Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Game Is Afoot Double Feature 05.09.00

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and Without a Clue

Almost as soon as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had finished writing The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes became one of the world’s most famous literary characters. Edgar Allen Poe’s Auguste Dupin may have been the first modern detective, but Holmes became the prototype for all detectives to follow, a man who used his keen intellect and something called “deductive reasoning” to solve the most puzzling, mind-boggling cases.

Sherlock Holmes was a film favorite as well, portrayed by such luminaries as John Barrymore, Clive Brook, Basil Rathbone, Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Christopher Plummer, Stewart Granger, Charlton Heston, and even Roger Moore. Whether Conan Doyle would like it or not, Holmes has traveled in time, investigated the Whitechapel Murders, teenage-ified by Barry Levinson, and appeared as a cartoon voiced by Peter O’Toole. Sherlock Holmes has also been lampooned. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother and Without A Clue are two of the best spoofs.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1974)

Sigerson Holmes: The clue obviously lies in the word "cheddar. "Let's see now. Seven letters. Rearranged, they come to, let me see: "Rachedd." "Dechdar." "Drechad." "Chaderd" -- hello, chaderd! Unless I'm very much mistaken, chaderd is the Egyptian word meaning "to eat fat." Now we're getting somewhere!

In Gene Wilder’s first film as writer/director, Sigerson Holmes (Gene Wilder) is the older brother of the Great Detective, Sherlock Holmes (Douglas Wilmer). The older, unappreciated, overcompensating brother of Sherlock Holmes, Sigerson desperately attempts to prove not only his worth, but his superiority to Sherlock, and, naturally, fails miserably on all counts. When Sherlock and Watson (Thorley Walters) leave London on a case, Sigerson inadvertently becomes the de facto master detective, a role he performs with mistaken gusto.

His investigation, aided by a Scotland Yard detective with “photographic hearing” Olville Sacker (Marty Feldman) and the engimatic, sexy Jenny Hill (Madeline Kahn), reveals an insidious plot masterminded by Moriarty (Leo McKern) to steal government documents, but mostly elicits laughter through a series of hilarious gags that owe more than a tip of the chapeau to Wilder’s mentor, Mel Brooks.

Without A Clue (1988)

Watson: I believe the case you're referring to is the Case of the Manchurian Mamba.
Holmes: Mambo, mamba. What's the difference?
Watson: Absolutely nothing, except that one is a deadly poisonous snake, while the other is a festive Carribean dance.
Holmes: It was a night like any other, when suddenly a knock came at the door. I opened it, and there were these Manchurians, doing a rather festive Carribean dance...

From the director of Captain Ron and the creators of TV’s Night Court, Without a Clue is a surprisingly witty and inspired, with delightful performances by Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. Unfortunately, it is grossly underrated. In the film, the character of Sherlock Holmes is an invention of the real master detective, Dr. John Watson (Ben Kingsley). The tales Watson weaves about his creation become legend, and Watson's office is inundated with potential clients in want of a consultation with the Holmes. To cover his ass, Watson hires Reginald Kincaid (Michael Caine), a boozy actor, to masquerade as Holmes. To the consternation of Watson, the drunken Sherlock is celebrated even when it is Watson who solves the crimes. When Professor Moriarty hatches a nefarious plot, Watson must begrudgingly solicit help from Holmes, with hilarious results.

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