Sherlock Holmes’ brother Sigerson (Gene Wilder), who absolutely hates his older brother, is tasked with a case from him to track down a missing document that was entrusted to a high level official by the Queen herself, and is aided in his efforts by Sgt. Orville Stanley Sacker (Marty Feldman), a man with photographic hearing. Madeline Kahn plays Jenny Hill, a woman who was blackmailed into stealing the document, and is now in danger of being murdered by those involved. Can Sigerson and his sidekick save Jenny and recover the document before she ends up dead and the document is auctioned off to the highest bidder?
Normally at the end of the synopsis I would say, “You’ll have to watch the movie to find out.” Unfortunately, I can’t say that this time, because I can’t recommend the film. It pains me to have to say that considering that the legendary Gene Wilder just passed away a couple of days ago, but sadly, this film just wasn’t good enough to get a recommendation. Not just the film, but the release itself.
So what was wrong? Why did it fail so badly? First off, it makes very little sense. I can see no valid reason why Sherlock Holmes felt the need to pretend to be out of town so he could pass the case off to his brother, especially when he’s hanging around in disguise all the time anyway. Even the end of the film seems to indicate that Sigerson knows that his brother has been hovering around the whole time, so I’m not really sure what the deal was.
Second, Professor Moriarty (Leo McKern) is supposed to be one of the most brilliant criminal minds that ever lived, but in this film he comes off as both random and incompetent. Yes it’s a comedy, but the way his character is done makes it almost cartoonish, and his henchmen fare even worse.
Third, Madeline Khan’s character was poorly written, and the interactions between her and Sigerson were more often than not confusing, if not downright annoying.
Fourth, there are a few musical numbers in this film that really need to be fast forwarded through because they’re so painfully bad and out of place.
Speaking of musical numbers, Dom DeLuise plays opera singer Eduardo Gambetti. He’s the one that blackmailed Jenny into stealing the document, and he’s receiving a considerable amount of money to hand it over to Moriarty. Dom DeLuise is almost always funny, and this film is no exception. His character was the one shining star in an otherwise dismal film. At one point during a performance, he licks the palm of Madeline Kahn’s hand, and I can’t help but to wonder if that was planned, or if it was something he just did on the spot. If it wasn’t planned, then kudos to Madeline Kahn for not missing a beat. She even casually wiped her hand off on his coat a short time later, which was quite funny.
Gene Wilder’s performance was fine, as was Marty Feldman’s. I have no real complaints with the performances in the film. It was the source material that was bad. The actors did what they could with it, but in the end it just wasn’t enough to save a story that was beyond saving.
For special features, this new release from Kino Lorber includes audio commentary by writer, director and star, Gene Wilder, as well as a trailer gallery. What this film doesn’t have is subtitles, and it desperately needed them at times.
One final note about this release, and this is a seriously important one, is that the visual quality was horrible. The video looked over compressed and excessively grainy. You expect a blu-ray release to look at least decent, and to have had some sort of restoration done on it, but there are scenes in this release that are of such low quality that they’re just painful to look at. I’ve seen some semi-grainy looking releases from Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics in the past, but never anything like this. Usually they look quite good, and like some effort has been put into restoring the film and cleaning it up for release. In this case, I’m not sure what happened. I can only comment on the end result, which is disappointing.
I don’t know. Maybe Gene Wilder just tried to do too much in this film, or maybe he simply just wrote a dud and it got made anyway because he was Gene Wilder. In any case, between the poor story, the painful musical numbers and the less than stellar visual quality of the release, I just can’t with any good conscience recommend this one. It’s worth seeing only for Dom DeLuise’s scenes, but other than that I’d recommend giving it a pass.
If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here.