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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 14.71%
Just Average: 29.41%
Pretty Crappy: 2.94%
Sucks: 1.47%

4 reviews, 44 user ratings

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Murder By Death
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by Jay Seaver

"There must be more than mockery."
3 stars

Okay, I'm thinking as this movie starts, we've got opening titles by Charles Addams, some pretty dead-on riffs on classic detectives by a spiffy cast, and a screenplay by Neil Simon. This is going to be fun. I settle in, and although I can't pin down the exact moment when the movie loses me, but I think I can guess why.

For the first half or so, this movie is all about the gag. Yes, the characters are very specific parodies of specific fictional detectives, but the jokes themselves are easily accessible to someone who didn't swallow Agatha Christie books whole as I did in junior high, which incidentally was followed by champoning Mystery! over Twin Peaks and Cheers in high school and becoming a fan of Humphrey Bogart and William Powell as an adult. Of course, for those of us that do fit that description, it's even funnier.

And the cast is pretty top-notch, and well-matched to their characters. David Niven could easily have stepped into William Powell's shoes for a few new <I>Thin Man</I> movies as "Dick Charleston". Peter Falk actually <I>did</I> another movie with the same writer/director as "Sam Diamond". Peter Sellers may not quite steal every scene he's in as Inspector Sidney Wang, but it's not for lack of trying (I swear that there was a "Sidney Wong" series, but can't find anything online; he's probably spoofing Charlie Chan). Elsa Lanchester is okay as "Miss Jessica Marbles" (though the Marple stories were never favorites of mine). James Coco certainly looks the part as "Milo Perrier", although the surprise here is James Cromwell as his assistant Marcel, a dead ringer for how Hugh Fraser would appear as Captain Hastings fifteen years later in LWT's <I>Poirot</I> series. Alec Guinness is fantastically funny as the blind butler, "Jamesir Bensonmum".

But look at those character names - they're straight out of "Mad" Magazine. And while "Mad" is great when you're ten, it can seem pretty trite to an adult. The movie winds up collapsing the same way a typical parody comic in that magazine does - under a crushing lump of self-referentiality, topped off by a snotty disdain for the subject matter that winds up pushing the fan away. I can laugh about the silliness of these characters' quirks, but parodists have got to respect that I love them, too. If all the filmmakers can bring is mockery, if they're not putting something fun back into my treasure chest of beloved film and literary bits to replace what they're casting aside, then the result is a mean-spirited, petty work.

And, by the end, that's what Murder By Death has become. The friendly jests of the opening half which brought genuine wit are replaced with arbitrary, cranky jabs at the mystery genre. This, one can't help but think, isn't nearly as much fun as it should be, or even nearly as much fun as it was an hour ago.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1188&reviewer=371
originally posted: 12/05/04 21:46:09
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User Comments

12/05/16 Anne Selby Great fun! 4 stars
9/26/16 Joe Da Rold One of my all time favorites. Repeat viewings never disappoint. All star cast is superb. 5 stars
6/23/12 matthew thompson dalldorf A witty spoof 5 stars
5/29/11 zenny wait, what now? 2 stars
12/23/10 Jolly Great actors nailing every pun on the head. Terrific comedy. 5 stars
12/26/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Funny as hell! 5 stars
1/16/09 Lisa Brilliant 5 stars
3/07/08 Pamela White Falk has a classic role and he pulls it off well 4 stars
11/10/06 David Pollastrini very funny 5 stars
7/03/06 Ashley Hinz Spoof, yes. Awesome, no. 4 stars
1/22/06 Zenny once you get the characters, the movie sux 2 stars
8/14/05 sale Funny 4 stars
3/07/05 wolf_cloud9 I thought it was hillarious - it's definitely a spoof 4 stars
9/24/04 Randy van Duuren A really good "WHODUNIT?", performed with great class 5 stars
9/04/04 MJM103171 Excellent....Clue so ripped this movie off (i loved that one too) 5 stars
2/04/04 Littlepurch Didn't make any sense but then what were we expecting?! Really funny! 4 stars
6/24/03 Uncle Heavy GREAT parody of mystery movies. Absolutely hilarious. 5 stars
1/09/03 George Jung Is the. IS the. What is the meaning of this. 5 stars
1/07/03 Revolverheld Itīs no chary humor, itīs funny in your face (76-style). A+++! 5 stars
8/07/02 Pernilla Brilliant spoof of the classic murdermystery genre with unforgettable acting and quotes 5 stars
7/11/02 SV Extremely funny for old or young, smart and dumb. 5 stars
6/22/02 hum eh, silly bit of fun. Im sure you need to know who the characters are but thats not hard 3 stars
3/28/02 Paul Gentle (American) Yes. The Actors/Actresses save this film. 4 stars
2/20/02 Xaver True fun, but you have to know who the characters are. 4 stars
12/05/01 Todd W Great Move, Absolutly Hillarious 5 stars
11/11/01 Mike Mora Wonderful. Great cast and a lot of fun 4 stars
10/29/01 Max Extremely funny. Rewatchable. 5 stars
10/03/01 Max Awesome, allright. 5 stars
8/22/01 Enrique the Great It's great 5 stars
8/14/01 David Hart loved it. very individual, the deaf kitchen maid was perfect - give her a series on tv 5 stars
7/04/01 cory this kicks fucking ass! 5 stars
6/19/01 Elvisfan Great cast in a decent movie that should provide several laughs 4 stars
5/31/01 weldong Timeless comedy with a great plot! 5 stars
5/21/01 Richard Battaglia Great Fun - A film you can see over and over again 5 stars
5/17/01 Paul K A Gem. Maggie Smith is a riot. Watch the tv version for extra footage (S. Holmes). 5 stars
5/04/01 Martin M This movie makes me laugh my ass off everytime i watch it! A must see for comedy lovers! 5 stars
4/30/01 Quiana I've loved this movie since i was 5 years old -- it makes much more sense now, though. 5 stars
4/19/01 oil checker retarded 1 stars
4/01/01 Scott Bloody perfect! 5 stars
2/16/01 Christopher RIpley it rocks man 5 stars
11/14/00 salvo toscano Jamesir Bensonmum... gorgeous. 5 stars
2/02/00 Matthew Bartley Excellent...catch it if you can 5 stars
8/25/99 Dan McConnell Excellent movie, but who played Sherlock Holmes in the final cameo? 5 stars
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  02-Jul-1976 (PG)


  02-Feb-1977 (PG)

Directed by
  Robert Moore

Written by
  Neil Simon

  Eileen Brennan
  Truman Capote
  Peter Sellers
  Peter Falk
  Alec Guinness
  David Niven

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