Cheap Detective [1978]

Most fans of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink comedies like The Naked Gun and Hot Shots probably think the genre started with Airplane!, but Neil Simon's The Cheap Detective came two years earlier. It's a camp parody of Humphrey Bogart's 1940s detective flicks (particularly The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep), with a big dose of Casablanca thrown in for good measure. There's no point in describing the plot--it's little more than a series of cameos by just about every actor working in the 1970s, including Ann-Margaret, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Dom DeLuise, John Houseman, Marsha Mason, and Nicol Williamson. Peter Falk plays the detective and does a fine Bogey impression. Unfortunately, it's not Neil Simon's best work--he's better at character comedy such as The Odd Couple and The Goodbye Girl than this kind of slapstick--but there are a few good lines and the cast gives it their best. Louise Fletcher, not usually known for comedy, does a sharp satire of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, and Madeline Kahn never fails to entertain in a variety of disguises. --Bret Fetzer

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