Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Seven Per Cent Solution

It's easy to forget how long Robert Duvall has been around.

You can sort of get an idea of just how long it has been if you watch "The Seven Per Cent Solution" on Turner Classic Movies tonight at 7 p.m. (Central).

That wasn't Duvall's first film, but it premiered 35 years ago in October. If that seems like a long time ago, think of this: He'd been appearing on TV for nearly two decades by that time, and his first appearance in a feature film was in 1962's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Duvall got more prominent film roles in "M*A*S*H," "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II" before appearing in "The Seven Per Cent Solution," a Sherlock Holmes tale in which Duvall played the supporting role of Dr. Watson — and was almost unrecognizable with his mustache.

It wasn't based on a Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Based on a novel by Nicholas Meyer that had been inspired by Doyle's books, the adapted screenplay for "The Seven Per Cent Solution" earned Meyer an Oscar nomination.

Nicol Williamson took much of the attention for playing Holmes, who was battling drug addiction with the aid of Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin). While being treated, Holmes became involved in a kidnaping case with international overtones.

The movie had some other standouts in the cast as well — Laurence Olivier played Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty, and Vanessa Redgrave and Joel Grey had parts in the film, too. It isn't hard to see why Duvall was overlooked.

It didn't hurt his career, though. He has been nominated for Oscars for his acting five times since playing Dr. Watson.

But it's awfully fun to watch this film. There are some action sequences, but the mental jousting between the Holmes and Freud characters in the first half of the movie may be better than things like the train chase you can see in the attached clip.

If you've never seen it, give yourself a treat tonight.