The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)
The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)

Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: December 14th, 1975 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Gene Wilder Actors: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, Leo McKern, Roy Kinnear

 


 

I

n 1891 at Buckingham Palace, Foreign Secretary Lord Redcliff (John Le Mesurier) accepts an important document from the queen – one that, once stolen in the middle of the night, could lead to war. Consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted confidant Dr. Watson depart immediately to address the debacle, ostensibly leaving the master sleuth’s regular collection of cases in the hands of brother Sigerson Holmes (Gene Wilder) – himself a capable if unknown shamus. Sigerson, however, isn’t keen on aiding his older sibling, as he’s always been a touch jealous.

The most important of the workload involves a music hall singer named Bessie Bellwood and a blackmail scheme. Photographic-hearing expert and Scotland Yard Sergeant Orville Sacker (Marty Feldman) briefs Sigerson, before the younger Sherlock unravels a series of tall tales that reveals that the real victim is Jenny Hill (Madeline Kahn), whose racy love letter might be exposed to her fiancé by the rascal Eduardo Gambetti (Dom Deluise). And, of course, in the mix is evil genius Moriarty (Leo McKern), who is prone to doing horrible things every 24 minutes, accompanied by his collection of villainous associates, including a main lackey (Roy Kinnear) and a grimacing henchman, Bruner (George Silver), who surveils Sigerson’s activities.

“Unless I’m very much mistaken …” The dialogue is immediately humorous, utilizing repetition and double entendres and interruptive exclamations to significant effect. Sigerson’s acute intelligence comes across as badgering and forceful, yet it too is hilarious, often provoking further verbal chaos. And although there are action sequences – from standard sword fights to duels with creative props – it’s the moments of tongue-twisting discourse that prove most memorable. And these are often alternated with quieter bits of chatter that highlight lapses in judgment and simple errors.

Also prominent are song-and-dance numbers, making use of the stars’ musical talents, and plenty of slapstick moments, routinely taking the characters (and the audience) out of the story proper. Curiously, the camera captures countless seconds in which supporting roles begin to break character, not entirely able to maintain their composure during sillier gimmicks, which adds to the sense that the reality of the film comes and goes; little about this film can be taken seriously. In one way, it makes the narrative a spoof, as if mocking all police procedurals (like a Mel Brooks undertaking). But conversely, the mystery isn’t absorbing, reducing much of the investigating to mere roughhousing vignettes.

As if improvising the plot, random things seem to pop up continually – like booby traps, comical nudity, extravagant costumes, and artistic endeavors devolving into outrageous pandemonium. “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother” is stuffed with considerable amounts of nonsense. Yet it’s nevertheless enjoyable, very funny at times, immoderately stupid at others, and impressive considering that Wilder not only starred in it, but also wrote and directed it as well.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10