When you see a plot summary like that, how can you resist? It's pure ridiculousness. Nine years before Clue, there was Neil Simon's Murder By Death -- a most excellent spoof on the classic literary detectives: Peter Falk as Sam Diamond (Spade), Elsa Lanchester as Jessica Marbles (Marple), David Niven and Maggie Smith as Dick and Dora Charleston (Charles), James Coco as Milo Perrier (Poirot), and Peter Sellers as Sidney Wang (Chan). Rounding out the cast, there's James Cromwell as a ridiculous French chauffeur, Eileen Brennan (of later Clue fame) as Spade's dame, Alec Guinness as the butler Bensonmum, Nancy Walker as the deaf-mute maid plus Estelle Winwood as the nurse and Richard Narita as Willie Wang.
Invited for the ultimate murder mystery party by Capote's Lionel Twain, each detective arrives with their recognizable quirks in tact, from Dick Charleston's martini and manners to Poirot's love of food. They arrive, they dodge death, and they try to solve the carefully planned and utterly confusing murder. It's completely ridiculous, but not in that way we're used to these days, with the proliferation of terrible spoofs. In 1976, it was talented actors whose charisma made the absurd irresistible and fun rather than trite and forgettable.
And behind-the-scenes as almost as interesting as what appeared on the big screen. Fay Wray's screams from King Kong used the doorbell. Myrna Loy was invited to spoof herself, but she thought it ridiculous and didn't want her "ass pinched by David Niven." Alec Guinness read the Star Wars script between scenes. Orson Welles was tapped to play Inspector Wang, but had prior commitments. Katharine Hepburn was set to spoof Agatha Christie, but backed out after Myrna Loy refused. ...and more over at IMDb.
Films like this make me wish the biggest talents of today were brought together to do something similar. It brings so much more depth to silly proceedings.
Since this is an irresistible collection of talent, what follows is a collection of some of the scenes where each actor shines.