Kehr’s Weekly Recap: Murder by Death (1976)

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/murder-by-death/Film?oid=1916807

Even Neil Simon fans (and they do exist, believe it or not) will probably be bummed out by this stunningly unfunny 1976 parody of detective films, with Truman Capote, Nancy Walker, Alec Guinness, Maggie Smith, Elsa Lanchester, Estelle Winwood, Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Eileen Brennan, James Coco, and David Niven, none of whom has much to do. Simon is the Sisyphus of gag writers, endlessly repeating gags and situations that were barely funny the first time. Peter Falk nearly saves the picture with a funny Bogart impression, no mean feat in the midst of the Humphreymania that reigned at the time of the film’s release.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/clue/Film?oid=1601003

The murder-mystery board game becomes a frantic, unfunny spoof (1985) under the direction of British TV writer Jonathan Lynn. The script recycles Agatha Christie‘s Ten Little Indians, with six guests invited by a mysterious host to spend the night in a creepy mansion, but instead of parodying the material Lynn simply surrounds it with extraneous pratfalls and wisecracks. Only Lesley Ann Warren, as a tough-talking madam, finds an effective level of stylization, using her leggy physique and wildly expressive features to create a cartoonish figure that’s funny within its own boundaries. The film was released with three different endings, all of them arbitrary. With Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, and Martin Mull.

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