The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother not only finds Gene Wilder starring as the title character but he is also the lead behind the camera, making his debut as a director from a screenplay he wrote. While the name of the world’s greatest detective is usually associated with mysteries, it shouldn’t be a surprise with Wilder at the helm that the film focuses more on comedy and music.
Set in 1891, important documents Queen Victoria gave Foreign Secretary Lord Redcliff (John Le Mesurier) are stolen. Sherlock decides to pass on the case to his younger brother, Sigerson (Wilder), who is resentful of his brother’s success. Scotland Yard records clerk Orville Sacker (Marty Feldman) is tasked with bringing the job to Sigerson. Shortly after Sacker’s arrival, a woman (Madeline Kahn) being blackmailed by Eduardo Gambetti (Dom DeLuise) also comes to request Sigerson’s help. This meeting is revealed to the Tourette’s syndrome-suffering Professor Moriarty (Leo McKern), who gets his assassins involved.
Smarter Brother is entertaining but uneven. The plot gets a little confusing, but the film is really just an excuse for the madcap shenanigans of Wilder and the gang. He and Kahn deliver a wonderful bit of ridiculousness when they break into “The Kangaroo Hop,” a song-and-dance number that finds them bounding about Sigerson’s home. Even funnier is the waltz Wilder and Feldman stumble into after surviving a buzz saw.
Unfortunately, the comedy isn’t consistent because of the action and musical scenes nor is it consistently funny. There’s a particularly odd sex scene between Wilder and Kahn where he tries to seduce information out of her, which wouldn’t go over well in today’s more sensitive cultural climate. Another knock against the film is that Sigerson is a rude, overbearing jerk, so the audience is unsympathetic to the character completing his goal.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio 1.85:1. Unfortunately, the print shows is dirty, with black and white specks. In the scene where Sigerson and Sacker first meet, marks that look like bubbles appear. Many of the other elements, like colors, blacks, and detail, are inconsistent. There is film grain throughout.
The audio is available in English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and its age is apparent as well, suffering from occasional hiss and pops. Otherwise, the dialogue is understandable, and the score and effects are adequate in support.
For the bonus material, Wilder delivers a pleasant commentary track, likely recorded for a previous home video release. There are trailers for Smarter Brother and Haunted Honeymoon.
Although not a top-tier comedy, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother offers some delights for devoted Wilder fans, who will certainly enjoy hearing his commentary on the Blu-ray. Those who don’t identify as such will likely find the film lackluster as a whole.