7.4/10
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Murder by Death (1976)

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3:08 | Trailer
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
4,865 ( 189)
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:

Since June 23, 1976 millions of men and women have seen Neil Simon's "MURDER BY DEATH." Only 17 have understood the ending of the picture. Ask any one of them. Any one. 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

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$38,200
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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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

Furnishings for the mansion, according to Set Decorator Marvin March, were valued at more than twenty-five dollars. Employed were antiques from the Mark Hopkins Estate in San Francisco, other antiques rented from exclusive Los Angeles shops, and some old pieces from The Burbank Studios property department. In addition to the classic furniture pieces, there were authentic suits of armor, period paintings, porcelain, daggers, and old swords, "and many stuffed animal heads. Because of numerous special effects sequences, some copies of paints had to be created. Peep holes are present in the movable eyes of several of the paintings." See more »

Goofs

(at around 54 mins) When Milo Perrier is in the kitchen inspecting the dead body of the butler with Jessica Marbles and Inspector Wang, he discovers a note in the butler's hand. When he removes it, it gets ripped. When we see him in the next shot with the note, it is no longer ripped. See more »

Quotes

Milo Perrier: He's gone!
Jessica Marbles: Who's gone?
Milo Perrier: The butler. Here's the key.
Sidney Wang: If butler gone, where you find key?
Milo Perrier: In his pocket.
Jessica Marbles: What pocket?
Milo Perrier: The butler's pocket.
Sidney Wang: Butler gone but pocket still there?
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

Spoofs The Maltese Falcon (1941) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

Interesting cast make interesting spoof!
14 March 2001 | by the amorphousmachineSee all my reviews

I remember seeing 'Murder by Death' once as a kid, so I thought I might rent it again. Unlike my numerous viewings of 'Clue', watching 'Murder By Death' seemed a new yet reminiscent experience.

'Murder by Death' is written by Neil Simon and directed by Robert Moore. It stars Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, James Coco, Peter Falk and David Niven. It's about five of the world greatest detectives that are invited to a mansion for dinner and a murder. It's basically a spoof of the on the mystery genre and the great detectives of literature and film. I am not familiar with Neil Simon's written work but the script did have some funny but also repetitive moments. Robert Moore's direction was adequate and the performances were good- most notably from Peter Falk and Peter Sellers.

Made in 1976, it's hard to imagine comedies being produced like this today. The main problem with 'Murder By Death' is that it seems to forget it's visual medium, and most of the gags come from the script. It's safe to assume that anyone could have directed this film, as it was the scriptwriter (Neil Simon) who was credited alongside the title. I felt that the mansion wasn't explored enough and therefore the mystery element was lacking. But then again, it was a comedy/spoof! I particularly liked the blind butler (Alec Guinness) and deaf cook (Nancy Walker) interaction! Peter Seller's Wang was very funny too, but I'm afraid some of today's politically correct audience will have a hard time separating racism from the obvious stereotypes in the portrayal of Wang and the other characters in the film. One must understand that the humour isn't based on race, rather Sellers was portraying a modern (at the time) 70s comic take on depictions of stereotypes within the character displayed in earlier detective, Charlie Chan. It was an obvious spoof on stereotypes already established in the famous detectives of the early era of film and literature.

There is also a really interesting performance by a young James Cromwell in this film, which was pretty funny. 'Murder by Death' is an interesting film, if only for it's cast in an unusual spoof on the unique mystery genre. It's fairly enjoyable to watch but it isn't a laugh-a-minute experience. *** out of *****!


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