MURDER BY DEATH (1976) 

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Peter Falk
David Niven
Peter Sellers
James Coco
Alec Guinness
Maggie Smith
Eileen Brennan
Truman Capote
Elsa Lanchester
James Cromwell
Richard Narita

Robert Moore



Time: 94 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Comedy/Mystery/Spoof

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

BOTTOM LINE: An all-star cast keeps one guessing until the end in this who-done-it, comedy romp that's more hilarious than mysterious. The film pits charicatures of all the world-famous sleuths of literature – Charlie Chan, Miss Marples, Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade and Nick and Nora Charles – against each other to solve a vicious murder that takes place right in front of their eyes. Trapped by an eccentric millionaire (played by Capote) in his tricked out mansion of horrors, they have 24 hours to reveal the killer, for which they'll win a million dollars, or lose their reputations forever.

Everyone has a secret they wish to keep hidden and a reason to do anything for the cold, hard cash. Enjoyment of the film is relative to how familiar one is with the classic characters represented within. Many of the jokes depend on this knowledge. However, there's plenty of physical, tasteless humor to tickle the funny bone of those who plead ignorance. Alec Guinness is wickedly serious and seriously hilarious as the blind butler, who knows more than he's letting on. He steals the show. The rest of the ensemble is wonderful as well, unfortunately, much of what they have to do isn't worth their talent.

It's a great concept that's converted into a less than intelligent plot, considering the characters involved. The mansion while tricked out is never as sinister as it tries to be and in the end makes the film a bit stagey. The film is meant to poke fun at the genre, but that doesn't mean it can't be clever as well as silly. It's enjoyable enough, but nothing that you have to rush out and see.

"Locked, from the inside. That can only mean one thing. And I don't know what it is."

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