Murder By Death (1976)

DailyView: Day 308, Movie 436

A mix of whodunnit and spoof comedy is on the agenda for tonight in the DailyView. It is a film from 1976 called Murder By Death and it was written by classic playwright Neil Simon.

The film featured an ensemble cast filled with a plethora of stars including Peter Falk, EYG Hall of Famer Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness, Eileen Brennan, James Coco, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Elsa Lanchester. James Cromwell, Estelle Winwood, Nancy Walker, and a rare role from writer Truman Capote.

The cast played several broad parodies of some of the most well known and beloved detective characters of literature including Sam Spade, Nick and Nora Charles, Hercule Poirot, Charlie Chan and Miss Marple.

Admittedly, there are some parts of this movie that did not age well such as Peter Sellers playing the Chinaman Charlie Chan and the gay jokes. However, as a film of the mid-70s, this is a product of that time.

The film is on a rapid pace, jumping from one bizarre turn to another. In the third act, the film became very meta as it makes reference to the way some mystery stories try to put one over on the audience by introducing characters right at the end or by giving answers to riddles that make no sense whatsoever. The film was making a direct commentary on the very genre that this film was in.

All of the cast was fantastic. It is clear that they are a seasoned bunch of legends or soon to be legends. They flash through the film without missing a beat. The ending of the film that saw each of the detectives come up with a fanciful story as a reveal only to be shown up by the next detective.

Yes, the story makes no sense in the end, but that, I think, is part of the joke. The cast is great and delivers some of the best deadpan comedic performances that you are going to find. The pace is so quick that you never have a moment to be bored and, although you could never solve this case on your own, you could also never solve the case on your own so there is a definite surprise aspect to it, which can be considered both a positive or a negative.

This was a fun film that may require some ignoring of tropes and some racist tendencies.

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