Skip to main content

Neil Simon's 'Murder by Death' Defined Most of My Childhood


On a Thursday night in the early-to-mid 80s I became transfixed by a film that would leave a lasting impression on my young brain. I remember it was a Thursday because those were the nights my mother worked late, and my father pretty much let me watch whatever I wanted.

Murder by Death, the Neil Simon-penned farce that starred a dozen famous names (Maggie Smith, Peter Falk, Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers - to name a few), had a few runs on broadcast television, and since the age of 5, I had always made an appointment to watch it whenever a listing popped up in TV Guide -- that is, until my family finally learned how to properly use a VCR.

Murder is clearly a precursor of Clue, another murder-mystery spoof I proudly list on my Top 10 Favorite Films of All-Time. The zany plot points, the cheeky dialogue, the gothic settings -- all of it must have conspired to appeal to my then-burgeoning inner mystery buff.


The opening credits of this 1976 film is probably another element that drew me in. Designed by Charles Addams, the pop-up cutout features caricatures of each actor, some with eyes that creepily shift back and forth. It closely resembles the artwork featured in Masterpiece Mystery, which happens to be done by Edward Gorey, my favorite artist. Also, the film's signature score is a classy-yet-quirky orchestration of horns, strings, and flutes that perfectly captures the tone of the whole production.

But ultimately, what my obsession with this near-obscure piece of cinema proves -- a movie that came out four years before I was even born -- is that I am indeed my mother's son. In retrospect, my mother, a fan of all things Agatha Christie, clearly influenced my pop cultural tastes. I grew up in a household filled with paperback detective novels, Sherlock Holmes, and Murder She Wrote (and since I'm an only child, the influence was probably stronger).

Just another piece of insight on why I am who I am today.


@TheFirstEcho

Comments

Popular posts from this blog


13 Things You Probably Didn't Know About 'The Golden Girls'

When one nostalgically binges on all seven seasons of The Golden Girls like me (I swear I have a life), you pick up on a few things. Certain patterns appear as you continuously witness the consumption of countless cheesecakes inside a fictitious Miami kitchen and hear one St. Olaf story too many.

Here's what I noticed after playing my DVDs of this 80s classic over the past several months (and if you're already familiar with the following factoids, excuse me for underestimating your fanaticism)...

1. Actor Harold Gould, who played Rose's long-term boyfriend Miles Webber from Season 5 to Season 7 (and throughout most of the short-lived spinoff, The Golden Palace), also appears in the first season as Arnie Peterson, Rose's first serious beau after her husband's death.

2. The same can be said for Sid Melton, who played Sophia's deceased husband Sal (in flashbacks and dream sequences). He also appears in a Season 6 episode as a jester in a medieval-themed restauran…

Dream Casting the New "Death on the Nile"

Earlier this year, when the trailer for the most recent Murder on the Orient Express remake was dropped, I was hoping that someone at 20th Century Fox would have the foresight to concoct an Agatha Christie Cinematic Universe. After all, this is the world we now live in -- where every property coveted by a major studio must have the potential to be milked for all it's worth. Plus, as a former child raised by an Agatha Christie fan, I am somewhat familiar with this world, and experiencing new renditions of these titles as an adult is exciting.

And now that Kenneth Branagh's version of the Hercule Poirot mystery has been released (and raking in $150 million-and-counting worldwide), it seems like my prayers are being answered. The studio is going ahead with a "sequel" in the form of a remake of Death on the Nile, another death-filled destination about the Belgian detective taking a river cruise in Egypt and coming across another corpse and another group of suspects.

The…

Lori Loughlin Reunites with Daughter Olivia Jade: A Dramatization

The following is purely speculative for the purposes of our general entertainment and my possible employment to write the inevitable HBO/Hulu/Netflix/Ryan Murphy limited series...



EXT. THE MOSSIMO ESTATE - DAY

A black SUV makes its way through a throng of news vans and a mob of reporters. Cameras flash. A proverbial media circus. The SUV pulls up to the gate as it slowly opens.


EXT. THE MOSSIMO COURTYARD - CONTINUOUS

The SUV makes its way up the driveway and stops. A shaken LORI steps out of the car. She's clearly had a rough night and glances up at the house, preparing herself for what's to come. Her assistant, RILEY, 27, an overly groomed twunk running on three Venti lattes, is right there with her. 

He attempts to guide her to the door, but she waves him away.


INT. THE MOSSIMO ESTATE - FOYER

Lori and Riley enter the quiet house, the outside chaos suddenly muted. No one is there to greet them.


RILEY She should be upstairs in her room.
LORI And Isabella?
Riley solemnly shakes his head.
Lo…