While helping Mel Brooks put the finishing touches on the classic Young Frankenstein, Gene Wilder was offered the opportunity to write and direct his first feature film. The result was the bizarre, yet funny The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. A madcap farce likely influenced by his work with Mel Brooks, the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the laughs are plentiful.
It’s 1891 and important documents Queen Victoria gave to Foreign Secretary Lord Redcliff (John Le Mesurier) have been stolen and coveted by Sherlock ‘s arch-rival Dr. Moriarty (Leo McKern) who wants to sell it to the highest bidder. Sherlock decides to give the case to his younger brother, Sigerson (Wilder), who is resentful of his older brother’s success. Scotland Yard records clerk Orville Sacker (Marty Feldman) is charged with bringing the job to Sigerson. Not long after he gets there, a woman Madeline Kahn) being blackmailed by Eduardo Gambetti (Dom DeLuise) also comes to request Sigerson’s help. She’s a lovely dance hall singer whose string of lies and half-truths includes her own name.
While the film offers laughs, the plot suffers because all the main characters are such extreme personalities. Kohl’s character is a wacko, McKern’s villain is cartoonish and Wilder’s Sigerson is so angry he can barely see straight. Since everyone’s playing it for laughs, there’s no straight man to play scenes off of, leaving no one to react to all the zaniness. There are moments where the talented cast gets a chance to show off their skills with comedy or musical numbers, which makes The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother worth checking out, despite significant flaws.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the 1080p transfer shows its age. The entire viewing experience just appears tired. Overall, the image looks processed which has dulled the fine detail. Both faces and the colorful sets have taken on a rather flat appearance. Textures aren’t in evidence and colors occasionally look washed out. At best, blacks are fine, but far from inky. Whites look bloomy here and there. A few scratches are noticeable and speckles are a regular occurrence. While this transfer represents a slight improvement over the DVD release, I’d hoped for better.
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix works well, delivering clear dialogue and emphasizing the slapstick elements. The score offers a nice level of instrumentation to the proceedings. While there is a very slight hiss at times and periodic pops, those issues don’t spoil the overall viewing experience.
No subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Actor Gene Wilder; Recorded for the 2006 DVD release, Wilder provides lots of information about the production of the film. Makes for an interesting listen.
- Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:53)