Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

Go To

"Why don't we all drink some very sexy wine?"
Sigerson Holmes

This 1975 comedy film is the directorial debut of Gene Wilder, who also wrote the screenplay and stars in the title role.

Many fans will recall that Sherlock Holmes did in fact have an older brother, Mycroft, who by all accounts was indeed smarter than Sherlock, yet too lazy to accomplish what Sherlock had. This film follows his younger brother Sigerson's Day in the Limelight.

London, 1891: Jenny Hill (Madeline Kahn), an opera singer and bride-to-be of the new Minister of Defense, is blackmailed into stealing the "Redcliff Document", which details Britain's defense plans. The blackmailer, Eduardo Gambetti (Dom DeLuise), intends to sell the document to Professor Moriarty (Leo McKern), who plans in turn to sell it to the highest bidder. Because Holmes and Watson are off on holiday, Sgt. Orville Sacker (Marty Feldman) of Scotland Yard seeks out the services of Sherlock's younger brother, Sigerson, also a detective. Sigerson (Wilder) is insanely jealous of his older brother's success, and leaps at the opportunity to prove his own self-proclaimed superior intellect.

The rest of the movie runs mostly on Rule of Funny.

This film includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • All Part of the Show: Sigerson, Sacker and Moriarty's assistant during the opera.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Sigerson uses the "repeatedly ask a question" version on Jenny Hill twice.
  • Auction of Evil: Moriarty's mini-auction between Russia and France for the Redcliff Document.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Subverted. Sherlock helps Sigerson save Jenny Hill from an assassin at the last minute, but stays in the shadows in order to let his brother win one all on his own.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Sherlock and Watson are in a room when Holmes silently informs Watson that there's someone listening at the keyhole. They then have a conversation intended to fool the eavesdropper that they're leaving the country.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted when Moriarty confronts Sigerson.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall. In The Cameo below, Albert Finney turns and talks to the audience, wondering if the opera was really "rotten, or just wonderfully brave".
  • The Cameo:
    • Albert Finney as an opera patron who criticizes Gambetti's performance.
    • Mel Brooks dubs the voice of the henchman who's fed to a tiger.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sigerson is practicing fencing when we first meet him.
  • Clothing Damage: Both Holmes and Sacker lose the seats of their pants and undershorts to a Death Trap.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Even in a madcap comedy, Gambetti and Moriarty stand out with their impulsiveness and their range of verbal and physical tics. In one scene, they do business, fight, pour water over each other, get undressed, and climb into bed together to take a nap.
  • Confessional: Parodied by Moriarty's coin operated robot version.
  • Counting Bullets: Happens when Moriarty is about to shoot him with a Webley's #2.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Sigerson and Sacker hide behind Gambetti's curtains while breaking into his office. He detects them when they somehow manage to walk right through his window and become hopelessly stuck on the frame.
  • Dual Wielding: Moriarty's henchmen and Sigerson duel with whips atop moving carriages.
  • Flynning: The sword fight between Sigerson Holmes and Professor Moriarty.
  • Freudian Excuse: Sorta... Moriarty claims he has a hereditary condition that causes him to do something "absolutely rotten" every 24 minutes.
  • Instant Sedation: The pills Sacker puts in the wine during the opera scene.
  • Large Ham: Everyone indulges in it, but Moriarty is the largest of them all.
  • Mad Mathematician: Moriarty is supposedly a professor of mathematics... yet he doesn't seem to be able to perform long division with decimals. 2+2=4 is the only correct math problem on a board behind him in one scene. The rest are either incorrect or have a question mark under the answer.
  • Ms. Fanservice: A lot of characters spend a lot of time either groping Madeline Kahn's boobs, or talking about groping her boobs, Wilder himself writing and directing the longest one of all.
  • Mythology Gag: The name Sigerson originated in the Holmes canon as a cover identity used by Sherlock while traveling abroad in the three-year time gap between "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House".
  • Naked People Are Funny: After escaping Gambetti's Death Trap, both Sigerson and Sacker are left bare-assed.
  • The Napoleon: A strange inversion. Moriarty is a good six feet tall, yet still stands on an elevated platform to make himself appear taller than his henchmen (as well as having them crouch down when he talks to them).
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: After a Groin Attack with a giant shoe — "Oh taxi!" [thud] Also counts as a Visual Pun since he's quite literally given the boot.
  • Noodle Incident: The Case of the Three Testicles.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Sigerson Holmes and Jenny Hill go for an outing in a rowboat. Since this is a comedy, Sergeant Sacker comes along as the rower and his accidental mistakes with the oars repeatedly cause Sigerson to be splashed in the face with water.
  • One Dose Fits All: The pills Sacker puts in the wine during the opera scene. When the various actors drink the wine, they instantly collapse.
  • Performer Guise: Sigerson and Sgt. Sacker don costumes and perform in a play in order to retrieve the Redcliff Document.
  • Photographic Memory: Sgt. Sacker has phonographic memory — he can exactly repeat anything he has ever heard. At one point he begins to skip like a record.
  • Pretty in Mink: Jenny wears a white fox muff on the rowboat date.
  • Pushed in Front of the Audience: The "getting on stage is the only way for them to get close to a MacGuffin" version occurs. Sigerson Holmes and his Sidekick Sergeant Sacker go onstage as actors during an opera to recover the Redcliff Document.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Moriarty has a cluster of small snakes.
  • Sherlock Scan: Parodied. Sigerson twice makes a deduction about who is about to walk through his door based on the sound of their footsteps on the stairs outside the door. He's completely wrong, and someone else entirely walks in.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The scene where Moriarty tricked his henchman Bruno to his death was a reference to Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger?"
    • Moriarty's being forced to do something evil every 24 minutes was a tribute to Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, which had a man cursed to perform an evil act every day or die.
  • The Show Must Go On: Sigerson Holmes and Professor Moriarty (and their minions) engage in a secret contest behind the scenes of an opera performance to get some important papers. Their shenanigans include dropping sleeping pills into the cups the actors are drinking from, firing guns and breaking into song: the actors try desperately to keep the opera going despite the interruptions.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The songs Jenny sings are actual music hall songs.
    • The movie itself is absolutely packed with subtle gags only dedicated Sherlockians would get.
    • "Sigerson" is an alias Sherlock Holmes uses when he's presumed dead after "The Final Problem" but before his return in "The Empty House".
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Sigerson isn't quite the genius he proclaims himself to be.
    • Neither is Moriarty, which is a big part of the humor since both the hero and villain are little more than blusterers.
  • Sword Cane: Sigerson uses one while fighting the mooks during the carriage battle.
  • Stylistic Suck: Gambetti's English translations of Italian operas.
  • Vocal Dissonance: A running gag has what sounds like a woman knocking on the door to Sigerson's office and calling him, and when he tells "her" to come in, it turns out to be his manservant Hunkston.
  • The Voiceless: Colonel Moran (listed simply as "Moriarty's gunman" in the credits) makes an appearance in several scenes, with his notorious air-rifle, but never says a word.
  • Whole Costume Reference: Sigerson regularly wears a velvet costume with a cape and hat, almost identical to one worn by a young Oscar Wilde.
  • You Have Failed Me: Moriarty feeds one of his Mooks to a tiger for failing to tail Holmes and Sacker (and because he needs to do something evil every 24 minutes).