Murder By Death (1976) Review

Murder By Death (1976)

Directed by Robert Moore & Written by Neil Simon

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

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

My Opinion:

Is this the first Neil Simon movie I’ve ever seen in my life?? I think it is! First of all, can I just say that I have no idea when I watched this & it’s stressing me out? Whenever I finish watching a movie, I immediately add it to my current year’s page on here. I forgot to add this one! I just realized when I decided it was time to review it. I’ve added it to my 2015 page but I’m thinking it may have been late 2014. Oh, the drama!! 😉 Now that I’ve murdered you all by boredom, I’ll talk about what I remember of this movie all these days?, months?, years? later. I’m catching up now as I don’t really get to go to any current films over the summers. I need to go to a movie soon!!!

I’d never even heard of this movie until several years ago when someone mentioned it was a favorite of theirs. I kept that in mind so was happy when it appeared on UK Netflix. I’m funny about “comedy” – there are very few that I like. I’d rather watch a “proper” movie like sci-fi, fantasy, action, drama… I mean, no movie will ever be as funny as The Princess Bride so I kind of can’t be bothered to watch many comedies. Oh yeah – Billy Crystal! HE’S funny! City Slickers! Monsters, Inc! Billy makes me laugh! Why do we have to suffer with shit like We’re The Millers nowadays? And why did I even watch that? Maybe I need to explore some older stuff like Murder By Death. Because Murder By Death is… funny! It’s not “Billy Crystal funny” & Peter Sellers is a somewhat annoying distraction but it’s pretty damn funny overall. The surprising thing was that the most serious acTOR, Alec Guinness, was hilarious as the blind butler! I think Guinness & Peter Falk (Princess Bride connection!) were my favorite things about this. Oh! And tiny Nancy Walker as the deaf-mute cook! She was awesome. Her scenes with Guinness’ blind butler were a riot. Is that politically incorrect? Well, if you think it is you’ll want to fast-forward through every scene with Peter Sellers as an Asian detective based on Charlie Chan. Oh boy! More about that later…


So, this movie is a spoof on famous detective novels/movies. Most of the characters are obvious but I did have to look them up. I’ve never read a murder mystery but I’ve always thought about checking out some of Agatha Christie’s novels. I wish I had a little experience with this genre as I probably would have appreciated the comedy a bit more. Well, I did love Murder She Wrote – Angela Lansbury kicks ass! 😉 From Wikipedia, these are the characters who those in Murder By Death are based on:

  • Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) is based on Earl Derr Biggers’ Chinese police detective Charlie Chan. 
  • Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith) are polished, sophisticated society types modeled on Dashiell Hammett’s characters Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man film series. 
  • Milo Perrier (James Coco) is a take on Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. 
  • Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) parodies another Dashiell Hammett character, The Maltese Falcon’s hard boiled Sam Spade. 
  • Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) parodies Christie’s Miss Marple. 

These famous characters are invited for the weekend to the mansion of a mysterious millionaire, played by the intriguing Truman Capote. He claims that there will be a murder to be solved and that the winner will receive one million dollars.

Blah blah blah, hijinks ensue! Some of the jokes were totally silly but that’s the kind of thing I like. I liked Guinness being named Jamesir Bensonmum just so there could be a silly exchange with a couple of guests (David Niven & Maggie Smith if I remember correctly). Speaking of Niven, he’s been in tons but the only other thing I’ve seen him in is The Pink Panther with Sellers. I like him – I’d have to say that I prefer him to Sellers with his over-the-top comedy. Anyway, as I mentioned, Sellers plays an Asian detective here based on Charlie Chan. I don’t know anything about the character of Chan so had to look into this but it does appear that this performance is a send-up of the fact that Chan was so often played by white actors. In this context it makes sense & makes it not as bad as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Truman Capote connection!) but his character may not sit right with some people who watch this movie today. Which is kind of a shame as it’s otherwise quite an enjoyable film.

Summary:

I enjoyed Murder By Death quite a bit but, like the movie, I’m from an older generation. The comedy probably won’t work on a younger audience and may be seen as too politically incorrect at times. If it sounds like your kind of comedy & you’re a fan of the very impressive cast, I’d definitely recommend this if you’ve not seen it.

My Rating: 7/10

IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #19 – The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) Review

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The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) – IMDB Rank #100

Watched 23/6/13

Directed by David Lean

Starring:
Alec Guinness
William Holden
Jack Hawkins
Sessue Hayakawa
Geoffrey Horne
James Donald

Running time: 161 minutes

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia):

In World War II, British prisoners are marched to a Japanese prison camp in western Burma. The commandant, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), informs them that all prisoners, regardless of rank, are to work on the construction of a railroad bridge over the River Kwai. The senior British officer, Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), reminds Saito that the Geneva Conventions exempt officers from manual labor.

And a bit more – that gives you the general idea.

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My Opinion:

I have to admit that with this IMDB Top 250 Challenge, I’m not looking forward to forcing myself to watch some of them – Especially the war movies and the Westerns. Plus most of them are so LONG. So I put the 161 minute war movie The Bridge On The River Kwai on when I had nothing else to watch and figured I could have it on in the background while I did some chores and it would get one of these long, boring war movies off the list. Well, I didn’t do any of those chores because this movie is BRILLIANT! I loved it! Along with the Charlie Chaplin stuff, Kwai is my biggest pleasant surprise since starting this challenge. My faith in the IMDB Top 250 has somewhat been restored after some real disappointments recently.

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Here’s my confession: I’d seen Alec Guinness in nothing other than Star Wars before this. Horrible movie fan, I know! Well, you know… I’m young(ish). So, anyway… Give me a break. 😉

Alec Guinness is amazing in this. Turns out he’s a REALLY great actor. Lol! Yeah – I think everyone already knew this so there’s not much point in saying much more about it. His performance as the strong-willed Lt. Colonel Nicholson, whose resolve never falters, truly is stunning. The film is worth the watch for his performance alone. Luckily, though, it’s worth watching for many other reasons as well.

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William Holden plays United States Navy Commander Shears and also gives a fine (and very American) performance. I won’t go into the story as there may actually be some people who haven’t seen this but he plays a very important role. Hell – everyone in this gives an Oscar-worthy performance and I can’t fault any of them: Sessue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito, Jack Hawkins as tough-guy British Major Warden, Geoffrey Horne as the cute Canadian Lieutenant Joyce, and James Donald as British medical officer Major Clipton, who has a smaller role but I really enjoyed his character & he gets to deliver a great memorable line. Why can’t they make movies like this with performances like these anymore?

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Summary:

One of those “worthy” classics that truly deserves all the praise it has received. Excellent, gripping story with an intense and unforgettable ending and characters that you really believe in and care about (something unfortunately lacking in far too many modern movies). Unlike some classics that have been hyped up over the years and then leave you a bit disappointed when you watch them, The Bridge On The River Kwai never disappoints & is one you’ll be happy to have finally forced yourself to watch. Oh, and it’s good from the very start, unlike some long classics that take a while to get going. I guarantee you won’t get any chores done for 161 minutes should you decide to give this one a try. And I really hope you do give it a try. As you may have guessed, I highly recommend it.

My Rating: 9/10

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(Good movies make me happy) 🙂

The famous “Breakfast Club” whistle. John Hughes knew good shit when he saw it. (I wasn’t going to finish this review without mentioning The Breakfast Club): 😉

(And after this one, I watched a long Western! Once Upon A Time In The West. I suck at being girly.)