Friday, April 9, 2010

Great Movies You've Probably Never Seen: Murder by Death

Murder by Death

It's that time again. Time for me to try to convince you to watch movies I love but no one else has seen. I got googlereader shared a link to Leonard Maltin's 151 Best Movies You've Never Seen, and I was pleased to see that I had already seen quite a few of the films. (I checked out the table of content via Amazon's 'look inside this book' function.) I'm not saying I'm an expert, or a professional, but I am telling you that I spend an exorbitant amount of watching movies, so you can trust me as far as you can trust anyone who is an obsessive geek type about something they are into.

So! Murder By Death. First off, here's the IMDB synopsis (the wiki page gives the ENTIRE FILM PLOT, so spoiler alert):
Millionnaire Lionel Twain invites the five most brilliant private eyes to a dinner - and a murder. So, Sidney Wang from China, Dick Charleston from New York, Jessica Marbles from England, Milo Perrier from Belgium and Sam Diamond from San Francisco arrive at the remote castle. They are welcomed by Jamesir Bemsonmam, the blind butler. At nine, a dinner is supposed to be served. The five private eyes and their companionships are in the dining room, wondering what everything is about. Suddenly, Lionel Twain appears and lets the private eyes in on his plan: Exactly at midnight, a murder is going to take place. And he offers a million dollars to the one who can solve the murder. Then he disappears. Before long, a problem arises: The butler is found dead - and it's long before midnight! Will the five most brilliant minds of our time be able to see through the elaborate set-up staged by a criminal mastermind?
Written by Neil Simon, Murder by Death is a comedy masterpiece for mystery novel lovers. Sidney Wang (aka Charlie Chan),  Dick and Dora Charleston (aka Nick and Nora Charles of the Thin Man series), Milo Perrier (aka Hercule Poirot of the Agatha Christie novels), Sam Diamond (aka Sam Spade), and Jessica Marbles (aka Miss Marple of the Agatha Christie novels) are all send ups of famous literary mystery figures, and they are amazingly cast.  I'll watch almost anything with Peter Falk in it as a detective because I loved Columbo growing up, but there are so many good people in this: David Niven of Pink Panther fame; Maggie Smith, who you may remember from Gosford Park, but has been in just everything; Elsa Lanchester, who gained widespread recognition in the Bride of Frankenstein, but most will recognize as the head maid from Mary Poppin; Eileen Brennan, from The Last Picture Show, Texasville, and the '80s Goldie Hawn comedy vehicle Private Benjamin; Nancy Walker, who was a regular on Rhoda, but whose best work was on stage and as director for the Mary Tyler Moore Show.  The best, by far though, is Truman Capote as the devious and frustrated mystery fan Lionel Twain.  He's only in a few scenes, but he totally steals them. 

If you like mysteries and comedies, if you've ever had any appreciation for the board game or film version of Clue, then you're going to love this. Everyone I've ever shown it to both thought it was funny and couldn't believe they'd never seen it before. 


ScentScelf said...

Aha! I had totally forgotten about this one until I saw your headline. You are right...and this one would be fun for a mixed group of film fans whose preferred genres vary.

In fact, I just might put that next in the queue...need to catch Up in the Air (finally) first.

Diana said...

Up in the Air is in my cue as well. Let me know how it is.