1974’s Young Frankenstein is one of my favourite films. Everything about it works. Mel Brooks manages to get the tone right, the jokes are spot on and the lead actors, Gene Wilder, Madeleine Khan and Marty Feldman, are never beaten. In fact, I want it confirmed here that I think Madeleine Khan is one of my favourite comedy actors. She plays it straight faced with the best of them.
Anyway, I’m beating around the bush because what I’m going to say isn’t easy for me. The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’s Smarter Brother just isn’t that funny. Oh, it has its moments. Marty Feldman’s photographic hearing is a lovely little detail. Only being able to repeat what he’s heard from the very leads to a great scene as Feldman is constantly interrupted by Wilder making him a cup of tea. What could have been played with building frustration is all the better for Feldman reigning it in and refusing to get angry at Wilder’s interruptions. Other highlights include Dom Deluise and Madeleine Kahn performing an opera in English and gloriously over the top.
The rest of the film suffers from the curse of zany equals funny. Too many jokes fall flat or go on too long. The ballroom scene, in particular, with Feldman and Wilder unaware their arse cheeks are hanging out should be funny. Arses are generally funny but this scene, with added homophobia, just irks a little.
Having worked with him so much, it’s no surprise that that Wilder would emulate Mel Brooks in his directorial debut; Brooks even makes a tiny cameo. It’s just a shame this is more Dracula: Dead and Love It, than Blazing Saddles.