Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)


In the 1800's, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson routinely solve mysteries, as per usual. On this occasion, however, Holmes 'sublets' the case of missing royal government documents to his younger brother Sigerson, who harbours deep resentment towards him. Aided by the kooky Sgt. Orville Stanley Sacker, 'man with a photographic sense of hearing', Sigerson is quickly found by the compulsively lying music hall singer Jenny Hill, who knows something about the missing papers, but refuses to let on, and soon the trio have to evade assassins, and uncover the truth, before the evil Professor Moriarty can fulfill his evil plans...

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother is a pretty bad movie! It's a 1975 Holmes-themed comedy written and directed by Gene Wilder, and for that reason I was looking forward to it, despite being skeptical at a Holmes movie with an American lead. Boy, did this disappoint! It's a boring piece of trash, to start with! It isn't funny at all! I mildly chuckled here and there, but for the most part, the movie is either lame, outright unfunny, or just plain gross and grotesque!

The story is pretty barebones. There's a macguffin that the characters need to find, and they need to get it before a villain does bad things. A lot of the film is annoyingly unexplored. Take for example Sherlock 'subtly' aiding Sigerson, which is completely dropped after the first theatre scene, and the great detective isn't seen again until the last few minutes of the movie. Also annoying are things like how Marty Feldman's character is entirely superfluous. I wish they would've written his part better, so he'd have more to do in the story. At least he becomes more proactive in the last half hour.
What also confuses me is the title and concept as a whole, which doesn't hold water. Sigerson isn't smarter than Sherlock, so it doesn't make much sense on face value, but he's not portrayed as dumb or clueless, so it doesn't work ironically* either. I guess it's just because of how Gene Wilder wanted to make A Sherlock Holmes comedy, but didn't want to 'make fun of the well-loved character' by actually having him as the lead, and thought that title was funny.

*I am at peace with the fact that I probably misused the word 'ironic' above.

The biggest issue with the plot is that it's unclear why Sherlock even drafted Sigerson into this case. The almost-reason given is tenuous at best! Related to this is Sigi's relationship with his brother. Why does he hate Sherlock so much? Never explained. It would've been neat to see that aspect explored more, and to have a conclusion to that plot thread. Maybe they could've written Holmes getting Sigerson onto the case as giving him a push to becoming his own detective, but rather than that, we get nothing.

The film's largest problem by far is that it simply doesn't feel like a Sherlock Holmes movie at all. There's little to no detective work, and no Holmesian deduction, while the unsuited comedy distances the movie further from the source material. A good counterpoint would be Without a Clue, which was fantastic, both in actually being funny, and how it felt like a Holmes movie! Come to think of it, these two movies side-by-side are actually good indicators of British vs. American humour.

The acting is hard to judge. From Gene Wilder, to Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, and others, these people can act, but the writing holds them back. Sometimes a good actor can make reading bad lines enjoyable, but sometimes it's just unworkable, as is the case here. Even worse? I was so happy to find out that Leo McKern is in this movie as Professor Moriarty! He'd be great in the role, without a shadow of a doubt!...However, this movie's wretched quality is indeed responsible for a greater sin than anyone could comprehend-It wastes Leo McKern, and THAT is a crime I cannot and will not forgive! When not completely wasting his great talents, and making him a completely unintimidating villain, it's making him annoying! Shocking, I know! Beyond that, his Irish accent keeps slipping. Also wasted is John le Mesurier. And also the whole cast, come to think of it. I'd say it was a shame for the leads, if not for the fact that they wrote and directed the film, so at least they were presumably happy with the end product.

The music in this film is weird. Weird in that it's not a musical, but there are a couple of spontaneous short songs, as well as a long-ish opera scene during the climax. As for how they sound, regardless of how odd their inclusion is, they range from ok to pretty decent. The Hop Like a Kangaroo one is actually the most painful to watch in a way, because it's so out-of-left-field and ill-fitting that I couldn't help but wince, but the tune and lyrics are actually quite fun!

Finally, the look of the film. It's fine. It looks like a typical Victorian period piece, and what you'd expect from a Sherlock Holmes story, in the visuals of the setting, at least.

To finish, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother is a pretty garbage watch, and it's a Holmes movie I can totally advocate avoiding adamantly! Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd best get to writing my review for Young Frankenstein, to make up to Gene Wilder for trashing this movie!...

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