Murder by Death
Scott Hardie: “It sucked.”
Some ideas work much better on paper. Neil Simon dreamed up a spoof of whodunits where the world's greatest detectives compete to solve a murder when they're all invited together at dinner. But Simon has nothing but contempt for his subject, painting some of the sharpest characters in genre literature as imbeciles and presenting them with an unsolvable mystery that breaks laws of physics and whose solution could be revealed any of ten different ways because it doesn't really matter. Worst of all is his treatment of Charlie Chan: To call the antiquated detective a racist caricature is valid, but to go over the top with such an ugly, offensive portrayal is a real turn-off. This movie started with a great premise and one hell of an awesome cast, and wastes them with such withering contempt for the material that it should never have been filmed in the first place.
Steve West: I wholeheartedly agree with your plot criticism and racist nature of the Inspector Wang character. What I enjoyed about the film and makes it a favorite of mine are the terrific comedic performances from a group of, mostly, non-comedians. James Coco, Peter Sellers and Alec Guiness have all done comedic turns but the others have done mainly drama. The script is truly wretched at times but the times when it was funny, it was exceptionally funny. Neil Simon not at his best, but even then, he is a funny guy to me. Overall, it pretty much stinks as a movie but the cast does their best and truly shine at moments. What a shame that the script didn't take more advantage of this terrific ensemble. − April 10, 2008 more by Steve