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Murder by Death (1976)

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


Robert Moore


Neil Simon
1,661 ( 1,494)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »





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


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


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


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Nurse Withers has the same last name as the character Hildegarde Withers, who appeared in several movies including Penguin Pool Murder (1932). See more »


(at around 52 mins) 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 »


Tess Skeffington: He had one daughter, thirty-two, her name's Irene, but she calls herself Rita.
Sam Diamond: Just like a dame.
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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 »


Spoofs The Thin Man (1934) See more »

User Reviews

Five known private eyes undertake an investigation and a millionaire offers a million dollars to the one who can solve the murder
8 May 2012 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

This popular charade deals with a fistful of famed stars incarnating notorious detectives . By the time the world's greatest detectives work out whodunit, you could die laughing! Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion full of secret passages and spinning rooms to solve an even stranger mystery , as James Coco as Milo Perrier who looks like Hercules Poirot (by Agatha Christie), as Peter Falk as Sam Diamond who looks like Sam Spade , Elsa Lanchester as Jessica Marbles similarly to Mistress Marple , David Niven as Dick Charleston as Nick Charles (created by Dashiell Hammett, whose Nick Charles and Sam Spade were the basis), Peter Sellers as Sidney Wang or Charlie Chan (written by Earl Derr Biggers). They are received by a blind butler played by Alec Guinness as Bensonmum and the eccentric millionaire Lionel Twain performed by Truman Capote invites them to dinner , offering one million to the one who can resolve the night's killing . As the popular characters must unravel a night of murder at a spooky country house , including a blind butler, a deaf-mute maid (Nancy Walker) . Exactly at midnight, a killing is going to take place.

This rendition of a Neal Simon's novel in an entertaining and fun spoof of Agatha Christie , specially from books titled ¨Ten little Indians¨and ¨And then there were none¨ . Neil Simon remained on the set to take care of re-writes, as he did with this picture's sequel, The Cheap Detective. 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. The screenplay is funny and high quality in which it's not difficult to work out on which murder-solvers each of them is modeled ; furthermore , stands up Alec Guinnes as a botcher and hyperactive blind butler and a suitable eccentric James Coco as Poirot lookalike and Nancy Walker's last movie , ironic in that she does not utter a single word throughout the entire film. In the opening credits, each character's eyes move except for Peter Falk's (which may be an in-joke reference to his glass eye), and Alec Guinness's blind butler . It is in fact an amusing imitation of Crime Story including enjoyable and sympathetic performances by the entire cast . Well-known actors have the famous sleuths at large in a sinister country mansion , then appears amusement and entertainment , as all of them running around and taking place murders , who's the killer? . The entire cast seems to be subsisting on sugar with wild eyes and frenetic movements the order of the day . You'll enjoy enormously the impersonations of legendary detectives of cinema and fictions . Lively and fun musical score by Dave Grusin . Evocative and colorful cinematography by David Walsh. The motion picture was well directed by Robert Moore . Rating : Better than average . Followed by another hammy spoof titled ¨Clue¨(1985) a pale imitation of the earlier parody , being directed by Jonathan Lynn with Tim Curry , Christopher Lloyd , Lesley Ann Warren and Madeline Khan .

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Release Date:

23 June 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Neil Simon's Murder by Death See more »


Box Office

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Technical Specs


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Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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