“Murder by Death” is a 1976 comedy-mystery film directed by Robert Moore, written by Neil Simon, and featuring an ensemble cast of famous actors. The film is a parody of the murder mystery genre and pays tribute to famous detectives, such as Hercule Poirot and Sam Spade.
The plot follows a group of five world-famous detectives who are invited to a remote mansion by a mysterious host. The detectives, played by Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, David Niven, and Maggie Smith, are challenged to solve a murder that will take place at midnight. The victim turns out to be their host, and the detectives must work together to solve the case and discover the killer’s identity.
The film is full of witty one-liners, clever puns, and hilarious gags that make it a joy to watch. The cast is outstanding, with each actor bringing their unique style to their character, and their interactions with each other are priceless.
One of the dated performances in the movie is Peter Sellers’ portrayal of Inspector Sidney Wang, a parody of Charlie Chan. Sellers’ painted in yellowface parodies a stilted and pidgin English that is not actually used by the character of Charlie Chan in his titular novels,
However, Alec Guinness is the blind butler, Jamesir Bensonmum, who is both hilarious and mysterious. James Coco parodies Hercule Poirot as a spoiled, fussy child that is always hungry and whining. Peter Niven and Maggie Smith are cool, detached, well-bred socialites imitating Nick and Nora Charles. Peter Falk plays a Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe type who continually rebuffs the advances of his besotted female companion. He’s crass, rumpled, and a shade too blue for the others at the mansion.
The film’s production design is also noteworthy, with the mansion’s intricate and detailed sets adding to the film’s overall charm.
“Murder by Death” is a delightful and entertaining parody of the murder mystery genre, and a must-watch for comedy and classic detective stories fans.
You can watch “Murder by Death” on Amazon prime for free.