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Murder by Death (1976)

PG  |   |  Comedy, Mystery, Thriller  |  23 June 1976 (USA)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 22,103 users  
Reviews: 156 user | 50 critic

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

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Title: Murder by Death (1976)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Storyline

Despite not knowing him, the world's most famous detectives can't pass up the offer of a "dinner and murder" invitation from wealthy Lionel Twain. Each has no idea until their arrival at Two Two Twain who else will be in attendance. Those detectives are: amateur sleuths and New York socialites Dick and Dora Charleston, accompanied by their pet terrier, Myron; Belgian detective Monsieur Milo Perrier, accompanied by his chauffeur, Marcel; Shanghainese Inspector Sidney Wang, accompanied by his Japanese adopted son, Willie Wang; frumpish Brit Miss Jessica Marbles, accompanied by her invalid nurse, Miss Withers; and San Francisco gumshoe Sam Diamond, accompanied by his femme fatale sidekick, Tess Skeffington. The dinner part of the invitation runs into problems due to the non-communication between Twain's blind butler, Jamesir Bensonmum, and Twain's new deaf-mute and non-Anglophone cook, Yetta. On the murder side, the guests initially believe Twain will try to kill each of them. However, ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

You are cordially invited to dinner... and a murder! See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

23 June 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Crimen por muerte  »

Company Credits

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(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Neil Simon remained on the set to take care of re-writes, as he did with this picture's sequel, The Cheap Detective (1978). Simon took such a shine to Alec Guinness during the picture's production that he told him if he did not like anything in the film, he'd immediately rewrite it for him, but Guinness assured him it was great fun for him. See more »

Goofs

When the Gargoyle falls on Inspector Wang and son, the position of the debris changes between shots. The first time the large "chunk" is on the steps. On the next shot it is down the steps next between Wang and son. See more »

Quotes

Jamesir Bensonmum: Oh, Yes. As you can see, I can see.
Sidney Wang: So I see.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"starring (in diabolical order)" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Jonny Moseley/Outkast (2002) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
What A Hoot
19 August 2006 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

An all-star cast, superb dialogue, effective lighting and editing, great production design, and interesting costumes rev up the technical quality of this cinematic spoof of literary whodunits. An eccentric genius named Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) invites the world's five greatest fictional detectives to a dinner party, at which time someone will be murdered. The detective who solves the crime first gets $1 million.

Everything in this film, from the acting to the sound effects to the plot ... is deliciously exaggerated ... hence the humor. For example, mystery readers accept that Hercule Poirot and Charlie Chan are so observant as to spot the most obscure clue, which conveniently points to the solution of the puzzle. In "Murder By Death" writer Neil Simon exaggerates that gambit. A guest detective draws the most outlandish conclusion from the most irrelevant fact, which in turn is shot down by another guest detective who points out the flaws, and then proceeds to do exactly the same thing.

The dialogue is marvelous. In one scene the blind butler serves non-existent soup from an empty bowl, to which Miss Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) protests: "Murder by starvation, maybe that's his game". In another scene, Inspector Perrier (James Coco) reads from a list, and then concludes: "Everything here has been rented for tonight". Miss Marbles responds in a melodramatic voice: "You mean?" "Yes", answers Perrier momentously: "this entire murder has been -- catered".

And then there's the scene wherein Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) ruminates: "I don't get it; first they steal the body and leave the clothes; then they steal the clothes and bring the body back. Who would do a thing like that?" To which Dick Charleston (David Niven) responds in a serious tone: "Possibly some deranged dry cleaner".

The film's casting is wonderful. Truman Capote may not be much of an actor, but he brings to the film a personality that is appropriately eccentric. My only problem is that the amount of screen time for the cast is uneven ... too much for Peter Falk and Peter Sellers, and not enough for Elsa Lanchester, who arrives late.

"Murder By Death" is a wonderful film classic that still holds up thirty years after it was made. The film conveys no heavy-duty political or social "message", no great insight into the human condition. But when you're in the mood for lighthearted, escapist entertainment that provides some laughs, this film is a great choice.


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