Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1976. Columbia Pictures Corporation, Rastar Pictures. Screenplay by Neil Simon. Cinematography by David M. Walsh. Produced by Ray Stark. Music by Dave Grusin. Production Design by Stephen B. Grimes. Costume Design by Ann Roth. Film Editing by John F. Burnett.
This film and The Cheap Detective make for a terrific pair of mystery spoofs, both filled with hilarious situations and spot-on imitations of the genres they are parodying. In this one, Agatha Christie’s style of murder mysteries are the target, with crazy old Truman Capote inviting a host of famous sleuths to his house for dinner and to solve a murder that is going to be committed within its walls at midnight. When the butler turns up dead and rids them of their first suspect, these geniuses are going to have to find a new route towards the discovering the identity of the real culprit! The characters, all of their names changed to avoid copyright issues, include the elderly Miss Marbles (Elsa Lanchester), Inspector Milo Perrier (instead of Hercule Poirot, played by James Coco), Sam Diamond (think of another playing card, Peter Falk), Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers doing a hilarious Charlie Chan impersonation), and most hysterically, the husband-and-wife team of Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith, who do a terrific job of sending up the wise-husband-useless-wife cliche that the old Thin Man movies employed). It’s wild and wacky, and never boring for a second.