MURDER BY DEATH (1976)


Director: Robert Moore

Writer: Neil Simon

Starring: Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, David Niven, Maggie Smith, James Coco, James Cromwell, Elsa Manchester, Nancy Walker...

Rating: PG
Run time: 94 min

Genre: Comedy/Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Available on DVD

Reviewed by cherie jung

MURDER BY DEATH is one of those mystery/crime comedies I enjoy watching several times a year. (I also enjoy "The Black Bird" and "Clue.") It fits my sense of humor when I just want to watch something a bit silly but entertaining.

Five famous literary detectives are invited to a mysterious mansion for the weekend. Their host offers a challenge -- to witness a murder and solve the crime. The catch? The murder will occur at midnight, in the dining room, and one of the people present is the murderer. A million dollars is the prize for the detective correctly solving the case.

Alec Guinness, plays Bensonmum, the blind butler. Nancy Walker is Yetta, the deaf and mute cook. (Both are hilarious!) Truman Capote is the eccentric host Lionel Twain.

The invited guests include Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) and his number 3 adopted Japanese son Willie (Richard Narita), Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven, Maggie Smith), Inspector Milo Perrier (James Coco) and his secretary/chauffeur Marcel (James Cromwell), Miss Jessica Marbles (Elsa Manchester) and her nurse (Estelle Winwood), and Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) and his secretary Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan).

Even if you've never read the literary stories of these classic detectives, you'll have no trouble recognizing Charlie Chan, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade, Miss Marples, and Nick and Nora as they are spoofed in MURDER BY DEATH.

The pacing is brisk, the dialogue snappy. In fact, you may need to view the film more than once just to catch all the clever quips!

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