Max Vandeveer (Robert Morley) runs his own food magazine for the very finest cuisine, and he's the right man to do it as he is what you could describe as a gourmet. He's also something of a tyrant with his staff, ordering them about and making enemies, but he only does so to maintain the highest standards, so imagine his thoughts when he sees his doctor (John Le Mesurier) only to be told that not simply must he go on a diet, but if he continues to eat as he does he will die. Yet what if it wasn't Max who started dying...?
Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? was a film blatantly setting its sights on two very exacting groups of enthusiasts: the crime mystery buffs, specialising in whodunnits, and the food fanatics, people like Max who prefer to dine on the very best meals, indulging themselves shamelessly. To that extent, Ted Kotcheff's film was successful only as much as it attracted a few select members of that cross section, so the Agatha Christie fans were not exactly won over from their leanings, and the aficionados of eating preferred the likes of Babette's Feast or Big Night.
Perhaps that's not so unlikely given that food and murder were not exactly a great combination, and the killings we see are not a case of food poisoning (funnily enough, the culprit never thinks of that method of dispatch) but still comestible-related, so one hapless chef gets cooked in his own oven for example, leading to the sick-making line from Jacqueline Bisset's character Natasha O'Brien, also a cook, that something smells delicious in the kitchen when it's actually the man she spent the night with roasting away. If that didn't quash your appetite, then the rest of this attempted to make the audience hungry regardless.
Natasha is one of the chefs on the hitlist, an expert at desserts whose bombe is renowned across the world. You might be tempted to call the film something of a bomb of a different variety, but if you could adjust to the eccentric tone then you might well find yourself warming to the shenanigans which were intended to be funny as well as suspenseful. If they had been deadly serious, that would have been a grave error in style, and actually many of the lines may have been on the groaning side, but more often than not you'd be surprised into laughing as the cast twinkle rather than beam.
George Segal was our leading man, playing Natasha's ex-husband Robby Ross, a businessman ruthlessly pursuing his chain of restaurants to the point of underhand means, but whether that made him the most obvious suspect was up to you as wherever Natasha goes in Europe (that international co-production look was much in evidence) her chef friends are bumped off, one even having his head squashed in a duck press; if you'd never heard of such a thing, consider yourself enlightened (and sickened, if you're a vegetarian). Actually, this is resolved highly amusingly, and the murderer is not who you'll likely think it is, as Robby races against time at a London TV studio to prevent Natasha being the next victim live on air. What saves this is a kidding technique that has this resembling some kind of game, a game with meals laid on that is, so maybe you don't leave as famished as it intended, but you should be tickled enough to have few regrets. Music by Henry Mancini.