Finally receiving a Blu-ray release courtesy of Shout! Factory, "The Seven Percent Solution" mixes the fictional with the historical for a fascinating glimpse into what made Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes click.
The Blu-ray transfer looks exceptional with a nice, color accurate presentation of the film. Colors aren't saturated as that wasn't the look that director Herbert Ross was going for with solid looking skin tones. Blacks are solid throughout as well not suffering from the crush evident in the early DVD release. The film boasts a fairly clean, sleek presentation that doesn't rely too heavily on digital noise reduction and, as a result, the textures are solid throughout as well.
The Blu-ray does include an interview with author and screenwriter Nicholas Meyer discussing the genesis of the novel and the film. It's a very good interview giving us his thoughts on the project. I would imagine that we don't get a commentary track because Meyer wasn't interested in sitting down to view the whole film without the input from the late Herbert Ross and late Nicole Williamson.
I'm hoping that Shout will also tackle the cult classic "They Might Be Giants" starring George C. Scott as an eccentric wealthy man who believes he IS Holmes, while the doctor evaluating him is named Watson (I'm sure the creator of "Elementary" probably got his idea for this as it takes place in contemporary New York as well).
The Blu-ray is recommended.
Original DVD Review:
Herbert Ross' sly direction and the intelligent script by novelist/film director Nicholas Meyer makes "The Seven Per Cent Solution" about Sigmund Freud's (Alan Arkin) attempt to cure Sherlock Holmes (Nicole Williamson)of his cocaine addiction and the delusions that ensue with the assistance of Dr. Watson (A virtually unrecognizable Robert Duvall). Meyer's script (and original novel) plays with Arthur Conan Doyle's characters and inverts the paradigm for Holmes; HE'S the one who needs help from Watson and Freud in solving his own mystery so he can solve one involving one of Dr. Freud's patients
The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and, near as I can tell, it's fairly close to the original aspect ratio.
Williamson does a marvelous job as Holmes as is Arkin as Freud holding his own with his collegues. Duvall gives a very good performance even if his accent is uncertain(I'm a bit surprised that Ross and Duvall didn't elect to spent more time working on his accent for post-production dubbing).
Unfortunately, Bernard Herrmann who was contracted for the film score passed away before he could work on it and the score by John Addison (who ironically also replaced Herrmann on "Torn Curtain" under very different circumstances)although certainly lush lacks what Herrmann would have brought to the film and doesn't compliment the film (I found it a bit distracting at times).
The DVD-R burned on demand looks solid although the film could use a nice restoration for home video. The presentation doesn't look signficantly different compared to the previous DVD as far as I can recall. Image quality is a bit soft at times and colors although not robust are probably a fairly accurate representation of the original colo scheme/saturation of the theatrical "look" of the film.
There aren't any special features. In the 1970's it was common for studios to have an outside company produce a promotional featurette to run on TV to help promote the movie. I don't recall if this film had one but, if so, it would have been nice for Universal to take the time to search their vaults and include it. It's disappointing that Universal won't license this out for Blu-ray. Perhaps Twilight Time or one of the other specialty houses can convince Universal to license this out for the high def presentation it deserves.
"The Seven Percent Solution" was the beginning of the trend to "reinvent" Holmes (another favorite although it doesn't include the "real" Holmes is They Might Be Giants
which, unfortunately, is out-of-print as of this writing)and turns Doyle's own storytelling approach on its head by making Holmes both hero and victim.
This presentation is pretty good on DVD-R for a burn-on-demand title. There isn't a lot of dirt or debris on the print, colors are decent and detail is a bit soft but improved over the VHS version.