Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Murder by Death (1976)

Along with Family Plot, and The Hit, Murder by Death was one of the very first films I saw as a film fan. I'd seen plenty of films prior, of course, but these were the first when I really got into films, and they were among the first DVD's I ever owned! It's kind-of a disservice to 1976 whodunnit parody Murder by Death that I forgot I owned it for a number of years! I only remembered about this film a few days ago, thanks to an online pal mentioning it on Twitter, and naturally I rewatched it it immediately! And it's just as funny as I remembered!...

The film is about the world's greatest detectives, Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith), Milo Perrier (James Coco), Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers), Sam Diamond (Peter Falk), and Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester), who, along with their helpers (James Cromwell, Richard Narita, Eileen Brennan (R.I.P.), and Estelle Winwood), have been invited to the mansion of mysterious recluse Lionel Twain (Truman Capote), to solve an unsolvable murder...

Murder by Death is extremely funny, and the jokes all had me laughing my ass off! The plot is totally goofball, and I definitely got a kick out of the ending speech. The film is absolutely a fun parody!

The acting is all fine. Everyone is awesome!...Except for Richard Narita. Either his 'Gee whizz!' bad acting is deliberate, or he's not a very good actor.

The standouts are definitely Peter Falk as the exaggerated 'hardboiled detective', Peter Sellers as the Charlie Chan type detective (as for why Peter Sellers, a white guy, is playing an asian, 1, he's Peter Sellers, comedian of a thousand faces, and 2, more importantly, the character is a take on those old movies with an asian detective who'd always invariably be played by a white guy, and they tended talk broken English), and Alec Guiness as the blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum (The name makes sense in context).

Another thing of note is the pop-up character set in the opening and ending credits. Designed by Charles Addams*, they look great!

*The creator of The Addams Family

And that's all I have to say about Murder by Death. Not much, I know. That's the thing about comedies, you can't talk about them in-depth too much or you'll spoil all the jokes. And add to that the fact that the film is a whodunnit, then you can talk about it in detail even less. So, to finish, everyone needs to see Murder by Death, and I need to see its spiritual sequel The Cheap Detective, to see if it's any good!...


  1. I've never seen this movie, but I really have to get around to it soon! I'm very familiar with the poster because it's by my beloved Charles Addams, but I didn't know he was involved in the design of the opening and closing credits. Squeal! Off to Amazon now!!! Thanks, Chris!! :D

  2. Great to know! I hope you enjoy it!