7.4/10
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196 user 61 critic

Murder by Death (1976)

Trailer
3:14 | Trailer
Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve an even stranger mystery.

Director:

Robert Moore

Writer:

Neil Simon
Reviews
Popularity
4,148 ( 196)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Eileen Brennan ... Tess Skeffington
Truman Capote ... Lionel Twain
James Coco ... Milo Perrier
Peter Falk ... Sam Diamond
Alec Guinness ... Bensonmum
Elsa Lanchester ... Jessica Marbles
David Niven ... Dick Charleston
Peter Sellers ... Sidney Wang
Maggie Smith ... Dora Charleston
Nancy Walker ... Maid
Estelle Winwood ... Nurse
James Cromwell ... Marcel
Richard Narita ... Willie Wang
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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 (Truman Capote). 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 City socialites Dick (David Niven) and Dora Charleston (Dame Maggie Smith), accompanied by their pet terrier, Myron; Belgian detective Monsieur Milo Perrier (James Coco), accompanied by his chauffeur, Marcel (James Cromwell); Shanghainese Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers), accompanied by his Japanese adopted son, Willie Wang (Richard Narita); frumpish Brit Miss Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester), accompanied by her invalid nurse, Miss Withers (Estelle Winwood); and San Francisco gumshoe Sam Diamond (Peter Falk), accompanied by his femme fatale sidekick, Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan). The dinner part of the invitation runs into problems due to the non-communication between Twain's ... 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 »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Peter Sellers also played Jessica Marbles' taxi driver, but the scene was deleted. See more »

Goofs

(at around 1h 14 mins) Milo Perrier tells Sam Diamond "I'm not a Frenchy... I'm a Belgie" referring to the fact he is from Belgium and not France. However, in discussing Twain's annual poodle hunt in France, he implies that's his home country, and later he says, referring to himself, that you should "never underestimate a Frenchman's nostrils." See more »

Quotes

Sam Diamond: Perfect, Sweetheart. They took the bait like a dumb halibut. Let 'em think I'm a pansy. While they're busy suspectin' me, one of them is gonna let his pants down.
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Crazy Credits

As the opening credits begin, a pair of black-gloved hands come 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 come into frame to close and lock the footlocker. See more »

Alternate Versions

The original ABC Network broadcast of the film contained four additional scenes not found in the theatrical or DVD version. 1. Jessica Marbles' taxi driver (played by Peter Sellers) requests a large fare. 2. Dick and Dora Charleston narrowly avoid running over Tess Skeffington, who is walking back to Sam Diamond's car from a service station because she and Sam ran out of gas. Satisfied that Tess is all right, the Charlestons simply drive off, leaving her there. 3. When Willie Wang covers up the body of Twain, he finds a note in Twain's hand and smugly announces this to the others. 4. As the detectives drive away from Twain's house at the end of the film Inspector Wang and Willie pass another car carrying Sherlock Holmes (Keith McConnell) and Dr. Watson (Richard Peel) heading towards the Twain home. When Willie asks his father "Why didn't you warn them?" Wang replies "Let idiots find out for themselves." See more »

Connections

Referenced in Boy Meets World: And Then There Was Shawn (1998) See more »

User Reviews

 
Crazy comedy-mystery
26 February 2001 | by jhaggardjrSee all my reviews

"Murder by Death" is a comic murder-mystery done in absolute lunacy. I mean this is one screwball comedy that made me laugh out loud quite often. And yet, there are so many confusing moments that I didn't know what on earth was going on. It seems that writer Neil Simon was trying to complicate moviegoers with his screenplay to this movie which pays homage to detectives of old classic movies such as Charlie Chan, Miss Marple, Sam Spade, and Hercule Poirot. In "Murder by Death", a mysterious man invites the 5 greatest detectives to his home for "dinner and a murder" as he describes it. An all-star cast is featured here and all of them are very funny. The best: Peter Sellers in the Charlie Chan take-off. Sellers is of course best known for playing the inept Inspector Clouseau in the "Pink Panther" movies, but his role here as Chinese detective Sidney Wang is a hoot. He made me laugh the hardest. Just looking at him made me laugh. The way he talked made me laugh. He's naturally funny everytime he's on screen. Also funny: the great Sir Alec Guinness as a blind butler. I thought he was supposed to be a serious actor! I don't think I've ever seen Guinness in a movie comedy, but he makes the most of his character here. He comes second behind Sellers in the laugh department in "Murder by Death". Two other funny performances are turned in by James Coco and James Cromwell ("Babe" and "L.A. Confidential") as the Hercule Poirot sendoff and his chauffeur. It's funny to watch a younger Cromwell here speaking with a bad European accent. David Niven, Maggie Smith, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, Elsa Lanchester, and Nancy Walker also register laughs too. But the most downright goofiest character in "Murder by Death" is the host orchestrating this crazy game, played by Truman Capote. He's very funny too. Another major factor in the film are the sets of the old mansion the movie takes place in. They're marvelous. But at times the story gets real complicated and seems to get parts dislocated. It bothered me a little the first time I saw this. Now I just sit back and let the movie play on. Neil Simon intended on this to be a crazy comedy and in that way he succeeded. "Murder by Death" is all-in-all a very enjoyable movie.

*** (out of four)


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

23 June 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Neil Simon's Murder by Death See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$38,200
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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