Posted on November 26th, 2012 No comments
“2-2-Twain”. It’s puns galore in Niel Simon’s hilarious spoof of just about every murder mystery detective of the mid-20th century, the movie that uses more old-time gags and goofy plot devices than a thief has disguises…
Starring David Niven, Truman Capote, Eileen Brennan, Peter Falk, James Coco, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell, Richard Narita, and Nancy Walker. (Whew! That’s a lot of stars!)
There’s no way to tell you much about the storyline without giving it all away…so I’ll give you the basics. Lionel Twain (Capote) invites each of the most famous mystery detectives of all time to “Dinner and a Murder”. With slightly-off names like Sam Diamond and Jessica Marbles, the guests reluctantly come to Twian’s mansion (address: 22 Twain), and are soon treated to exactly what they were invited for…dinner, served by the blind butler (Guinness), and a murder. Yes, Obe Wan is a blind butler, aided by the deaf made (played by Nancy “Rosie” Walker). It’s all about devices.
The lights go out. Someone is stabbed in the back. Rooms change. The moose on the wall talks. People’s clothes disappear. There is thunder and lightning, the bridge is out, and everyone is a suspect. It’s up to the spoofish detectives to overcome their goofy lines and solve the mystery before it’s too late…but will they? Yes, they will. Or will they?
Directed by Robert Moore in a 1940’s Noir style (although it’s in color, which was probably also meant as a joke), Murder by Death is packed full of just about every cliché possible, from the “Milo Perrier” character (aka Poirot) mixing up English and French words:
Marcel: Something isn’t right in all of this, eh. I can feel it in my buns.
Inspector Milo Perrier: Your what?
Marcel: My buns.
Inspector Milo Perrier: Buns? Your buns? You bought buns and you didn’t tell me? Where are they? Where are the buns?
Marcel: Oh! No, monsieur. The BONES in my body.
Inspector Milo Perrier: You should not speak with an accent when you know I am so hungry.
Tess Skeffington: There’s nothing on him ’til ’46, when he was picked up in El Paso, Texas, for trying to smuggle a truckload of rich white Americans across the border into Mexico to pick melons.
Sam Diamond : I think we picked ourselves a queer bird, angel.
Because it’s by one of our favorite cats, Niel Simon, the writing is incredibly rich and intelligent, in spite of the crazy wandering and goofy puns. Just when you think the mystery is solved, something else comes along to throw the “Twain” off the tracks (sorry, couldn’t resist). There are more twists than a bag of Twizzlers. All this, plus the fantastic performances from some of old Hollywood’s brightest stars, makes Murder By Death a fun movie to watch any time.
Food & Booze: This is a grand dinner, so go all out – roast turkey, baked ham, the works. Or, serve invisible soup (you’ll see). Vintage cocktails are in order: Martinis, Manhattans, and straight whiskey.
My Take: I first saw this movie in the mid 1980s, then again in the early 1990s. It’s part of what made me decide to start my own murder mystery comedy dinner theater, and to later write Noir murder mystery novels. Even though it’s a spoof, I rank it up there with The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and Murder on the Orient Express.
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the other dining room at Tiki Lounge Talk.
Posted on March 7th, 2010 2 comments
Get out your Naru jacket, tune up the sitar and get ready to watch a truly mod movie from the psychedelic ’60s, baby! Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards got together only once to make a comedy that wasn’t about The Pink Panther. The Party, 1968 is a crazy, mod, very ’60s flick about Hollywood craziness of the day, and spoofs a big hippie-era Hollywood party so well you’ll wish you were there.
Peter Sellers plays an Indian actor named Hrundi V. Bakshi who is trying desperately to get his big break in American films. As you might expect, he does more harm than good on the set and gets himself put on the black list, only to be accidentally put on the invitation list to the big Hollywood shindig instead. Add every 1960s mod movie gag in the book, hot women, pot smoking musicians and a baby elephant and you can’t miss. And I guarantee, for the rest of your days every time you see a parrot, you’ll want to call him Birdy Num Num.
You’ll have to put yourself in the era to enjoy this flick – it’s not exactly action-packed, and there’s no real story, just one funny scene after another. (According to IMDB: “This film was improvised from a 56-page outline. Each scene was shot in sequence, and built upon the previous scene. To aid in this experiment, the film’s producers had a video-camera tube attached to the Panavision camera and connected to an Ampex studio videotape machine, allowing the actors and crew to review what they had just filmed.”)
Since the movie is about a big swingin’ Hollywood party in 1968, suitable fare should include fondue, caviar, California salad and cucumber sandwiches. For drinks, Champagne would be grand, or Beefeater Martinis for the cocktail set.
-Tiki Chris for Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on January 18th, 2010 1 comment
Today from the Tiki Bar, here’s a kookie flic that’s got so much insanity flying around you’ll have to watch it three times just to figure out what the hell is going on. Straight from swingin’ London during the heart of the Mod era comes
This is a kinda-sorta real but not really part of the James Bond 007 series of movies…it was supposed to be the movie version of Ian Flemmings’ first James Bond novel, but Hollywood politics got in the way. Long story short, producer Charles K. Feldman decided to make it a spoof of the James Bond movies. Cut to Peter Sellers. Hilarity ensues.
The Tiki-Time Scoop:
This is the only James Bond film to offer multiple Bonds…David Niven stars as the retired James Bond, a somewhat stodgy fellow who is rather annoyed by the sexual antics of the new 007s. Peter Sellers stars as Evelyn Tremble, who becomes James Bond. Woody Allen plays Jimmy Bond. The list goes on…
This spoof takes elements of the original story and twists them into an LSD-induced string of craziness that is fun to watch. The fact that Ursela Andress, Jaqueline Bisset and Deborah Kerr are in it don’t hurt. Throw in kats like William Holden, Orson Welles and George Raft, and you can’t miss.
This truly “Mod” movie even includes original music by Burt Bacharach, much of it performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. “The Look of Love” is performed by Dusty Springfield behind one of my favorite 60’s Movie Scenes of all time, which includes glowing goldfish and a sunken living room.
I won’t try to give you a synopsis of the story…that would just make things more complicated. Just watch the silly film. It may be a little hard to take if you’re not into the scene. It’s strange, it’s odd, it’s a product of the times. It had six-plus separate directors. Sellers and Welles couldn’t stand each other and the scenes they were in together were shot separately using stand-ins.
Sellers was so much trouble on the set he was fired before filming was over, and they re-arranged the ending of the movie around scenes he never shot. (There’s a lot of great trivia on the movie at IMDB, click here). It ran over budget and was one of the most expensive films produced up until that time. All in all, it managed to make it to the number 3 spot for 1967.
I don’t dig drugs, but if I did, I’d want to be high on acid to watch this. Since that ain’t gonna happen, I’d suggest something a little far out there…for snacks, stuffed mushroom caps, escargot, assorted cheeses with pimentos and olives, you know, goofy 60’s stuff. For the booze, I think Martinis would be ok, but expand your mind for this groovy movie, try a Gin or Vodka Collins, a Harvey Wallbanger or maybe a nice Golden Cadillac.