Murder By Death

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A 1976 Mystery-Comedy film written by Neil Simon with a star studded cast parodying the mystery genre in the vein of Agatha Christie.

Five of the world's greatest detectives are invited to a dinner party by the enigmatic Lionel Twain to solve an impossible murder in order to keep their precious reputations and win one million dollars cash. Hilarity Ensues as each detective stumbles around trying to solve the case.

Tropes used in Murder By Death include:

Milo Perrier: What do you make of all of this, Wang?
Sidney Wang: Is confusing.
Lionel Twain: It! It is confusing! Say your goddamn pronouns!

  • Beleaguered Assistant (Willie Wang, Marcel, and Miss Skeffington)
  • Blind Mistake
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: All the detectives are extremely eccentric, being over-the-top parodies of characters who were eccentric to begin with. Doesn't stop them from being clever at their work.
  • The Butler Did It: Parodied.
    • And subverted. While the man who introduced himself as Jamesir Bensonmum, the butler, appears responsible, all explanations past the first involve him clearly not being the butler, including the final one that none of the cast see. Since this is a Dead Unicorn Trope, the real joke is that Neil Simon has Shown Their Work.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Sam Diamond, fully two times. What a charmer.
  • Captain Ersatz: Dick and Dora Charleston are Nick and Nora Charles, Sidney Wang is Charlie Chan, Milo Perrier is Hercule Poirot, Sam Diamond is Sam Spade, and Jessica Marbles is Miss Marple.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Dick and Dora Charleston have an extremely nonchalant -- indeed emotionless -- conversation about the deadly scorpion on their bed which will force them to remain perfectly still, quite possibly for the rest of their perhaps short lives. Later, when the killer asks Dick how they escaped:

Dick Charleston: (breezily) We didn't; it stung Dora. The poison's in her system right now. We have fifteen minutes to get to a hospital. Cue hilarious ecstatic expression on killer's face Fortunately it proved to be a nonlethal type of scorpion.

(dog barks)
Sidney Wang: Listen.
Willie Wang: I don't hear nothing. What do you hear?
Sidney Wang: Double negative, and dog.

  • Hammerspace: Where Dick and Dora seem to get their martinis from.
  • Hardboiled Detective: Sam Diamond
  • Ice Cream Koan: Many from Sidney Wang.
    • He never does finish his "dangerous road like fresh mushroom" one, though, at least audibly and onscreen. Perhaps it was something like "must always be careful which to pick since even ordinary-looking ones can be deadly"?
      • Jessica Marbles has one too, and it sounds really neat and literary: "The chain is stronger if the links are unbroken." (Yeah, well, that's rather the point of the thing, isn't it?)
  • Insane Troll Logic: Somehow Sam links a girl walking off with his money in 1940 Paris with the German invasion of France that by chance occurred two hours later.
  • If You Know What I Mean

"What does he mean, Miss Skeffington?"
"I'll tell you later. It's disgusting."

Wang: Shhh ... voice come from cow on wall.
Twain: Moose! Moose, you imbecile!

  • Precision F-Strike: "Jesus H. Christ."
  • Punny Name: Lionel Twain's is a reference to the famous toy train manufacturer Lionel--and on top of that his address is "22 (Two-Two -- i.e., 'choo-choo') Twain".
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons. Towards the end, each detective team claims to have solved the case, and each one makes a series of deductions which are plausible on their face (and the villian plays along too), but all are subsequently proven wrong.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: The mansion, and it's implied that the maid is, too. Despite both of these, however, the suggestion that the murder weapon may be one is derided as stupid.
  • Running Gag: The French phrase "N'est-ce pas?" being mistaken for "Nestle". As in the following exchange:

Perrier: Hot chocolate, n'est-ce pas?
Butler: I'm sorry, we have only Hershey's.

"I don't get it, Pop: was there a murder, or wasn't there?"
"Yes. Killed good weekend."

Dick:How odd.
Jamesir:My father's name, sir.
Dick: What was your father's name?
Jamesir: Howodd. Howodd Bensonmum.