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Murder by Death (1976)

7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 20,653 users  
Reviews: 153 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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Cast

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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

Plot Keywords:

murder | detective | butler | guest | sidekick | See more »

Taglines:

By the time the world's greatest detectives figure out whodunnit... you could die laughing! See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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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

In the opening credits sequence, Sam Diamond's eyes are the only ones that do not change position. See more »

Goofs

When Milo Perrier, Sidney Wang and Jessica Marbles find the dead butler, Wang feels the wrist for a pulse and declares him dead. However, he did not even allow two seconds when feeling for a pulse, this is too short a time to determine if a pulse exists or not. See more »

Quotes

Tess Skeffington: My feet are killing me. Why didn't you tell me we needed oil before I went back for gas?
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Crazy Credits

As the opening credits begin, a pair of black-gloved hands comes into frame to unlock and open a footlocker containing the cardboard cutouts of the characters. These characters are displayed with their respective name credit. As the closing credits end, the same pair of black-gloved hands comes into frame to close and lock the footlocker. See more »

Connections

Featured in The 52nd Annual Academy Awards (1980) 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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