Murder by Death (1976)
Article 5937 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Robert Moore
Featuring Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers
What it is: Mystery parody
Several of the world’s most famous detectives gather together in the mansion of Lionel Twain to solve a murder that hasn’t happened yet.
I think this is the only movie I’ve reviewed to come from the pen of Neil Simon, as very little of what he wrote has any fantastic content. In fact, since this movie is a bit marginal, I wasn’t sure I would even review this one. However, since I’ve covered many movies that feature Charlie Chan (one of the characters parodied in the movie) and the general approach of the story owes a lot to the “old dark house” subgenre, it’s close enough for consideration; there’s also a plot point (if any of the plot points can count for anything here) that implies that one of the characters is merely an android of sorts. It’s definitely an unusual entry from Neil Simon; it feels as if he’s channeling Mel Brooks here. The all-star cast is impressive and well-used, with Peter Falk and Peter Sellers standouts in their parodies of Sam Spade and Charlie Chan respectively. It’s consistently amusing, but it’s best not to take the story the least bit seriously.