"Murder by Death" is a fantastic spoof of detective fiction, especially the detective movie and the country house genre. We watched it last night through the brand-new amazon.com streaming video offering. (See "Amazon adds streaming video to Prime subscriptions in a bid to rival Netflix, Hulu" for details on the new service.)
In "Murder by Death" Peter Sellers sends up Charlie Chan (made me laugh out loud over and over). Elsa Lanchester parodies Miss Marple. Peter Falk plays an amalgam of Humphry Bogart roles, especially Sam Spade, making you realize where Colombo got some of his mannerisms. David Niven and Maggie Smith play the Charlstons, Dick and Dora, who have a dog just like Asta in "The Thin Man." Truman Capote is the madman who invites them all to his strange mansion, reached via a bridge that's falling down, etc. I loved every minute.
Now what do you do to parody the constant use of food in murder mysteries? Well, the blind butler, played by Alec Guinness, hires a new maid, who is deaf and dumb. No communication. No dinner. She sits idly in the kitchen while he gives her instructions that she doesn't hear. He brings in an empty tureen and pantomimes serving soup. Perfect!
Great movie. Great idea from amazon.com.