October 30, 2011

Movie Monday: Murder by Death

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this movie before, one of my top 25 all-time favorites.

Source: impawards.com via Jaci on Pinterest

Okay, Top 15.

You know all those movies I've been featuring this month? (If you don't, they are here, here, here and here) They are all spoofed in this one movie. And it's awesome.

The spoof versions of all of the characters we've now met - Nick and Nora Charles, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot and Charlie Chan, as well as another character I didn't have time to cover, Sam Spade - they are all invited to the house of a wealthy mad genius for dinner. While there he tells them that there is going to be a murder committed, and whoever solves the murder by morning will win one million dollars At midnight, the host is murdered. So the detectives, and their respective "sidekicks," have less than 6 hours to solve the case.

There is so much I love about this movie. The cast is fantastic. David Niven and Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter movies) play Dick and Dora Charleston, complete with pet Jack Russell. Peter Falk is a hilarious Sam Diamond. Peter Sellers plays Sidney Wang (go ahead and snicker), true to Charlie Chan fashion by not casting a Chinese person. And Sir Alec Guiness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) steals the show as the blind butler, Bensenmum.

The script is clever, with some good old fashioned politically incorrect humor (it's not necessarily what I would call a "family film," there's some adult references and plenty of language), generally paying homage to the original characters but also taking a lot of license with their personalities and backstories. Not so much that probably anyone by myself, who has lived with these characters most of my life, would notice. So that's okay.

Oh, did I mention it was written by Neil Simon? I'm sorry, by the fantastic Neil Simon? The one who wrote Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, The Goodbye Girl, Sweet Charity and many other great movie and Broadway hits. There are no wasted words or scenes. The writing is excellent. And you'll be thinking about the ending for days.

This is definitely one that is always in my Netflix streaming queue. Be sure and check it out ASAP.


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