It stars Peter Falk as Lou Peckinpaugh, a detective in the Humphrey Bogart mold. The film is an affectionate parody of Bogart movies such as Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon.
The ensemble cast includes Madeline Kahn, Louise Fletcher, Ann-Margret, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing, Marsha Mason, Sid Caesar, John Houseman, Dom DeLuise, Abe Vigoda, James Coco, Phil Silvers, Fernando Lamas, Nicol Williamson, Scatman Crothers, Vic Tayback and Paul Williams.
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Lou Peckinpaugh (Peter Falk), a bumbling San Francisco private detective, tries to prove himself innocent of his partner's murder while helping a bizarre array of characters recover a lost treasure. The film spoofs Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown, and To Have and Have Not. The scene in the restaurant with Peckinpaugh and Pepe Damascus mocks the opening scene of The Big Sleep.
Peter Falk as Lou Peckinpaugh (Once again donning the characteristics he used as "Sam Diamond" in Murder by Death and spoofing Humphrey Bogart)
Madeline Kahn as Mrs. Montenegro (a spoof of Brigette O'Shaunessy from Maltese Falcon)
Dom DeLuise as Pepe Damascus (a pun of Joel Cairo from The Maltese Falcon)
Louise Fletcher as Marlene DuChard
Ann-Margret as Jezebel Dezire (She based her character on "Rusty" from Viva Las Vegas and "Dallas" from Stagecoach) and is also a spoof on Carmen from The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Eileen Brennan as Betty DeBoop (Once again donning the characteristics she used in Murder by Death)
Stockard Channing as Bess (Channing had just received the message about playing Betty Rizzo in Grease. She was also Falk's goddaughter)
Sid Caesar as Ezra Dezire
Marsha Mason as Georgia Merkle
John Houseman as Jasper Blubber (Based on Sydney Greenstreet's "Kaspar Gutman" from The Maltese Falcon)
Vic Tayback as Lieutenant DiMaggio (DiMaggio and Rizzuto were players on the New York Yankees baseball squad).
Abe Vigoda as Sgt. Rizzuto (DiMaggio and Rizzuto were players on the New York Yankees baseball squad).
James Coco as Marcel (Coco was a personal friend of Falk's and wanted a part in the movie)
Phil Silvers as Hoppy (Despite his illness, Falk invited Silvers to help him with the film. They shared cigarettes throughout the filming)
Fernando Lamas as Paul DuChard (Casablanca's Victor Laszlo)
Nicol Williamson as Col. Schlissel
James Cromwell as Schnell (Another member of the Murder by Death cast and another personal friend of Falk)
Scatman Crothers as Tinker (A spoof on Sam from Casablanca)
Paul Williams as Boy (a spoof on Wilmer in Maltese Falcon)
David Ogden Stiers as Captain (Stiers juggled this role with his more well known role as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III in the television series M*A*S*H and had arranged a small amount of the movie's music.)