Murder by Death (1976)

PG   |    |  Comedy, Crime, Mystery


Murder by Death (1976) Poster

Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve an even stranger mystery.


7.4/10
34,816


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  • "Murder by Death," Truman Capote 1976 Columbia
  • Alec Guinness and David Niven in Murder by Death (1976)
  • "Murder By Death," Alec Guinness. 1976 /Columbia
  • "Murder by Death," Maggie Smith 1976 Columbia
  • "Murder by Death," Truman Capote 1976 Columbia
  • "Murder by Death," Peter Sellers 1976 Columbia

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


26 February 2001 | jhaggardjr
8
| Crazy comedy-mystery
"Murder by Death" is a comic murder-mystery done in absolute lunacy. I mean this is one screwball comedy that made me laugh out loud quite often. And yet, there are so many confusing moments that I didn't know what on earth was going on. It seems that writer Neil Simon was trying to complicate moviegoers with his screenplay to this movie which pays homage to detectives of old classic movies such as Charlie Chan, Miss Marple, Sam Spade, and Hercule Poirot. In "Murder by Death", a mysterious man invites the 5 greatest detectives to his home for "dinner and a murder" as he describes it. An all-star cast is featured here and all of them are very funny. The best: Peter Sellers in the Charlie Chan take-off. Sellers is of course best known for playing the inept Inspector Clouseau in the "Pink Panther" movies, but his role here as Chinese detective Sidney Wang is a hoot. He made me laugh the hardest. Just looking at him made me laugh. The way he talked made me laugh. He's naturally funny everytime he's on screen. Also funny: the great Sir Alec Guinness as a blind butler. I thought he was supposed to be a serious actor! I don't think I've ever seen Guinness in a movie comedy, but he makes the most of his character here. He comes second behind Sellers in the laugh department in "Murder by Death". Two other funny performances are turned in by James Coco and James Cromwell ("Babe" and "L.A. Confidential") as the Hercule Poirot sendoff and his chauffeur. It's funny to watch a younger Cromwell here speaking with a bad European accent. David Niven, Maggie Smith, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, Elsa Lanchester, and Nancy Walker also register laughs too. But the most downright goofiest character in "Murder by Death" is the host orchestrating this crazy game, played by Truman Capote. He's very funny too. Another major factor in the film are the sets of the old mansion the movie takes place in. They're marvelous. But at times the story gets real complicated and seems to get parts dislocated. It bothered me a little the first time I saw this. Now I just sit back and let the movie play on. Neil Simon intended on this to be a crazy comedy and in that way he succeeded. "Murder by Death" is all-in-all a very enjoyable movie.

*** (out of four)

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Myrna Loy was originally offered the part of Dora Charleston (a role that was a spoof of the character that she had played in The Thin Man (1934) franchise) but she declined, later stating that "it would have been ridiculous to have Myrna Loy doing Myrna Loy". She also stated that she didn't want her "ass pinched by David Niven".


Quotes

Sidney Wang: What that?
Jamesir Bensonmum: Oh, it's nothing, sir. Just the cat.
Sidney Wang: That cat? You feed cat dog food?
Jamesir Bensonmum: I'm afraid he's a very angry cat, sir. Mr. Twain had him "fixed," and he didn't want to be.


Goofs

At one point, Monsieur Perrier is separated from the others by a locked door. Sam Diamond solves the problem by shooting out the lock. However, later, when he and Miss Skeffington are locked in their bedroom, it doesn't occur to Diamond to free them using the same method.


Crazy Credits

Opening credits: Starring (In Diabolical Order)


Alternate Versions

The original ABC Network broadcast of the film contained four additional scenes not found in the theatrical or DVD version. 1. Jessica Marbles' taxi driver (played by Peter Sellers) requests a large fare. 2. Dick and Dora Charleston narrowly avoid running over Tess Skeffington, who is walking back to Sam Diamond's car from a service station because she and Sam ran out of gas. Satisfied that Tess is all right, the Charlestons simply drive off, leaving her there. 3. When Willie Wang covers up the body of Twain, he finds a note in Twain's hand and smugly announces this to the others. 4. As the detectives drive away from Twain's house at the end of the film, Inspector Wang and Willie pass another car carrying Sherlock Holmes (Keith McConnell) and Dr. Watson (Richard Peel) heading towards the Twain home. When Willie asks his father "Why didn't you warn them?" Wang replies "Let idiots find out for themselves."

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Comedy | Crime | Mystery | Thriller

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