HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen
Porky’s II: The Next Day
It Happened Here
Giant from the Unknown
211
Top of the Bill
Set It Off
No Way Out
Traffik
Pitch Perfect 3
Insidious: The Last Key
Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, The
Dirty Carnival, A
King of Hearts
Crowhurst
And the Same to You
Racer and the Jailbird
Superman and the Mole-Men
Phantom Thread
Sweet Country
Loophole
Irma La Douce
Brigsby Bear
Wish Upon
Gringo
Finding Vivian Maier
Shape of Water, The
Lady Bird
Endless, The
Universal Soldier: The Return
   
 
Newest Articles
ITC What You Did There: Retro-Action on Blu-ray
And It Was the Dirtiest Harry We Have Seen in a Very Long Time: The Dirty Harry Series
Manor On Movies: The Astounding She Monster
Manor On Movies: Don't be a dolt. That's not a cult (movie)
Wes Anderson's Big Daddies: Steve Zissou and Others
Bad Taste from Outer Space: Galaxy of Terror and Xtro
A Yen for the 1990s: Iron Monkey and Satan Returns
Hey, Punk: Jubilee and Rock 'n' Roll High School
Help! with The Knack: Richard Lester in 1965
Roll Up, Get Yer Free Cinema: The Shorts on the BFI Woodfall Blu-rays
Time for Heroes: The Dam Busters and How I Won the War
Hell is a City: Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver
Boris Goes Bonkers, Bela Goes Bats: The Old Dark House and Mark of the Vampire
Charles Bronson's Mid-70s: Breakheart Pass and Others
Kids in America: The Breakfast Club vs Metropolitan
   
 
  Murder By Death Watching The DetectivesBuy this film here.
Year: 1976
Director: Robert Moore
Stars: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Maggie Smith, Eileen Brennan, Alec Guinness, James Coco, Elsa Lanchester, Truman Capote, Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell, Nancy Walker, Richard Narita
Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: The mysterious Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) sends out invitations to five famous sleuths to meet with him at his isolated mansion in the country. It is a foggy night, and the guests are slow to arrive, among them being Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith) who have to stop their car when they become lost. Fortunately Dick finds a telephone, but when he calls the mansion, the line is suddenly cut as if the wires had been snipped; to top it all, the Charlestons' terrier then goes missing. Meanwhile, detective Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) is being driven to the house by his Number Three Son Willie (Richard Narita), and who should they encounter when they stop to get their bearings but Dick?

The genre of the detective who arrives at the scene of the crime and makes swift work of uncovering the culprit, the motive and the method, and then goes on to apprehend the villain with a flourish, is just begging to be sent up, and that was the idea behind Murder By Death. But that idea is all it has in its favour, because once the crimefighters are assembled, which takes a whole half hour of screen time, it's clear that the once in a lifetime cast don't have many opportunites thanks to Neil Simon's only fitfully amusing script. The cast is the film's strongest feature, and assist tremendously in not making the enterprise a waste of time.

It's not only Nick and Nora Charles and Charlie Chan (naturally played by an Occidental actor in makeup) who get the spoof treatment. Soon we see Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) and his secretary (Eileen Brennan) driving up, a parody of Sam Spade - but not a parody of Columbo as you might be expecting from Falk, the only actor who plays a master detective regularly elsewhere. They are joined by a Poirot takeoff, Belgian Milo Perrier (James Coco) and his assistant/driver (James Cromwell), and a pseudo-Miss Marple, Miss Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) arriving with her nurse (Estelle Winwood) who is older and more infirm than she is.

The stars don't stop there, as Alec Guinness is in the role of the butler, Bensonmum, here a blind man leading to an abundance of jokes centering around the fact that he can't see. Then the maid (Nancy Walker) shows up to cook dinner, who has the not-particularly-hilarious-either disability of deafness, just to make thing even more difficult. The level of wit depends on wordplay - "Have you seen a little white - Wang!" "A white wang?!" - which isn't too bad, but not along the generally more sophisticated lines of what it's spoofing. And the plot doesn't hold up to much criticism as it's obviously a way of getting from one joke to another.

Eventually everyone has arrived and are seated around the dining table, and cunningly noticing that someone has been laying deadly traps for each one of them. Then Twain makes his entrance, and Capote is the only actor who seems miscast, probably due to him not really being an actor, looking as if he has trouble reaching the end of each of his lines. He's not in the film enough to harm it, however, and he does relate the important information that an unlucky person in the house will be killed at the stroke of midnight. What saves Murder By Death are the talented players, managing to wring the humour out of the most groaning lines, and as such make the film worth seeing. But you get a feeling of frustration on the part of Simon with the writers of the material he lampoons, as if he couldn't think up a plot worthy of his characters - it just doesn't make any sense. Tex Avery did it better in five minutes. Music by Dave Grusin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 7900 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
Spectre
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
George White
Graeme Clark
Enoch Sneed
Stately Wayne Manor
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
  Jamie Nichols
Andrew Pragasam
   

 

Last Updated: