Holmes on Screen. Titan Books. p. 166. ISBN 9780857687760.
  13. ^ a b Hale, Mike (January 25, 2013). "The Holmes Behind the Modern Sherlock". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2019.
  14. ^ "The 49th Academy Awards (1977) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on 2015-01-11. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  15. ^ "1976 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  16. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. 19 December 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  17. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Saturn Archived from the original on September 14, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2008.
  18. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  19. ^ "The Seven Percent Solution".
  20. ^ a b Meyer, Nicholas. Interview with Nicholas Meyer. The Seven Percent Solution (Blu-ray). Shout! Factory. {{cite AV media}}: |format= requires |url= (help)

External linksEdit