192 user 59 critic

Murder by Death (1976)

3:14 | Trailer
Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve an even stranger mystery.


Robert Moore


Neil Simon
4,029 ( 406)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Eileen Brennan ... Tess Skeffington
Truman Capote ... Lionel Twain
James Coco ... Milo Perrier
Peter Falk ... Sam Diamond
Alec Guinness ... Bensonmum
Elsa Lanchester ... Jessica Marbles
David Niven ... Dick Charleston
Peter Sellers ... Sidney Wang
Maggie Smith ... Dora Charleston
Nancy Walker ... Maid
Estelle Winwood ... Nurse
James Cromwell ... Marcel
Richard Narita ... Willie Wang


Despite not knowing him, the world's most famous detectives can't pass up the offer of a "dinner and murder" invitation from wealthy Lionel Twain (Truman Capote). Each has no idea until their arrival at Two Two Twain who else will be in attendance. Those detectives are: amateur sleuths and New York City socialites Dick (David Niven) and Dora Charleston (Dame Maggie Smith), accompanied by their pet terrier, Myron; Belgian detective Monsieur Milo Perrier (James Coco), accompanied by his chauffeur, Marcel (James Cromwell); Shanghainese Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers), accompanied by his Japanese adopted son, Willie Wang (Richard Narita); frumpish Brit Miss Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester), accompanied by her invalid nurse, Miss Withers (Estelle Winwood); and San Francisco gumshoe Sam Diamond (Peter Falk), accompanied by his femme fatale sidekick, Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan). The dinner part of the invitation runs into problems due to the non-communication between Twain's ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Since June 23, 1976 millions of men and women have seen Neil Simon's "MURDER BY DEATH." Only 17 have understood the ending of the picture. Ask any one of them. Any one. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Although the atmosphere is meant to evoke the 1930s and early 1940s, certain details in the story (contemporary-branded groceries in the kitchen, Twain's age and the price of paperback novels, for two) indicate that the setting is in the 1970s. See more »


(at around 52 mins) When Milo Perrier, Sidney Wang and Jessica Marbles find the dead butler, Wang feels the wrist for a pulse and declares him dead. However, he did not even allow two seconds when feeling for a pulse; this is too short a time to determine if a pulse exists or not. See more »


Sam Diamond: Where were ya Wang, we was worried!
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits: Starring (In Diabolical Order) See more »

Alternate Versions

The original ABC Network broadcast of the film contained four additional scenes not found in the theatrical or DVD version. 1. Jessica Marbles' taxi driver (played by Peter Sellers) requests a large fare. 2. Dick and Dora Charleston narrowly avoid running over Tess Skeffington, who is walking back to Sam Diamond's car from a service station because she and Sam ran out of gas. Satisfied that Tess is all right, the Charlestons simply drive off, leaving her there. 3. When Willie Wang covers up the body of Twain, he finds a note in Twain's hand and smugly announces this to the others. 4. As the detectives drive away from Twain's house at the end of the film Inspector Wang and Willie pass another car carrying Sherlock Holmes (Keith McConnell) and Dr. Watson (Richard Peel) heading towards the Twain home. When Willie asks his father "Why didn't you warn them?" Wang replies "Let idiots find out for themselves." See more »


Featured in Psych: 100 Clues (2013) See more »

User Reviews

Silly, Wonderful Simon Spin on Classic Murder Mysteries
18 June 2000 | by Rodney613See all my reviews

Neil Simon is a writer of extremes. When he is good, he is great. He can be extremely funny as in the Odd Couple. When he is bad, he is really bad and can be terribly unfunny as in California Suite. Murder by Death, while certainly no Odd Couple, is very close to being extremely funny. Some of the greatest and most entertaining actors of our time are gathered in this (9 times out of 10) hysterical film. Peter Sellers and David Niven (both of whom were terrific in Casino Royale) are wonderful as 2 of the 5 great detectives invited to a dinner by a mysterious Mr. Twain (Truman Capote)who wants to outsmart them. Peter Falk plays Sam Diamond (hehe, get it?) and suspiciously sounds a lot like Humphrey Bogart. Hmmm... Also on hand are Mrs. Marbles and Inspector Perrier. In the characters you can see what the movie is like. Sellers steals the show (as always) as a spin on Charlie Chan named Wang. All of the characters have equally funny material to work off of, yet some jokes work and some don't. (Most do) Also appearing in supporting roles are James Cromwell and Alec Guiness. This is a very amusing, silly, witty film that might not make you laugh at loud, but will make you smile for sure. NOTE: DO NOT TRY TO MAKE SENSE OUT OF THE ENDING, YOU WILL END UP WITH A MASSIVE MIGRAINE

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

23 June 1976 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Neil Simon's Murder by Death See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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