Everyone gathers at the country estate of the enigmatic Lionel Twain (played by legendary author Truman Capote), who proclaims himself the world’s greatest detective and challenges others to solve a murder that will take place in his sealed, trap-filled puzzle box . of a mansion. Of course, it’s Twain himself who turns up dead, but that’s only the beginning of the fun in acclaimed playwright Neil Simon’s witty, highly meta spin on the classic murder mystery. Aside from Sellers’ hopelessly creepy Wang, the rest of the cast is delightful, and the set-up itself is repeated, thankfully on more modern terms, in Knives out and Glass onion. (DK)
At the forefront of a long-running wave of entire movie franchises built around toys and games, and long before choose-your-own-adventure content was commonplace, there was Indication. Based on the popular board game (developed in England in the 1940s and distributed in the US by Parker Brothers), Indication plays off the classic murder-mystery formula the game itself was built around: Six strangers are invited to a remote mansion by a man who claims to be blackmailing them all—a man who ends up dead shortly after his guests/victims arrive.
Indication not only was it funny and entertaining, cleverly using all the characters, weapons and settings from the game, but as the game could always end differently, so did the movie. With three endings shot and randomly sent to theaters as part of the release (you could eventually see all three on home video), it was definitely a gimmick, but also a mild way to spoof the whole whodunit genre into the deal. There is enough Indication in his DNA Knives out and Glass onionright down to the star-studded cast, which in this case included Tim CurryEileen Brennan, Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd and Madeline Khan. (DK)
Underneath all the post-horror trappings and postmodern commentary of the slasher genre, it’s kind of easy to forget Screamthe original, is a nice little murder mystery (a trick that was subsequently attempted all sequels). It follows a classic whodunit structure: a masked killer preys on a group of teenagers and adults in the town of Woodsboro, and the only clue is that the killer follows the rules of horror movies. Although there is no detective to solve the case, the killer’s main target, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), takes on that role, assisted by reporter Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox) and deputy Dewey Riley (David Arquette). .
The final reveal of the identity of the killer(s), along with the standard exposition explaining how it all happened, is also classic Whodunit material. Scream a comment in this genre as well. But the unraveling of the mystery offers a genuine surprise or two and a satisfying payoff, setting the standard for the modern franchise that followed. (DK)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974/2017)
We’ll call it a tie here, because both big-screen versions of Agatha Christie’s classic novel—the first directed by the great Sidney Lumet, the latter from the sometime great Kenneth Branagh— have many riches to offer. Let’s start with their famous all-star casts: the first features Albert Finney as the master detective Hercule Poirot on the Orient Express. She travels with Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Perkins and others. Meanwhile, the latter finds Branagh taking the lead as Poirot himself, with excellent support from Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom, Jr. and others.
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