Movie Review: Murder by Death (1976)

Synopsis: Five famous private detectives and their sidekicks are invited to dine with an eccentric millionaire who challenges them to solve a yet-to-be-committed murder by daylight. When their host turns out to be the victim, the detectives suspect each other and, before they can solve the crime, must survive the night.

Who's in it? The movie stars Peter Falk, Truman Capote, Eileen Brennan, Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.


Review: I have known about this movie for some time and have had it on my "must watch" list. I finally had an opportunity to do so this week and, after finally finishing it this morning, I have to say I feel a bit let down. I didn't hate it. It just wasn't as good as I was expecting.

I think the big attraction, to me, was the number of recognizable stars that were in this film. I figured, with so many comedy geniuses, there was no way for this movie to be a disappointment. Unfortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case.

A lot of the problem, in my opinion, was there were almost too many stars. I feel like the characters they were portraying (all of them were spoofs of famous literary detectives) weren't able to get enough screen time to establish themselves and, as a result of that, I just didn't feel invested in any of them. In fact, I think the movie reveals more about the host, Lionel Twain (Capote) despite the fact he has less screen time than any of the other characters.

Even the murder mystery itself was a bit of a letdown for me because the movie doesn't have the detectives do much of anything other than discover a couple dead bodies and, after locking themselves in their rooms, survive separate murder attempts. If this were a book, it would be a bit like reading about someone being murdered then being forced to skip to the end.

I will admit the movie did have some funny moments. In particular, I loved Alec Guinness as the blind butler, especially when paired with the deaf/mute cook (Nancy Walker). It's just too bad the rest of the movie couldn't keep pace with him.

Final Opinion: Again, I didn't hate the film, I just thought I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. In all honesty, the film Clue had the same basic plot and did it better.

My Grade: C

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