Friday, August 29, 2008

Double Negative...And Dog

My favorite movie of all time has to be Neil Simon's brilliantly hilarious satire Murder By Death. If you love the idea of a murder mystery weekend, in a spooky and remote country manor house, this is the film for you. It evokes all of the subtleties of the murder mystery weekend, and magnifies them a hundred fold. The film's characters are parodies of well-known and beloved fictional amateur and professional detectives. The mood is eerie and foreboding, but inexplicably cozy at the same time. This is one of those movies that my sister and I would curl up under a mountain of blankets watching, with a smorgasbord of munchies laid out on the coffee table in front of us, a feast with which to enjoy this mystery masterpiece.

The best part of this film, if you had to choose [which is pretty darn difficult], has to be the dialogue. Most of the lines just don't make sense! Look at the title - Murder By Death. What does that mean? The entire script is like that, full of one-liners that are laugh out loud funny but confusing to its core. And this movie just keeps rolling along with a clever and confusing [oh so confusing] plot, inspired acting, and memorable quotes. But the thing you need to know about all of this confusion, is that it is so intentional. Nothing about this movie makes sense, and it's written that way on purpose...and it's brilliant. I can't use that word enough to describe Murder By Death. It's just brilliant.

And the cast is phenomenal. Listen to this roster of talent: Truman Capote [the ageless host Mr. Lionel Twain], Peter Sellers [Sidney Wang of Catalina Police], David Niven [the ever-so-suave Dick Charleston], Maggie Smith [Dick's wealthy wife Dora], Peter Falk [street-smart Sam Diamond], Alec Guinness [the blind butler Bensonmum], James Coco [paranoid chocoholic Milo Perrier], and the bride of Frankenstein herself Elsa Lanchester [a younger Miss Jessica Marbles]. My goodness gracious. The performances. Those names.

And the supporting cast is just as tip-top: a young James Cromwell as Monsieur Perrier's chauffeur Marcel, Richard Narita as Sidney Wang's Japanese son Willie, Eileen Brennan [who also happens to appear in the movie Clue] as blond bombshell Tess Skeffington, Estelle Winwood as gas-sniffing Nurse, and Nancy Walker as the deaf and mute maid Yetta.

As you're watching Murder By Death, turn up the volume a little because you don't want to miss any of these memorable quotes. Some of my favorites come early on in the movie from Peter Sellers as Sidney Wang, a take-off of Charlie Chan. A few of these gems are 'Questions like athlete's foot...after a while, verrry irritating!' and 'No pulse, no heartbeat. If condition does not change, this man is dead'. Read some more funny quotes here at Wikiquote.

I simply can't do this movie all of the justice it deserves, so if you haven't seen this movie - please go rent it today! You'll want to figure out whodunnit. And if you, like me, have seen this movie a dozen times over, it's time to see it again! Assemble your favorite munchettes, set your sights on 22 Twain's House, and curl up for a riotous good time. A relaxing way to spend Labor Day Weekend indoors, no?

[Photo of Murder By Death is from Comics Worth Reading]

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