MURDER BY DEATH
1976, Sony Repertory (Columbia), 94 min, USA, Dir: Robert Moore

Eccentric millionaire Truman Capote invites six of the world’s greatest detectives to his mansion for “dinner and a murder.” When the sleuths (Peter Sellers, David Niven, Maggie Smith, James Coco, Peter Falk and Elsa Lanchester) arrive and discover that the host is the apparent victim, they attempt to solve the puzzle and survive the evening themselves. Neil Simon’s dazzling script parodies virtually all the conventions of the murder mystery while throwing in enough red herrings to keep the audience guessing until the very end. With Alec Guinness.


7 FACES OF DR. LAO
1964, Warner Bros., 100 min, USA, Dir: George Pal

When the mysterious Dr. Lao (Tony Randall) arrives in tiny Abalone, Arizona, with his traveling circus in tow, the locals soon discover that this is no ordinary sideshow. The circus performers offer reflections of the townspeople that aren’t always flattering; a rapacious rancher (Arthur O’Connell) sees a great serpent, and a bitter woman is even turned (briefly) to stone. But Lao’s changing faces and cryptic pronouncements can also enlighten, bringing a grieving widow (Barbara Eden) out of her shell and teaching her young son to embrace the wonders of the world. One of noted fantasy filmmaker George Pal’s most distinctive creations, 7 FACES OF DR. LAO earned an Academy Award nomination for its special effects, and an honorary Oscar for William Tuttle’s makeup work.


DEAD AGAIN
1991, Paramount, 107 min, USA, Dir: Kenneth Branagh

“How many times can you die for love?” Historical supernaturalism meets neo-noir in Kenneth Branagh’s richly textured mystery about a private detective caught up in an unsolved murder haunting its way through time. Mike Church (Branagh) is investigating the disappearance of an unknown woman he gives the name “Grace.” Upon finding Grace (Emma Thompson), a terrified amnesiac with nightmares of a woman killed in the 1940s, Mike seeks the help of a hypnotist (Sir Derek Jacobi) to get to the bottom of Grace’s strange fears, but only finds himself further entrenched in a labyrinth of double identity and deadly consequence. With Robin Williams as Cozy Carlisle, the disgraced psychologist relegated to a butcher shop after one too many doctor-patient trysts. Shot on location at some of Los Angeles’ historic landmarks, including the Orpheum Theater, High Tower, and the Shakespeare Bridge.


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