Murder by Death

Murder by Death

4.7 13
Director: Robert Moore

Cast: Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco

     
 

The '70s detective spoof Murder by Death arrives on DVD for the first time on Columbia TriStar. This two-sided disc offers both widescreen and full-screen versions with mono soundtracks in either English or Spanish. Subtitles are available in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Extra features include talent files for RobertSee more details below

Overview

The '70s detective spoof Murder by Death arrives on DVD for the first time on Columbia TriStar. This two-sided disc offers both widescreen and full-screen versions with mono soundtracks in either English or Spanish. Subtitles are available in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Extra features include talent files for Robert Moore, Neil Simon, Truman Capote, Peter Falk, Peter Sellers, David Niven, Maggie Smith, and Alec Guinness. This DVD also contains production notes, an interview segment with Neil Simon, and theatrical trailers for Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective. This is an excellent release of a star-studded comedy classic.As penned by Neil Simon, this satire of movie mysteries is set in motion when several prominent detectives are invited to the mansion of the reclusive Lionel Twain (Truman Capote). In Ten Little Indians fashion, the gathered sleuths are locked into the forbidding mansion, and subject to various death-dealing devices. While struggling for their lives, the vainglorious gumshoes continue to try to one-up one another. Each character is broadly based on a famous literary detective: Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) is an aphorism-spouting Charlie Chan clone: Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith) are patterned on the protagonists of the Thin Man flicks; Milo Perrier (James Coco), a Hercule Poirot takeoff, stalks through the proceedings declaring "I'm a Belgie, not a Frenchie!"; Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) is Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade rolled in one; and Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) is a dottier variation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. Best bit: a "conversation" between blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum (Alec Guinness) and deaf-mute maid Yetta (Nancy Walker). The fade-out gag of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson showing up late for Lionel Twain's party was edited from the theatrical version of Murder by Death, but was restored for TV. The film marked the big-screen directorial debut of Robert Moore, who'd previously directed several of Neil Simon's Broadway productions. Moore went on to direct another Simon spoof, The Cheap Detective (1978), before his untimely death.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Friedman
Murder by Death belongs on any list of the most overlooked comedies of the last few decades. A spoof on the mystery genre written by Neil Simon, the story involves caricatures of every prominent literary detective portrayed by a who's who of acting talent. Charlie Chan (Peter Sellers), Hercule Poirot (James Coco), Sam Spade (Peter Falk), Nick Charles (David Niven), and Miss Marple (Elsa Lanchester) all get the royal treatment, and the elaborate setup involves a recluse, played by Truman Capote, challenging them to a battle of wits. The jokes come like cannon fire and nearly every line of dialogue is a one-liner. Simon throws enough mystery elements into the script to keep things interesting, most exemplified by the blind butler played to perfection by Alec Guinness. One of the singular pleasures of this film is watching actors not ordinarily associated with laugh-out-loud comedy handle the material with tremendous amount of aplomb, particularly Niven, Guinness, and Maggie Smith as Niven's wife, who has perhaps the most sarcastic and funny part in the film. Capote is miscast, but the very fact of that makes his role even funnier. The mystery setup goes absolutely nowhere and there are shots of what could be assumed to be clues for the audience that are just red herrings. The whole thing is centered on the characters and the portrayals. Falk does a tremendous Humphrey Bogart impersonation and Sellers gives what has to be one of his more restrained performances, but hilariously funny, nonetheless. If there's one drawback it's that things may move too fast for a present-day audience. It seems more complicated than it really is, but Murder by Death is a good place to find consistent laughs.

Product Details

Release Date:
12/18/2001
UPC:
0043396079342
Original Release:
1976
Rating:
PG
Source:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Full Frame, Wide Screen]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital, monaural]
Time:
1:34:00
Sales rank:
1,764

Special Features

Exclusive interview: A conversation with Neil Simon; Theatrical trailers; Talent files; Production notes

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Eileen Brennan Tess Skeffington
Truman Capote Lionel Twain
James Coco Milo Perrier
Peter Falk Sam Diamond
Alec Guinness Jamessir Bensonmum, the Butler
David Niven Dick Charleston
Peter Sellers Sidney Wang
Maggie Smith Dora Charleston
Elsa Lanchester Jessica Marbles
Nancy Walker Yetta the Maid
Estelle Winwood Nurse Withers
James Cromwell Marcel the chauffeur
Richard Narita Willie Wang
Dog: Myron Actor

Technical Credits
Robert Moore Director
Margaret Booth Editor
John F. Burnett Editor
Fred T. Gallo Asst. Director
Stephen B. Grimes Production Designer
Dave Grusin Score Composer
Jerry Jost Sound/Sound Designer
Harry R. Kemm Art Director
Augie Lohman Special Effects
Marvin March Set Decoration/Design
Ann Roth Costumes/Costume Designer
Roger M. Rothstein Associate Producer
Tex Rudloff Sound/Sound Designer
Roger Shearman Camera Operator
Jennifer Shull Casting
Neil Simon Screenwriter
Ray Stark Producer
David M. Walsh Cinematographer

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Widescreen
0. Scene Selections
1. Start [2:44]
2. The Invitations [2:06]
3. Dick & Dora Charleston [1:09]
4. Sidney Wang [2:24]
5. Milo Perrier [1:02]
6. Sam Diamond [2:01]
7. The Bridge Test [1:07]
8. 22 Twain [2:01]
9. Wang Meets Bensonmum [4:12]
10. The Charlestons Arrive [4:13]
11. Yetta [1:59]
12. Bensonmum & Perrier [2:57]
13. "I Don't Kiss." [6:09]
14. Before-Dinner Drinks [2:49]
15. Miss Jessica Marbles [1:40]
16. Wine Test [5:54]
17. Lionel Twain [5:44]
18. Chain of Fools [2:02]
19. Examining Bensonmum [3:49]
20. Filled With Empty People [3:55]
21. The Naked & the Dead [3:34]
22. Two of Everything [2:51]
23. Twain Murdered! [3:08]
24. Theories & Motives [8:15]
25. Murder by Death [4:20]
26. The Room Gets Shorter [1:32]
27. The Crime Is Solved? [5:46]
28. Simple & Direct Solution [4:56]
Side #2 -- Full Screen
0. Scene Selections
1. Start [2:44]
2. The Invitations [2:06]
3. Dick & Dora Charleston [1:09]
4. Sidney Wang [2:24]
5. Milo Perrier [1:02]
6. Sam Diamond [2:01]
7. The Bridge Test [1:07]
8. 22 Twain [2:01]
9. Wang Meets Bensonmum [4:12]
10. The Charlestons Arrive [4:13]
11. Yetta [1:59]
12. Bensonmum & Perrier [2:57]
13. "I Don't Kiss." [6:09]
14. Before-Dinner Drinks [2:49]
15. Miss Jessica Marbles [1:40]
16. Wine Test [5:54]
17. Lionel Twain [5:44]
18. Chain of Fools [2:02]
19. Examining Bensonmum [3:49]
20. Filled With Empty People [3:55]
21. The Naked & the Dead [3:34]
22. Two of Everything [2:51]
23. Twain Murdered! [3:08]
24. Theories & Motives [8:15]
25. Murder by Death [4:20]
26. The Room Gets Shorter [1:32]
27. The Crime Is Solved? [5:46]
28. Simple & Direct Solution [4:56]

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