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Manhattan Murder Mystery

Manhattan Murder Mystery

By Jack Murphy • April 30th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
TriStar Pictures

Original release: August 18th, 1993
Running time: 103 minutes

Director: Woody Allen
Writers:Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston

Manhattan Murder Mystery

Although not the most commercially successful or artistically striking of Allen’s films – Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) is definitely worth a watch.

Allen and Marshall Brickman are best known for their joint writing of Sleeper (1973), Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979). The witty back-and-forths and surreal scenes are fundamental to their writing style, although with Manhattan Murder Mystery the writing is noticeably different. The clever dialogue is still there but the film lacks the obvious surreal elements that you get with films like Annie Hall or Sleeper. There are no walking through scenes of childhood or jumping into the future, but you really don’t need it with this film at all.

When Larry (Woody Allen) and Carol’s (Diane Keaton) next door neighbour dies of a heart attack; suspicions rise about the nature of his death. They lead to a series of investigations by Carol and her friend Ted (Alan Alda), and as tensions mount in the strained relationships of the characters, the real mystery of the film is who will end up sleeping with who.

The most striking aspect of Manhattan Murder Mystery is the cinematography. In certain scenes the camera simply moves lazily from one side of the room to the other as different actors speak, while in other scenes it’s like the film has been recorded with a handheld camera. It’s almost like it’s been filmed by a child…and quite an unprofessional child at that! The rough and ready camera movements do eventually add to the charm of the film, and work well with Carol and Ted as they act out their fantasies of amateur detective work. The stake-out scenes in particular are entertaining as they clearly don’t have a clue what they are doing – much like the camerawork.

The neurotic partnership between Larry and Carol is familiar territory for Allen and Keaton. The two actors fit comfortably into their troubled middle-aged relationship, and their dynamics couldn’t be more natural. They connect quickly – and easily – which Allen fans have come to expect from these two actors; as they effortlessly move through the well written script you can tell they’ve worked together before.

Manhattan Murder Mystery

The support cast’s performances are remarkable. Anjelica Huston’s Marcia Fox adds is serious competition for Carol, whilst Alan Alda’s Ted is the ideal counterbalance for Larry. With both characters swiftly established as sexual predators, Larry and Carol have their work cut out for them to not fall prey to either Marcia or Ted. Jerry Adler also provides a compelling performance as the mysterious, stamp collecting neighbour – although it’s hard to look at him without thinking ‘wow that’s Hesh from The Sopranos – before he was Hesh from The Sopranos’.

Performance aside, the pace of the film does leave something to be desired. The first half moves very slowly as it introduces the characters, establishes their relationships and deals with the questionable murder mystery. Although the dialogue is entertaining and fun to watch, the plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Manhattan Murder Mystery does pick up as it goes along, and while the plot is moving forward it starts gathering momentum. That is when it really comes into its own; as it becomes more and more exaggerated, the film gets better and better, finally culminating in a fantastically plotted, and unexpected ending – yet very Allen-esque. Without giving too much away: what you thought was going to happen, but were thinking all along wouldn’t happen, probably didn’t happen.

Manhattan Murder Mystery

Jack Murphy

Jack Murphy

Jack is an English Literature student in his early Twenties (The Golden Age!) at the University of Leeds. He insists on saying that he’s originally from Slough, Berkshire which is the setting of Ricky Gervais’ comedy series The Office – and not a day goes by that he’s not reminded of that fact… Irrespective of being mocked for it, Jack still is, and will most likely remain, a big Gervais fan.

And he sure knows how to spend his time. Having subscribed to a well known DVD delivery service for the past three years, Jack spends half of his days watching DVDs – and the other half on catch-up websites watching TV programmes.

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