Murder By Death Cover What comprises a really good murder mystery? A crime? Sure. A culprit? Of course. A clue? Most probably. A detective? Hell yes. But what about this film Directed by Robert Moore; and Starring: Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, David Niven, Alec Guiness, Maggie Smith, and many,many more? It was made in 1976, and has a total running time of 93 minutes.

Murder By Death

Once upon a time, five of the most famous detectives in the world, are sent a message in the mail, which asks them to attend a dinner party held by eccentric multi-millionaire, Lionel Twain (Truman Capote). Obviously, each of these detectives accepts his invitation, and then travels to Lionel's house to see what he wants with them.

Now the detectives in question are: Chinese Inspector, Sidney Wang, and his adopted Japanese son, Willie (Peter Sellers and Richard Narita). British socialites, Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith) . Belgian investigator, Milo Perrier, and his chauffeur, Marcel Cassette (James Coco and James Cromwell). Hard boiled American detective, Sam Diamond, and his comely secretary, Dolores (Peter Falk and Eileen Brennan). Plus finally, amateur English sleuth, Jessica Marbles , and her frail nurse (Nancy Walker and Estelle Winwood)

Please note, each of these super-sleuths are individually greeted into Lionel's gothic abode by his blind butler, Jamesir Bensonmum (Alex Guness), before being shown to their respective rooms one by one. However, it isn't until after they all, freshen-up, meet the 'other guests', and have a spot of dinner, that they are then met by the man himself - Lionel - whom proposes to them all a very special challenge...

'At midnight, someone will be murdered. And whomever can deduce who the culprit is, will win one million dollars, and be crowned the best detective ever'.

Pretty strange proposition, huh? Though, stranger still, is that all of these intrepid investigators are locked into Lionel' house, and can not leave it until the crime has been committed.

Moreover, during their subsequent sleuthing, a number of even more stranger occurrences’ occur: (1) Lionel disappears out of sight. (2) The butler turns up dead - first clothed - then his body goes missing - and finally the body turns up but the clothes are gone. (3) The deaf mute cook seeks comfort with the detectives - then disappears - only to reappear once more, revealed to be a robot manikin. (4) After some strange posturing goes on, it is also discovered that there are two dining rooms, plus two movable edifices which is controlled by the watchful eye of Lionel from afar. And (5) Come the stroke of midnight - BONG! - Lionel returns - THUMP! Dead - stabbed twelve’s times in the back by an unknown suspect.

Well, I suppose that is why what next transpires is a right manhunt I can tell you. As traps are set - detectives are met - revelations are kept - and the last person standing is a the one who will win the bet.

Now before I start my review on 'Murder by Death', please allow me get a few nerdish facts out of the way first, OK? (1) This was the film Alex Guinness was making when he accepted his role as Obi-Wan in 'Star Wars'. (2) This was James Cromwell first ever film role. (3) Originally, this film was a stage play written by Neil Simon. (4) Peter Seller's last ever film role was as another oriental, Fu Manchu. (5) The creator of 'The Addams Family', Charles Addams, drew the caricatures displayed at the beginning and the end of the film. (6) The concept behind this film was the main reason for its creation - why are murder mysteries constructed in such a way, that the hero always knows something that the reader does not. (7) Peter Sellers and David Niven starred in seven films together, two post-humorously. (8) Peter Falk took the character that was devised in this film, and then started to amalgamate components of this character into Colombo. (8) Truman Capote was an esteemed crime writer, and came to fame with his book 'In Cold Blood'. And (9) All the detectives in this film were pastiches for a reason - copy-write.

Peter and David in Murder By Death

Phew! Do you know what? I could go on with some more movie trivia you know - but I won't - I would rather tell you about the three 'deleted scenes' in this movie first, before my review.

  • DELETED SCENE ONE: At the beginning of the film, Dick and Dora Charleston avoid running over Tess on the road, whom has been hiking because Sam ran out of gas.
  • DELETED SCENE TWO: After the discovery of Lionel's body, Willie finds a note in his hand. However, before he starts to give a speech about his findings, he quickly clocks on that the note is worthless and throws it away.
  • DELETED SCENE THREE: At the end of the movie, when the murder is finally solved and everybody leaves, another set of detectives whom represent Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson show up too late (played by Keith McConnell and Richard Peel). Though, in an earlier draft of the movie, they were the detectives whom actually solved the case - but this was discarded, because the lead actors felt that they were being upstaged.

The cast of Murder By Death

Now to my review...

This film is good... the end.

Ha! Just kidding.

Well, as you most probably have gathered by now, with the amount of knowledge I have about 'Murder by Death' - you know that I love this movie. The script by Neil Simon is pure spoof - the actors in this film are comedic giants - and the overall package is just classic.

Murder By Death Movie

Personally speaking, I wished that they made more of these 'all star cast' comedy / mystery / satires today - because this type of thing is just dynamite with the right people behind it. Granted, I am sure that some of you out there in cyber-land, might think that I am a nut-job for saying something like this. Nevertheless, I pose to you this my dear reader - have you ever watched a film from start to finish, with this much character, this much class, this much humor, and this much un-politically correctness (I’m not sure if that’s a proper word either), and it still have enough charm to sink a battleship?

Just think about it! [Think here].

Another thing that would be good for you to think about, is the statement that ‘Murder by Death’ is trying to convey at the end of the movie [Think here again]. Well, lets face it, most mystery books - or movies for that matter - are a bit contrived in conclusion. Willy-nilly, a suspect is always pulled out of the hat, so he / she can be the culprit of said crime, one that on face value is not always apparent - just like how I am going to end this review...

Class film - shoddy review, ha!


MURDER BY DEATH MURDER BY DEATH Reviewed by David Andrews on February 13, 2012 Rating: 5
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