Murder by Death Reviews
"You are cordially invited to dinner... and a murder!"
I really loved this stupid spoof of the murder mystery genre. Murder by Death is hilarious film that is pure fun from start to finish. All of the characters were funny, but the two I loved the most were Wang and Diamond. Wang is an Asian played by Peter Sellers. How is that not going to be hilarious? Diamond is played by Columbo himself, Peter Falk. Both of these actors and a great supporting cast featuring Maggie Smith, Truman Capote and James Cromwell make for one hell of an entertaining comedy.
The five best detectives are invited to a mansion where the owner, Lionel Twain promises them dinner and a murder. Each detective and their second are greeted by someone trying to kill them by making a piece of the building fall. Then they are shown to their rooms by a blind butler. And their meal will be cooked by a woman who can't speak or hear, and the butler doesn't know this because he can't see he note cards saying she can't speak. This is the type of humor you should be expecting throughout the whole film.
Murder by Death is perfectly paced and also has a perfect runtime. It knows, like all the good spoofs do, not to overstay its welcome. Comedy like this can only be funny for so long, and when Murder by Death ends it is still funny. This film combines slapstick humor and stereotype humor into the murder mystery plot with great results. There is very little that the characters say that isn't at least mildly amusing, and a great deal of the time, hilarious.
This is kind of a forgotten and under appreciated comedy from the 1970's. I would give it a recommendation on Seller's alone, but everything else about it is great too. The ending wasn't as funny as it should have been or as funny as Neil Simon probably thought it was, but overall I can't say enough about the film.
Sidney Wang: And you Mr. Charleston, did not approve of Mrs. Charleston dying her hair blonde?
Dick Charleston: What do you mean?
Sidney Wang: Mrs. Charleston's hair red. You have blond hairs on shoulder. This means she has dyed red hair blonde, then back again to red, or else you have been... So sorry, Wang is wrong.
You might think that's impossible with this cast but the characters are rather cliched and disappointing, especially Sellers and his now rather racist old Chinese man character. Brennan is here too in what is almost a prequel performance as she was in 'Clue' as well but again shes not as fun in this old film, same can be said for Guinness who seems wasted.
Its not terrible but its not great either, nice sets and a lovely film poster illustrated by Charles 'The Addams Family' Addams.
Yes, being a Classic film fan (especially The Thin Man movies and Humphrey Bogart), I got the parodies of the detectives, and I understood the double entrendres that I didn't get as a teen. But other than that, it did absolutely nothing for me. It felt totally stagebound (maybe it was supposed to...Neil SImon wrote the screenplay).The jokes fell flat, the whole blind butler/deaf cook plotline was a complete waste of time, and Iin general I'm not a fan of any of these people, except for Niven and Smith, who I like a little better.
The whole thing feels like a drawn-out variety show sketch. It did remind me also of the film Sleuth, except that Sleiuth is a lot better. One good thing....I can scratch if off the list of films I need to rewatch.
One more disappointment was the revelation of "who's the murderer" and "who's who"... It sounded completely nonsense and illogical which should not be the case with thrillers.