Stars: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Alec Guinness, Peter Falk, Maggie Smith, Truman Capote, Elsa Lanchester, James Coco, Eileen Brennan
Director: Robert Moore
Producer: Ray Stark
Released: Columbia 1976
Story: Neil Simon farce parodying five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks who are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve a strange mystery.
As this film is all about parody, and an absolute classic in this respect, the score for “Murder By Death” depends on cliché in music as much as characterization, plot and dialogue.
There is a great deal of music in the film, but the opportunity has not been taken or allowed to give full vent to Dave Grusin's usual inventiveness, which might have resulted in an entirely different score.
The jaunty main title leaves no doubt that this is going to be an amusing romp with a good few twists and turns, led by a mischievous piper. Even in mysterious moments, a sense of mirth never leaves the score.
To complete the take-off, each of the detectives has their own motif, a sophisticated romantic one for the Thin Man look-alikes (the Charlestons), an Oriental one for Wang (Charlie Chan and son), a Gallic one for the Poirot character Perrier, a low life one for Sam Diamond and girl Friday, and a British fanfare for Miss Marbles. While not themes as such, the very practice of identifying music for individual characters is not something one would usually find in a Dave Grusin score.
Spoofing the music of this type of film, amplified punch lines, stingers, notes of hyper suspense and everything one might expect to go along with a satire of the genre, make it all great fun.
Music Editor: George Probert