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Murder by Death (1976)

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

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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:

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

Neil Simon's Murder by Death  »

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(Metrocolor)

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

First of three Neil Simon written films featuring actor James Coco. The films were Murder by Death (1976), The Cheap Detective (1978) and Only When I Laugh (1981), the latter being the only one based on one of Simon's plays. Coco also appeared in Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972) on Broadway. See more »

Goofs

In several scenes, after he has dressed for dinner, Sam Diamond has what appears to be a large black fly on the back of his dinner jacket. This is actually a bullet hole. Dora Charleston mentions it when she first sees the hole. Sam replies "You should see the other guy." The issue isn't brought up for the rest of the film. See more »

Quotes

Milo Perrier: He's gone!
Jessica Marbles: Who's gone?
Milo Perrier: The butler. Here's the key.
Sidney Wang: If butler gone, where you find key?
Milo Perrier: In his pocket.
Jessica Marbles: What pocket?
Milo Perrier: The butler's pocket.
Sidney Wang: Butler gone but pocket still there?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: Starring (In Diabolical Order) See more »

Connections

Referenced in The War of the Roses (1989) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Interesting cast make interesting spoof!
14 March 2001 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

I remember seeing 'Murder by Death' once as a kid, so I thought I might rent it again. Unlike my numerous viewings of 'Clue', watching 'Murder By Death' seemed a new yet reminiscent experience.

'Murder by Death' is written by Neil Simon and directed by Robert Moore. It stars Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, James Coco, Peter Falk and David Niven. It's about five of the world greatest detectives that are invited to a mansion for dinner and a murder. It's basically a spoof of the on the mystery genre and the great detectives of literature and film. I am not familiar with Neil Simon's written work but the script did have some funny but also repetitive moments. Robert Moore's direction was adequate and the performances were good- most notably from Peter Falk and Peter Sellers.

Made in 1976, it's hard to imagine comedies being produced like this today. The main problem with 'Murder By Death' is that it seems to forget it's visual medium, and most of the gags come from the script. It's safe to assume that anyone could have directed this film, as it was the scriptwriter (Neil Simon) who was credited alongside the title. I felt that the mansion wasn't explored enough and therefore the mystery element was lacking. But then again, it was a comedy/spoof! I particularly liked the blind butler (Alec Guinness) and deaf cook (Nancy Walker) interaction! Peter Seller's Wang was very funny too, but I'm afraid some of today's politically correct audience will have a hard time separating racism from the obvious stereotypes in the portrayal of Wang and the other characters in the film. One must understand that the humour isn't based on race, rather Sellers was portraying a modern (at the time) 70s comic take on depictions of stereotypes within the character displayed in earlier detective, Charlie Chan. It was an obvious spoof on stereotypes already established in the famous detectives of the early era of film and literature.

There is also a really interesting performance by a young James Cromwell in this film, which was pretty funny. 'Murder by Death' is an interesting film, if only for it's cast in an unusual spoof on the unique mystery genre. It's fairly enjoyable to watch but it isn't a laugh-a-minute experience. *** out of *****!


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