Sherlock Holmes

Commentaries on film, video and television productions based on the character created by Arthur Conan Doyle:

Sherlock Holmes (1922)
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Director Albert Parker; writer Earle Browne, Marion Fairfax, William Gillette; featuring John Barrymore, Roland Young, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Carol Dempster

Early failed Sherlock Holmes (1929–1933)
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Four films, variably featuring Clive Brook, Reginald Owen, Warburton Gamble, Raymnd Massey, Athole Stewart, Lyn Harding

The Wontner Sherlock Holmes (1931–1937)
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Five films featuring Arthur Wontner, Ian Fleming (1931–32, 1935–1937), Ian Hunter (1932)

The Rathbone Sherlock Holmes (1939–1946)
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Fourteen films featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1954–1955)
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Also called Sherlock Holmes
Television series featuring Ronald Howard, Howard Marion-Crawford, Archie Duncan

The Cushing Sherlock Holmes (1959–1984)
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Sherlock Holmes films and television series, variably featuring Peter Cushing, Andrι Morell, Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Nigel Stock, John Mills

The Lee Sherlock Holmes (1962-1992)
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Sherlock Holmes films, variably featuring Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters, Patrick Macnee, Morgan Fairchild

A Study in Terror (1965)
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Director James Hill; writer Donald Ford, Derek Ford; featuring John Neville, Donald Houston, Anthony Quayle, Judi Dench

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
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Director Billy Wilder; writer Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond; featuring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Christopher Lee, Genevieve Page

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
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Director Herbert Ross; writer Nicholas Meyer; featuring Nicol Williamson, Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin, Vennesssa Redgrave, Laurence Olivier, Charles Gray

The Sherlock Holmes spoofs (1975–2002)
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Two films and four television movies, variably featuring Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, Marty Feldman, Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Matt Frewer, Kenneth Welsh

Murder by Decree (1979)
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Director Bob Clark; writer John Hopkins; featuring Christopher Plummer, James Mason, Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Donald Sutherland, Genevieve Bujold

The Brett Sherlock Holmes (1984–1994)
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Also called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Television series featuring Jeremy Brett, David Burke (1984–1985), Edward Hardwicke (1986–1994)

The Downey Sherlock Holmes (2009–2011)
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Film series, directed by Guy Ritchie, featuring Robert Downy Jr., Jude Law

Sherlock (2010–2017)
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Television series, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman

Sherlock Holmes

COMMENTARY | TEXT | MOVIES

1976 Sherlock Holmes

Nicol Williamson's Holmes, right, is mesmerized by Alan Arkin's Freud, as Robert Duvall's Watson watches.

Upsetting Sherlock

So how about a look into the even more private parts of Sherlock's life: his haunting childhood, his adult drug addiction and what he really did those several years after he was supposedly killed by Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls?

We get all this in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), which is not based on Doyle's work directly but on one of three Sherlockian novels by Nicholas Meyer, who also adapted it for film.

Williamson as Holmes

The fair Sherlock.

The film sports some of the heaviest weight actors around at the time. We meet this Holmes, essayed by acclaimed Scottish thespian Nicol Williamson, in the midst of a fit induced by drugs—his mixture of seven percent cocaine and ninety-three percent saline water.

If you think it's strange to have a fair-haired, ruddy-faced Holmes, how about an irrationally raving, paranoiac Holmes?

His partner in detection is Robert Duvall with a convincing British accent and his brother is Charles Gray, who would reprise his role as the best Mycroft ever in the later Jeremy Brett television series. The two join forces to trick Sherlock into chasing his supposed arch-enemy Moriarty—played by Laurence Olivier, no less, as something other than a criminal mastermind—to Vienna where his drug addiction can be treated by Sigmund Freud, essayed by Alan Arkin. (The great actors just keep coming.)

Yes, it's another case of mixing historical characters into the story to give it the illusion of having more import. But does it have to be Sigmund Freud, who is depicted as being an ultra-rationalist like Holmes, instead of the unscientific speculator he was in reality? Ah well, for the film's make-believe world, writer Meyer and actor Arkin do a good job of turning the detecting duo into a credible trio: Holmes, Watson and Freud.

While visiting Freud, Holmes is drawn into another great mystery, the kidnapping of a singer (Vanessa Redgrave), that has international implications. Our triumvirate of heroes engage in logical analysis, hypnosis and sleuthing, plus derring-do with sabres atop speeding trains. It's all quite engaging if you can put aside your qualms over how this might affect the Holmes canon.

Williamson is particularly disturbing. He's always been a somewhat over-the-top kind of actor, and here his histrionics are too convincing as a somewhat less than masterful Sherlock. Makes you wonder how you could ever appreciate the character again as you once had before seeing this movie.

But not to worry. A close-to-perfect and faithful Holmes is to make an appearance to reclaim the character's iconic status in the next decade.

— Eric

COMMENTARY | TEXT | MOVIES

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The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
(1976, DVD)
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Related pages:

Author
Arthur Conan Doyle

Novel
The Adventures of Sherlock Hokmes

Novel
The Hound of the Baskervilles

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The Complete Holmes
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The Hound of the Baskervilles
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