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Murder by Death (1976)

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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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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

Gross USA:

$32,511,047, 31 December 1976

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$33,453,202
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

First of three Neil Simon-written movies featuring James Coco. The others being The Cheap Detective (1978) and Only When I Laugh (1981), the latter being the only one based on one of Simon's plays. Coco also appeared in Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972) on Broadway. See more »

Goofs

(at around 8 mins) When Inspector Milo Perrier is being driven to the home of Lionel Twain, the candy bar he is eating changes size inconsistently between shots. See more »

Quotes

Sam Diamond: I don't get it. First they steal the body and leave the clothes, then they take the clothes and bring the body back. Who would do a thing like that?
Dick Charleston: Possibly some deranged dry cleaner.
See more »

Crazy Credits

As the opening credits begin, a pair of black-gloved hands come into frame to unlock and open a footlocker containing the cardboard cutouts of the characters. These characters are displayed with their respective name credit. As the closing credits end, the same pair of black-gloved hands come into frame to close and lock the footlocker. 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 »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Sellers Shines In This Wild Spoof
10 January 2006 | by ccthemovieman-1See all my reviews

One of the most fun movies I've ever watched but I liked it better 20 years ago, frankly, than today. In a recent viewing, it seemed a bit sleazier than I had remembered. Nonetheless, it still has tons of laughs.

This film has one of my all-time favorite characters: Sidney Wang, played by Peter Sellers. The late English actor did a fabulous job of imitating Charlie Chan. He is the highlight among a very talented cast that includes Peter Falk, David Niven, James Coco, Elsa Lanchester, Alec Guinesses, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker and Truman Capote.

Today, the character oddest for me to view is a young Cromwell who speaks with a French accent! I've never seen him in any role remotely resembling this. The other actors play roles typical of them, such as Niven and Smith's dapper "Thin Man" couple and Falk's, Columbo/Mike Hammer-style American detective.

This a spoof of all the great detectives and the story has a purposely exaggerated amount of twists, particularly at the end....but, despite some of the typical crude 1970s type sexual innuendos, it provides entertainment start-to-finish with absolutely no lulls. It's a classic!


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