Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975) & The World’s Greatest Lover (1977)

          The comedy world suffered a blow when Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder stopped collaborating in the mid-’70s, because Brooks never found a better leading man, and Wilder never found a better director. A good example of how badly these men needed each other is The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother. A farcical mystery written and directed by Wilder, the movie features several members of Brooks’ stock company (Dom DeLuise, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Wilder), and it looks great (thanks to cinematographer Gerry Fisher). Better still, the basic idea of famed sleuth Holmes using an idiot sibling as a decoy is clever and fun. (The movie’s title is meant ironically.) Unfortunately, the gags run the gamut from insultingly stupid to numbingly stupid: Feldman and Wilder dancing at a formal ball with their rear ends exposed; Feldman, Kahn, and Wilder doing a cringe-inducing dance number called “The Kangaroo Hop” (twice); Wilder and British comedy stalwart Roy Kinnear fighting with an oversized glove and an oversized shoe for weapons. It’s all so painful that when cameo player Albert Finney shows up to ask a rhetorical question—“Is this rotten, or wonderfully brave?”—the answer is clear. Only the consummate skill of the players makes Smarter Brother borderline tolerable.
          Wilder went the auteur route again for The World’s Greatest Lover, which is shockingly awful. A period piece about a talent search for a silent-movie heartthrob in the mode of Rudolph Valentino, Lover is filled with moronic slapstick (like an endless gag involving an overflowing bathtub), and Wilder’s performance is atrocious. He spends nearly every scene screaming and bulging his eyes, so he looks like he’s receiving electroshock therapy instead of acting. Playing his wife, Carol Kane tries to ground a few scenes with her offbeat sweetness, but she was obviously instructed to match Wilder’s manic energy to the best of her ability, so she ends up mugging and screaming as well. Supporting Wilder once again, DeLuise goes way over the top in his costarring turn as a psychotic studio executive, and his preposterous hairstyle is just about the only amusing thing in this unbearable movie. Great poster, though!

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother: LAME
The World’s Greatest Lover: SQUARE


jf said...

Judging by the poster, Carol Kane has at least the right ^look^ for her role.

walkingfool said...

Just watched both films back to back. Both seemed to have potential, especially "Sherlock," because as you said, it was a decent concept. And even though I could appreciate the manic energy, the writing was horrendous. The plots were confusing and meandered all over the place, and the jokes were so bad they often left me scratching my head. If only Wilder had the wisdom to surround himself with a roomful of writers (as Brooks did in Blazing Saddles), perhaps he could have turned these nuggets of an idea into somewhat watchable fare.

Louis Letizia said...

Carol Kane had the distinction of appearing in both the "straight" Valentino bipic and Wilders Valentino spoof in same year. Ironically Mel Brooks High Anxiety and Wilders Lover both opened December 1977. Anxiety was the clear boxoffice winner with Marty Feldman directed spoof...Last Remake of Beau Geste also in 77 came neck and neck with Lover at the boxoffice