The main difference, of course, was Mr. Meyer’s inspired idea of having the fictional Holmes (Nicol Williamson) work on a case with Freud (Alan Arkin), an encounter that takes place in the chronologically plausible year of 1891. To bring about their meeting, Mr. Meyer took a detail from Holmes’s background — his habitual use of cocaine, legally available in Victorian England — and made it the engine of the story, having Watson transport the hallucinating Holmes to Vienna in the hope that Freud, a fellow user, can work a cure.
It was that decision that propelled Holmes into the modern world, making him the model for today’s variously troubled Sherlocks, as well as an early example of the recovery-story hero. Williamson carried out this radical refashioning in a performance that was simultaneously manic and starched, marvelously comic but rooted in real pain.
“This is a movie about the inside of this man’s character and how he got to be who and what he is,” Mr. Meyer says in the interview. “You’re not meeting Holmes in a normal, high-functioning, operational mode.”
His intuition that a flawed Holmes would have comic appeal is signaled in a line barked by Freud, when the psychiatrist and the detective argue over who is to blame for a bad turn in the case: “What is this egocentric streak of melodrama that does not allow anyone to share in your triumphs or disasters?”
Tracing the history of the detective as hero is not the only reason to watch “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,” which holds up quite well as entertainment; as directed by Herbert Ross, it’s a deft and unusual mix of light comedy and globe-trotting caper. It supplies the expected satisfactions of instantaneous deduction, cultured repartee between Holmes and Freud and allusions to Conan Doyle’s work, as well as a long and exhilarating chase across the European countryside involving real steam locomotives.
Mr. Meyer’s story, which would now be called meta, is couched as an alternate explanation for the period between Holmes’s supposed death at the hands of James Moriarty (recounted in Conan Doyle’s “Final Problem”) and his resurrection (in “The Adventure of the Empty House”). The hiatus that begins with Holmes’s drying out extends into a case involving a pasha, a baron and a redheaded temptress, during which Holmes instructs Freud in the mechanics of detection and gives him some ideas about the meaning of dreams.
The redhead is played by Vanessa Redgrave, one of the adornments of a supporting cast that includes Laurence Olivier as a drolly timorous Moriarty and, most surprisingly, Robert Duvall as a steadfast, levelheaded Watson, written by Mr. Meyer in conscious rebellion against the Nigel Bruce portrayal.
By the end of “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” Mr. Meyer’s Holmes has diverged from his descendants in one important way: having done time with Freud and saved Europe from war, he is well adjusted and ready to face the world. For the current crop of Holmeses, dependent on future TV seasons or movie sequels, that kind of recovery is a nonstarter.Continue reading the main story
Сьюзан словно окаменела, ничего не понимая. Эхо выстрела слилось с царившим вокруг хаосом. Сознание гнало ее вперед, ноги не слушались. Коммандер.