Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top Films: Murder By Death

“You've tricked and fooled your readers for years. You've tortured us all with surprise endings that made no sense. You've introduced characters in the last five pages that were never in the book before. You've withheld clues and information that made it impossible for us to guess who did it. But now, the tables are turned. Millions of angry mystery readers are now getting their revenge. When the world learns I've outsmarted you, they'll be selling your $1.95 books for twelve cents.”

A great comedy by any standards, this film is a treasure for fans of detective fiction. As great as those stories are: with the puzzle, the clues and the hope of figuring out the answer before it is revealed, (but the real desire or expectation to be surprised because no great mystery is easy to solve); they all have silly elements. Most commonly the very sleuth people are a “fan” of is pretty annoying.

Murder By Death takes some of the most beloved sleuths and relishes in exaggerating their most annoying characteristics. Sure, they are mere caricatures, but it is funny if not taken too personally. Not only that, but the ensemble cast is a list of some of the greatest of the day: Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, David Niven, Maggie Smith, and James Coco. There is also the very first screen appearance of James Cromwell. The detectives spoofed in the film are: Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Sam Spade, Charlie Chan, and Nick and Nora Charles. In the original TV broadcasts a jab was made at Sherlock Holmes as well.

There is no real “redeeming quality” to this movie. It can not really be “baptized” with some greater theological or philosophical truth. It is merely a comedy, and the great need of comedies is to be funny. This one is.

“Now, if one of you gentlemen would be so kind as to give my lady friend here a glass of cheap white wine, I'm going down the hall to find the can. I talk so much sometimes, I forget to go.”


  1. YES!! I completely agree with Aslyn and you.
    Isn't this one the one with:
    "I can't help it; I'm an old lady!"
    Or something like that?

  2. Yes.
    "I smell gas!"
    "I can't help it. I'm old."
    "No, not that kind of gas. The kind that kills!"
    "Well, sometimes my gas..."


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