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Murder By Death -- The Sam Diamond Storyline Makes No Sense
I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Murder By Death trying to make head or tails out of the Sam Diamond story. I know the movie is a parody on all the old detective movie characters, but even in a parody your storyline needs to make sense. All the other characters storylines are believable and you can buy them. Sam Diamond’s and his secretary/not secretary just isn’t.
Take Nancy Walker’s character. She shows up as a deaf mute who has a note saying she can’t speak English, but later she writes a note in English, showing she can speak English. That seems like a giant plot hole until you see the end of the movie. At the end of the movie she’s revealed to be Ilene Twain. She came to the house posing as a deaf maid. Then she made it look to the detectives that she wasn’t real, so she wouldn’t be suspected in the murders. But she murdered the butler [who was real], as well as all the other people she got accused of being at the end of the movie. She was laughing her head off at the end of the movie because she fooled all the so-called brilliant detectives who didn’t have the clue about her perfect crime. Thus the plot hole made sense and wasn’t a plot hole but a clue.
The Sam Diamond story is fine up until the bomb gets planted in his room, then he arrives to claim his secretary isn’t his secretary and he isn’t Sam Diamond. Sam Diamond is really the butler/Lionel Twain and he was jealous of all the detectives so set this whole thing up. Then at the end of the movie he’s Sam Diamond again and was undercover, which also made no sense, and his secretary still wasn’t supposedly his secretary.
Earlier in the movie Diamond and Jessica Marbles were thrilled to see each other, so they knew each other previously. And Wang knew about him, too. So right there there’s no way he could be only pretending to be Sam Diamond. Both Marble and Wang could have easily proven that to be a lie. You can only go undercover if nobody has never met you before. That’s why what he claims makes no sense.
Ditto for Tess not really being his secretary, but a cocktail waitress hired to pretend to be his secretary. They had several conversations in private that clearly showed her to be his secretary. She mentioned finding Muscle Man magazines in his desk, I think it was. And are we to believe he just managed to conveniently pick a cocktail waitress that just happened to be Lionel Twain’s niece to pretend to be his secretary. It just makes no sense.
The closest theory I can come up with to explain his behavior is he was in cahoots with Ilene Twain. It was Diamond that found the box with the plastic maid parts just as the other detectives were surmising the maid had killed the butler. He was the one who took the maid off the suspect list and claimed she wasn’t real, but a plastic dummy. The same excuse was used to claim Bensonmum hadn’t been real, and thus wasn’t murdered, either. And with all the detectives believing that Ilene was really Lionel Twain at the end of the movie, that murder got wiped away, as well, convincing all the detectives no murder had taken place. It was all just pretend
The scene where Diamond claims he’s not Diamond he almost seems to be coaxing Ilene to pretend to be Sam Diamond and go along with his lie in exchange for the money. If you watch the scene, you’ll see what I mean. His whole demeanor was like he was throwing Ilene a line to save herself. Only she didn’t take it and claimed to really be Lionel Twain.
I’ve never watched The Maltese Falcon. I’ve tried, but I couldn’t follow the movie and just gave up and watched something else instead. Neil Simon is a talented writer, so for him to write such illogical tripe for the Sam Diamond character, there has to be a reason for it. Maybe he was trying to make a commentary on The Maltese Falcon. Maybe he thought the movie was filled with a bunch of farfetched plot twists that made absolutely no sense when you stopped to think about it. After all, he did have Twain giving that disdainful speech about how the novels were written so the readers couldn’t figure out who did it.
Aside from the Diamond plot twist this is a really great movie with a lot of hilarious moments. Like Twain trying to correct Wang’s broken English. Not to mention a lot of dirty jokes. This was the first movie I ever saw Maggie Smith in and I became an instant fan of hers. The only bad part is Sam Diamond and that ludicrous plot twist near the end of the movie. It drives me crazy because it makes absolutely no sense at all.