For you eagle-eyed readers who catch this sort of thing, you may be asking, “Hey, Rob, why’d you discuss The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother AFTER you discussed three films whose titles began with (The) Adventures…?” Well, smarty-pantses, the reason I’ve gone out of strict alphabetical order is because way back in my first post I mentioned that I’d be discussing the films in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film in the order in which their main entries appear. And, as sometimes happens, an error was made—Michael Weldon (or his editors) made the mistake of listing this film as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, even though the actual title boasts of only one adventure. Singular. If that were an accurate title, we’d be in ABC-order heaven. But it wasn’t, so in keeping with my pledge, I NOW discuss this film, the title of which I’ve accurately reproduced at the head of the post.
Isn’t it funny how when you’re in junior high EVERYTHING is funnier? I recall that, over the entire course of my life, I’ve never laughed harder at the Road Runner cartoons than I did when I was in 8th grade or so. They’re still funny, but in 8th grade they were the apex, the ACME if you will, of humor. So it was with my theatrical viewing of The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. I thought that it was a stone-cold laugh riot. After rewatching it for this discussion, I remembered that I saw it originally when I was in junior high; ergo, it was a lot funnier then. It’s still an amusing film, but in junior high it ranked only behind Young Frankenstein as a film that made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe. And so I loved it, and I wanted to hug it and squeeze it and call it George.
Way back in the dark ages of the 1970s, if you wanted to relive a movie, you generally had to settle for reading the paperback novelization, or tie-in, as it was referred to. So I bought the novelization for this film. Here’s what it looked like:
If no novelization existed, you had to settle for the soundtrack. If neither existed, you had to rely on memories alone to tide you over until the film would eventually show up on TV. Home video was still several years away. However, as regular readers of this blog know, there were Super 8mm cut-downs of films available for purchase. I usually got mine at either Woolco or K-Mart, but they only carried the 10-minute versions. Around the mid-70s, Castle Films and its main competitor, Ken Films, started releasing 16-17 minute versions. IN COLOR. AND SOUND. So, once I found out that some of these films were in sound, I started pestering my folks like mad to buy me a sound projector. Well, they never bought me one, but I ended up saving my after school job money in high school and purchasing one, used, for somewhere around $200. I ended up buying two 400 foot digests—ever. They were REALLY expensive, compared to the seven dollars I was used to paying for a black and white, silent with subtitles, 10-minute version. I had to send off for them by mail, and they retailed for around $60—each. And do you know what two films I bought? Well, you wouldn’t exactly be Sherlock Holmes if you guessed that one of them was this film. And the other? Well, you’ll find out when I discuss it, when I get (or IF I ever get) to the films that begin with “R.”
As a note for home video history, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother was one of the very first films released on VHS and Beta. Its suggested retail was close to $80, but then again, you got the ENTIRE film in color and sound, so I guess in some weird way it was a bargain. Here’s what THAT looked like:
The movie itself is relatively silly, but oddly endearing. The laughs don’t come as fast or as furious as they did in Young Frankenstein, but then again, there are very few movies funnier than Young Frankenstein. The film was Gene Wilder’s first film as a director, and he gets the job adequately done. He says in the commentary track on the DVD that while he was shooting Young Frankenstein, he came up with the idea for doing a Sherlock Holmes comedy/mystery. He asked both Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn if they would be interested in doing it, because he wasn’t going to write it unless they agreed to be in it. They both agreed, and he started writing.
The cast of the film is great, with Dom DeLuise stealing every scene he’s in and Marty Feldman giving a relatively low-key performance. Gene Wilder is simply awesome, as always. Madeline Kahn is hysterical as a music hall singer (and pretty, too—I had a MAD crush on her back in the day!), but, man, did she have some pipes! It seems that I read somewhere that she was a classically-trained singer, and I can sure believe it after hearing her in this. The plot is really just one set-piece after another, with momentum building only during the opera sequence, which for me is the high point of the movie (keep a keen eye out for Albert Finney’s cameo). Check out some of the lyrics to Verdi’s A Masked Ball, as sung by Madeline Kahn in the film:
“Stop that! You’re such a tickle-tease. You know I’m super-passionate.
Oh, my, you make my heart go “Zow!” Try to hold on to your sex urge.
I won’t—I can’t sleep over. All right, I’ll try it once,
If I see that it doesn’t work, I’ll know that, oh, maybe practice will help!”
That, my friends, is sheer genius. Put it on your “To See” list.
Thanks to FilmFan1982, here’s the entire film, from YouTube, natch. As usual, watch it soon; it could disappear at any moment: