'Murder By Death' Cast List Of One Of The First Cult Classics Ever

By | May 17, 2020

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Peter Falk, David Niven and Truman Capote in 'Murder By Death.' Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

Murder By Death, the 1976 whodunit starring a who’s who of comedic talent is a cult classic like none other. Written by award winning playwright Neil Simon and starring everyone from Peter Falk and Alec Guinness to Truman Capote of all people, this farcical take on the country house mystery is absolutely bonkers and even if it’s not exactly Oscar caliber it’s still a pretty fun ride.

Fans of the mysteries of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle definitely got a kick out of this movie even if it doesn’t hold up to the classics it's spoofing, like Murder on the Orient Express or The Hounds of the Baskervilles. Murder By Death is such a strange movie that it’s worth investigating how it all came together and what people thought when it was released. 

The world’s greatest detectives descend on one film

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source: Columbia Pictures

The basic premise of Murder By Death is that all of the world’s greatest detectives are invited to a creepy old mansion by eccentric multi-millionaire Lionel Twain (Truman Capote) who wants to get to find out which one of them deserves their vaulted status.

Peter Sellers plays Sidney Wang, based on detective Charlie Chan, as a detective with poor English skills and a flamboyant style of dress. It’s hard to watch this performance today without focusing on the yellow face. While you’re watching just try to remember that this level of political incorrectness doesn’t happen any more (at least not in a major motion picture).

David Niven and Maggie Smith play variations on Nick and Nora Charles, alcoholic detectives who basically steal the show. There’s a Poirot style character named Milo Perrier, there’s a faux Miss Marple named Jessica Marbles and Peter Falk shows up to play Sam Diamond, a take on Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon.

Each of these detectives is drawn to Twain’s home with the invitation to solve a “murder by death,” they take it up and hijinks ensue.