Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1976 - MURDER BY DEATH, probably about as funny as Neil Simon gets.

An old school Hollywood all star cast does a great job with Neil Simon's lame spoof of film detectives.  If you ever needed a demonstration of the art of comedy timing, this movie's one joke premise which is full of silly one liners and ridiculous situations is raised from the dead by this amazing cast of comedy pros.  

The director Robert Moore was not a guy who was known as a film stylist, but he must have been pretty good at keeping this set under control considering the number of actors with big egos that he  had to endure.  It's also important not to forget another big ego on Murder by Death,  the writer Neil Simon.

At this point in his career, Neil Simon had a formidable if undeserved reputation as one of the funniest guys in the theater or Hollywood.  This reputation was primarily earned on the basis of one hit play The Odd Couple, something he constantly rewrote in one form or another throughout his career.  Simon had a clause in his film contract that not one word of his scripts could be changed by anyone.  Neil Simon finally petered out around 1998 with The Odd Couple II which was supposedly pretty bad. 

This is the movie where Alec Guinness received the script for the first Star Wars film during the filming of Murder By Death.  Guinness had never done a science fiction/fantasy film before and he was persuaded by Robert Moore to sign on to that film.  The rest as they say is film history.


Murder by Death is a really good example of talented actors literally carrying a barely funny script and making an entertaining movie out of it.

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