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Film / The Cheap Detective

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The Cheap Detective is a 1978 American comedy-mystery film written by Neil Simon and directed by Robert Moore. It is a follow-up and Spiritual Sequel to Simon and Moore's earlier film, Murder by Death.

The film is an Affectionate Parody of Humphrey Bogart movies such as The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, but manages to get a few shots in at the Film Noir genre in general. Peter Falk stars as Lou Peckinpaugh, a detective in the Sam Spade mold. As with Murder by Death, there's no shortage of comedic icons to share the spotlight.

Floyd Merkle, Private Eye, is found dead— killed so abruptly that he didn't even have time to fall down. It's up to his partner, Lou, to solve Merkle's last case, prove his own innocence, outwit the Nazis, and find the greatest lost treasure of all time— all while dealing with the strangest people ever to loiter on a San Francisco street on a dark, rainy night...

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Parody: Definitely. The more you love Noir and Bogart films, the more you'll love this movie.
  • The Chanteuse: Eileen Brennan as Miss Betty DeBoop.
  • Color Animal Codename: The characters mention their nicknames while talking to each other. Colonel Schlissel is the Black Fox, Paul DuChard is the Silver Wolf, Marlene DuChard is the White Swan. Also Played for Laughs: two minor Nazi officers are called the Gray Rabbit and the Blue Chipmunk.
  • The Determinator: Marcel. He's so fixed on reclaiming the diamonds that he stays alive for ten years after being shot in the chest, bleeding all the while.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Damascus loudly objects to Lou forcing the gunsel to beat himself up.
  • I Have Many Names: Madeline Kahn's character, credited as "Mrs. Montenegro", gives a new name every time she appears, often several in one scene.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Parodied. Miss Montenegro once dropped a live electrical wire in Pepe Damascus's bathtub. He survived, but with extremely curly hair.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Lou is either pursued by or has a romantic history with half a dozen women over the course of the film: Georgia Merkle, widow of his murdered partner; Betty DeBoop, nightclub singer; "Mrs Montenegro", a woman of dozens of aliases (and hair colours); Marlene DuChard, resistance hero's wife and former lover of Lou's; Jezebel Dezire, Femme Fatale; and Bess, his secretary and Girl Friday. At the end of the film, he ends up with all of them - except Georgia, who goes to jail for the murder of her husband and five other people.note 
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Lou forces Blubber's gunsel (Paul Williams) to inflict one of these on himself.
  • Serious Business: The Casablanca parody segment is about trying to open a restaurant that caters to French refugees. For some reason La RĂ©sistance and the Nazis feel the need to get involved in this.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Colonel Schlissel and his henchmen.
  • Who's on First?: Colonel Shlissel's subordinates are named Qvicker and Schnell. Guess what happens when he tries to make a cab go faster?