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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (Blu-ray)
The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (Blu-ray)
Kino // PG // September 6, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted September 5, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Wilder, Kahn, DeLuise and Feldman in happier times

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn
Likes: Marty Feldman, Sherlock Holmes
Hates: That every star in this film is now gone

The Movie
The legendary detective Sherlock Holmes had an older brother, Mycroft, but, as Sherlock notes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, he only mentioned him when it was necessary. Thus, it's completely within the realm of reality that he had a younger brother as well, and that Holmes, Sigerson, is the star of this film, played by the late Gene Wilder, who also wrote and directed, in his first outing behind the camera. Struggling to live up to his brother's reputation, Sigerson has a major chip on his shoulder, which becomes an issue when he's called on to tackle a big case in Sherlock's absence.

To be honest, the case, involving some sort of document that Sherlock's foe Moriarty (Leo McKern, The Prisoner) wants, doesn't mean much at all in the big picture, and barely pays off in the end. It's really just an excuse for Wilder to play with his friends in a variety of pairings. With his Young Frankenstein co-stars Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn, he gets to be something of the straight-man to their silliness, as Feldman plays a human dictaphone and Kahn is a pathological liar, and both are fun to watch in their parts. Feldman plays his usual oddball type, mixing in some physical comedy with the character-based material, while Kahn, playing a role not unlike her Blazing Saddles character, gets some of the best moments in the film, including a hilarious response to Feldman's nuttiness and a single profanity that draws laughter every time, without fail. Besides having impeccable timing, she had a tremendous singing voice (there are several musical numbers) and was a stunning beauty to boot, making her one of the all-time greats, so any chance to watch her at work is welcome.

The only person to top her here might be Dom DeLuise, seen here in the era before he became known as Burt Reynold's chubby pal. His scenes opposite McKern and Kahn are ridiculous and ridiculously funny, as he plays an over-the-top opera singer caught up in Moriarty's machinations. The confidence and power with which he dives into his scenes leaves you little choice but to laugh. An insane fight with McKern (and another later with Kahn) should really just be stupid, but with him involved, it manages to draw laughs easily. Even Mel Brooks (who provides a voice cameo in this film) didn't get this kind of performance out of him.

Though there are some very funny moments in the movie, overall, they are too spaced out to carry the film through the valleys. Big set pieces, like a horse-and-buggy chase and a major sword fight, go on far too long, and some of the musical numbers don't add to either the comedy or the plot (no matter how charming "The Kangaroo Hop" may be when performed by Wilder, Feldman and Kahn.) Other moments feel too below the talent involved to really get laughs, like a gross gag involving candy or a backside-revealing scene that's just dumb, and would be aggravating if not for the goodwill Wilder and Feldman bring to the picture. The best way to tell if this movie is any good is to imagine it without its leads, and the reality is, it would have never been made without them.

The Disc
This entry in the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line arrives in a standard Blu-ray keepcase on a single Blu-ray disc with a static menu featuring options to watch the film, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles.

The Quality
The 1.85:1, AVC-encoded 1080p transfer here is not going to blow anyone away, for the simple fact that there's a rather obvious amount of dirt and damage present throughout (at times looking like a decades-old school filmstrip.) Otherwise, it's a good-looking disc, with nice, vivid (though inconsistent) color (the reds of the opera are gorgeous) and a good amount of fine detail, though the image can be excessively noisy and the contrast could be better, as there's a dullness to some scenes (while exterior scenes are a bit gauzy.) Black levels are good though, and digital distractions are not an issue.

The audio seems to be the original mono sound presented in a duped DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, and there are no concerns in this regard, as everything sounds clear and crisp, with good separation between the dialogue and the strong musical score. Straightforward and center-balanced, there's solid depth to the delivery, making for a good listen.

The Extras
There's only one genuine extra here, but it's a goody, particularly considering the timing of this release. Wilder provided a feature-length audio commentary for the original 2006 Fox DVD, in which he mused about the film, covering topics like how he became a director, his influences and his thoughts on his collaborators. A mellow speaker, he does leave large pauses in the track, but does spend time criticizing his own work and offering some production details, wrapping things up with some closing remarks. More info would certainly be nice, but considering that this is the last word on the film now, it will have to do.

Also included are trailers for two of Wilder's directorial efforts: Haunted Honeymoon (2:19) and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (2:53). Both promos are plodding affairs that don't do a particularly good job of making one want to watch the films.

The Bottom Line
The first film directed by Wilder, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother isn't as enjoyable or funny as his classic films, but there are definitely hilarious moments to be found, and the fantastic cast seems to be going for it in its various pairings. The presentation is solid, but certainly flawed, and the extras are limited, highlighted by a demure commentary by Wilder. Wider fans will definitely want to check this one out, but it's not likely to be a favorite.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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