The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother arrives on Blu-ray September 6th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canonical Sherlock Holmes, the great detective has an even more cunning but hopelessly lazy older brother, Mycroft (memorably portrayed by Stephen Fry in the most recent Guy Ritchie adaptation, as one example), from whom he occasionally enlists aid when stumped by a particularly vexing problem. One might assume from the title of Gene Wilder’s directorial debut that this is a film about Mycroft, but it instead focuses on a younger, very jealous brother named Sigerson who envies Sherlock’s reputation and fancies himself his brother’s equal.

Knowing this beforehand, I worried that perhaps this would be a farce with either ignorance or disregard toward the actual Sherlock Holmes mythos, but it quickly placated this concern: it’s almost immediately established that Sigerson is a heretofore unknown third brother, rather than merely a haphazard stand-in for Mycroft. In fact, Gene Wilder, as he states in the commentary, was an avid fan of Doyle’s stories, having read them many times over. Sherlock and Watson themselves are characters in the film as well, and while their roles are merely tangential, they’re at the center of some the film’s best moments.

The film seems an obvious reflection of Wilder’s work with Mel Brooks, and specifically Young Frankenstein (1974), which immediately preceded it. During that film’s editing, Brooks hypothesized to his co-writer Wilder that having begun writing, he would inevitably turn to directing. This prophecy came true even sooner than he expected; Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother hit theaters in 1975. In addition to Wilder himself, the core cast consists of Young Frankenstein co-stars Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn (whose parts were written specifically for them), and Brooks regular Dom DeLuise. Brooks himself cameos offscreen in a brief voice role.

Although the story goes that he didn’t originally plan to direct, the role of Sigerson seems tailor-made for Wilder himself to star, indulging in some of his own fancies, such as fencing and singing showtunes. Aside from not being British (nor trying to), he suits the role well. Faring even better is bug-eyed Marty Feldman as his Watson-equivalent sidekick, who has an “audiographic” memory, able to remember and recite large quantities of exposition for humorous effect. Madeline Kahn plays Sigerson’s client and love interest who is the victim of a blackmail plot, a lovely music hall singer whose many lies and half-truths include her name.

Unfortunately, I feel that Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother doesn’t seem to really ever seem to get a clear grasp of what its gimmick is. Sigurson is clearly jealous of his brother “Sheer Luck”, but his competence as a detective fluctuates. There’s obviously an intentional irony that he’s clearly not a “Smarter Brother” as the title implies, but rather than going the opposite direction, he’s merely a lesser version of Sherlock. Contrast that with 1988’s cleverer and funnier spoof Without A Clue, which projects an alternate fiction in which Watson is the true genius behind a completely doltish Sherlock Holmes. Without A Clue works much better because of the sharp contrast.

Like many 70s comedies, the humor seems a bit quaint to me, and the overall effect is one of general amusement and silliness as opposed to overt hilarity. I also found the musical aspects (which are much more prominent than I ever would have expected, due to its plot being tied up in an opera hall and its performers) a bit tiresome. But the film is engaging as a mystery-adventure. Despite not finding it particularly funny beyond a few of the better gags, I did like the story as a sort of Sherlock Holmes spinoff, and found the final act, which climaxes with a riotous theatrical brouhaha that winds its way to the prop and costume room, then wraps with a surprisingly tender finish, a very satisfying ending to a merely serviceable comedy.

The Package

The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother arrives on Blu-ray September 6th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, alongside another Gene Wilder-directed film, the critically lambasted Haunted Honeymoon. Its package is of their usual sort, in an unadorned Blu-ray case featuring original poster art on the cover.

Special Features and Extras

The disc includes a director’s commentary and trailers for both Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and Haunted Honeymoon.

Director’s Commentary with Gene Wilder
 I was excited to listen to Gene’s commentary on this, his directorial debut, especially in light of his recent passing. He seems pretty honest with his thoughts, both proud and critical of certain parts of the film. Amusingly, he notes that a scene in which he fondles Madeline Kahn’s breasts took several reshoots. Unfortunately it’s quite a sparse track, peppered with occasional musings and remembrances but also long stretches of silence. This track would’ve been better off with a moderator or interviewer keeping things conversational.

Theatrical Trailers
 SD trailers for both The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (2:53) and Haunted Honeymoon (2:19).


An amusing romp in Sherlock Holmes’ Victorian world, but not without its holes.

A/V Out.

Get it at Amazon:
 The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother — [Blu-ray] | [DVD]

Previous post FX’s THE STRAIN Hits Its Stride With Season 2 [Blu-ray Review]
Next post Revisiting the NIGHT GALLERY