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Murder by Death (1976)

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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
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Popularity
4,178 ( 869)
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. 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 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. ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

By the time Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker and Estelle Winwood figure out whodunnit, you'll die laughing. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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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

Gross USA:

$32,511,047, 31 December 1976

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$33,453,202
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Immediately after completing this movie, Peter Sellers was so convinced it was going to bomb, he convinced the producers to buy back his percentage share in the movie, thus depriving himself of a cut of the profits with the movie when it went on to be a hit. See more »

Goofs

The kitchen is in keeping with the period except for the double-door refrigerator/freezer with an ice-dispenser, first introduced in 1965. The Coke bottles seem modern. At that time "Coca-Cola", not "Coke" would have appeared on the bottles, more likely embossed than printed, and probably in a green bottle. See more »

Quotes

Dick Charleston: How lovely dear! We're in Wang's wing!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: Starring (In Diabolical Order) 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

Featured in Psych: 100 Clues (2013) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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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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