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See China and Die (1981)

A maid who reads detective stories finds herself embroiled in a real life mystery involving her dead boss and a mysterious statue he brought back from China.


Larry Cohen


Larry Cohen


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Esther Rolle ... Momma Sykes
Kene Holiday ... Sgt. Alvin Sykes (as Kene Holliday)
Frank Converse ... Tom Hackman
Paul Dooley ... Ames Prescott
Andrew Duggan ... Edwin Forbes
Laurence Luckinbill ... Dr. Glickman (as Lawrence G. Luckinbill)
Jean Marsh ... Sally Hackman
Fritz Weaver ... Poston
Jane Hitchcock ... Ruth
Claude Brooks Claude Brooks ... Jessie Sykes
William Walker II William Walker II ... Andy Sykes
Miguel Pinero Miguel Pinero ... Gonzalez
Jack Straw Jack Straw ... Norman
Arthur French Arthur French ... Rib Man
James Dukas James Dukas ... Transplant


A maid who reads detective stories finds herself embroiled in a real life mystery involving her dead boss and a mysterious statue he brought back from China. Written by Mike Justice <Fergus21@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery







Release Date:

9 January 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Momma the Detective See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

Big Hit Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Esther Rolle, Estelle Evans and Rosanna Carter are all sisters to one another. See more »


[Mama Sykes and her son are talking at the police station]
Sgt. Alvin Sykes: I'm worried about you, mama.
Momma Sykes: NOBODY'S gonna kill ME! Your father tried that a couple times and even he couldn't do it.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Aired as a 60 minute tv pilot and restored to original length See more »

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User Reviews

Dated and hilarious
6 August 2003 | by MikeJackKearneySee all my reviews

I remember when this movie premiered on TV, and I begged my mom to let me stay up and watch it because the preview featured a man in an oriental mask chasing Esther Rolle out to the end of a pier. It actually gave me nightmares for a few days. It re-ran on cable when I was a teenager and it became something of a "midnight movie" around my neighborhood. It's dated and hilarious, with a great, tv-movie-style canned jazz soundtrack and Esther Rolle being as sassy and irreverent as ever. In one scene, a mugger attacks her on the street and she's able to fend him off by repeatedly hitting him with her purse. He eventually runs off, screaming, "You're crazy, lady!" In the before-mentioned "pier" scene, she manages to knock the oriental-mask-wearing assailant off the dock by rocking it back and forth with her own weight. Still later, she throws Pine Sol in his face and warns, "You better run!" when he takes off crying in pain. After repeated viewings, my friends and I started talking back to the screen and acting out scenes from the film in our living rooms. I'd give anything to have a video copy of it today, but it's relatively hard to come by.

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