In 1978, two years after "Murder By Death," the same team of writer Neil Simon and director Robert Moore served up this parody of hard-boiled 1940s detective movies. The year is 1939, the place San Francisco. The partner of private eye Lou Peckinpaugh (Falk) has been found shot dead with five innocent bystanders in a hotel. Lou has been having an affair with his partner's wife Georgia (Mason), which complicates the case. Then his great love from the days in Paris, Marlene DuChard (Fletcher), shows up with her husband Paul (Lamas) of the French Resistance. They're on the run from the Nazis and hoping to open a two-star French restaurant in Oakland -- if Paul can get the right papers. (This is the "Casablanca" plotline.) Also, slimy Pepe Damascus (Dom DeLuise) puts Peckinpaugh on the trail of a necklace made of egg-sized, 765-carat diamonds, which brings our hero in contact with Jasper Blubber (Houseman, doing a wonderful parody of the Sydney Greenstreet role in "The Maltese Falcon"). Fans will also recognize lines and scenes from "To Have and Have Not," "The Big Sleep," and even "Chinatown." There are scores of other keen performances, especially Ann-Margret jiggling and flirting outrageously as the young wife of millionaire architect Ezra C. Mildew Desire, Jr. (Caesar), Madeline Kahn as a mysterious client with a dozen different names, Channing as Peckinpaugh's fawning secretary, Nicol Williamson as the dangerous Nazi Colonel Schlissel, and more. The film starts slow, but has a great scene between Falk and Fletcher midway, a bracingly tasteless scene with Falk and Mason and an urn full of his dead partner's ashes, and a terrific finish at the Oakland ferry. A real hoot!
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus