Sunday, June 26, 2011

Murder by Death (1976)

Director: Robert Moore

Starring: Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker, Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell, Richard Narita

More info: IMDb

Tagline: By the time the world's greatest detectives figure out whodunit... you could die laughing!

Plot: Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve an even stranger mystery.

My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Absolutely.

FUNNY, FUNNY, FUNNY, FUNNY! The cast is incredible. I remember seeing this as a kid during the early days of HBO in the late 70s/early 80s and fell in love with it at first sight. Dave Grusin's score is fun and the dialogue (and story) is delightfully playful but what really sells this is the cast. Every single one of them pulls off their characters to a "T". It's a real peach.

Eileen Brennan - I love her to death. She needs to have my babies. She's a laugh riot in this picture.

Truman Capote - Who knew he could act AND be funny? He was great.

James Coco - Round and funny.

Peter Falk - He STEALS THE SHOW with nearly ever single line. One of the all-time best comedic performances.

Alec Guinness - He's always solid and his scene at the end of the picture where he plays several different people (in the same outfit) shows you how good one can be at acting. It's a splendid performance.

Elsa Lanchester - Her bubbly Jessica Marbles cracks me up every time - especially when she exchanges lines with Falk.

David Niven - You couldn't get a better actor for this role that riffs on the Nick Charles character from THE THIN MAN movies.

Peter Sellers - While his performance may not be the home run you'd like to see, he is a lot of fun to watch.

Maggie Smith - She's delightful, too, and needs to have my babies. I'm very passionate about women that make me laugh and she's high on the list thanks to this picture.

Nancy Walker - It's too bad she doesn't speak here but she still manages to pull off some great laughs.

Estelle Winwood - She's got the vapors and some great lines. The back and forth with Falk in a couple of scenes is priceless.

James Cromwell - Tall, skinny and funny and not necessarily in that order.

Richard Narita - He does a great job holding his own as the son of Peter Sellers's character, Sidney Wang.

Not only are each of these actors VERY funny and are ideal for their roles, they have a collective chemistry that would be near-impossible to duplicate. The way they work together and pull off laugh after laugh is remarkable. Not only that, but the actors they're paired with are a perfect match which just shows how good these people were in this flick. It was Peter Falk's passing this week that prompted me to dust off this DVD and give it a spin. For 30 years it was my favorite performance of his until I watched THE CHEAP DETECTIVE (1978) recently which was made by the same director, producer, writer (Neil Simon) and some of the same cast and crew. I didn't think it was possible for Falk to be funner than playing Sam Diamond but he did it in that movie.

I adore this picture. It brings tears of laughter to my eyes just thinking about it and ever since I saw this as a kid, I've always referred to the bathroom as "the can". Thanks, Peter Falk.

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