Manhattan Murder Mystery
|Manhattan Murder Mystery|
|Directed by||Woody Allen|
|Produced by||Robert Greenhut|
|Written by||Woody Allen
|Cinematography||Carlo Di Palma|
|Editing by||Susan E. Morse|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Release date(s)||August 18, 1993|
|Running time||104 minutes|
|Budget||$13.5 million (est.)|
|Box office||$11,285,588 (USA)|
Larry Lipton (Woody Allen) and his wife Carol (Diane Keaton) meet their next-door neighbors Paul House (Jerry Adler) and his wife Lilian (Lynn Cohen), who invite them over for coffee. Lilian discusses her various exercises with Carol, while Paul shows Larry his stamp collections. The couple seems very healthy considering their ages.
The next night, Larry and Carol come off the elevator to find the Houses' door open, and a crowd forming in the doorway. They learn that Lilian has died of a heart attack suddenly. Her body is covered by a sheet on a stretcher. Larry and Carol both think that her death is a surprise, because she was so healthy, and did not mention any heart conditions when with Carol.
A couple of days after her death, the Liptons meet Paul on the street. Carol notes his cheerfulness and thinks his behavior is suspicious. Intent on visiting Paul again, Carol bakes him a dessert, and she and Larry go over to his apartment. While searching for coffee beans in the kitchen, she finds an urn with ashes hidden in a cupboard, despite the fact that Paul said that Lilian was buried. Carol becomes more suspicious, especially after hearing him leave his apartment at one in the morning. She thinks that he took his car out to dispose of the urn, but Larry believes that Carol is overreacting.
Carol sees Paul leaving the building the next morning, so she steals a spare key from the office, and sneaks into his apartment. The urn is missing, and she sees two tickets to Paris and a reservation for a Paris hotel, along with the name Helen Moss. While she is still in Paul's home she calls Ted (Alan Alda), a family friend who is equally interested in the mystery. Paul walks in, and Carol hides under the bed. She overhears a conversation between Paul and a person who she supposes is Helen Moss. She escapes, only to realize later that she left her glasses in the apartment.
She tells Larry about this, and he is angry with her for acting so foolishly. She makes another dessert to bring to Paul, and she and Larry visit him again to find her glasses. After a quick search Paul produces them and says that he found them under the bed. Meanwhile, Ted looked up Helen Moss and found out where she lives. He and Carol scout out the apartment and find that Helen Moss (Melanie Norris) is a young, beautiful actress. They follow her to the theater Paul owns. An elderly woman named Mrs. Dalton (Marge Redmond) is also there and is friends with Paul.
Later, Carol and Ted are together for a wine tasting. Ted leaves, and Carol sees Lilian House riding the bus. She tells Larry, who does not believe her, and suggests that Lilian has a twin. Ted however, does believe her and looks up Lillian House to learn that she had a sister and a late brother, but no twin. Larry becomes jealous of their relationship, so he decides to scout out the street Carol saw Lilian on with his wife. Larry tries to remain enthusiastic, like Ted, and eventually believes Carol when he sees Lilian enter a hotel. Carol decides to buy a fake gift for Lilian, so they can sneak into the hotel and talk to her.
They are allowed in, though Lilian is under a fake name. They enter her room with the fake gift, only to find her dead on the bedroom floor. They hurry out of the room and call the police, but once they arrive, the body is gone. Carol does not accept this, so she goes back later with Larry to search the room for any clues and find Lilian's wedding ring. They leave and go on the elevator, but it suddenly stops. Larry suffers from severe claustrophobia and starts freaking out. Carol tries escaping to through the roof, only to find Lilian's dead body. The lights go out, and the elevator goes down to the basement. Larry and Carol leave through the back door. Larry is frightened, and Carol is thrilled. They get to the street and see a man put a body in his trunk.
The couple follow him out of the city to a junk yard that is melting scrap metal. The man dumps her body in a pile, and the body is burned in front of Carol and Larry. They follow the man to his car to learn that it is Paul, who noticed the couple following him before. Larry and Carol know that there is nothing they can do, as all evidence is gone, and Mrs. Dalton can provide Paul with an alibi for when the deaths took place.
They later get together with Ted and Marcia Fox (Angelica Huston), an author who is a friend of Larry's. Marcia says that Paul has committed the perfect murder and tells Carol and Larry how to catch him. They plan to create a fake audition and get Helen to attend and get her to recite some lines, which they will take and create several tapes to feign a phone call between her and Paul, stating that Carol and Larry saved Lilian's body and want $200,000 or they will call the police. The tapes of Helen state that he can either give them the money or kill them. Marcia knows that Paul will undoubtedly try killing them, which is when they contact the police.
The plan goes relatively well until after the phone call. Carol accuses Larry of being attracted to Marcia, as he suggested a book to her and has been taking late night poker lessons from her. Larry expresses his same concerns with Ted. Carol asks him for some time alone and goes back to the apartment. Paul kidnaps her and brings her to his theater. He calls Larry and threatens to kill Carol, unless Larry brings Lilian's body. Though they are bluffing, Larry goes anyway to save his wife.
Paul sees that Larry has no body, and they briefly fight. Larry runs off to find Carol but is disoriented when he enters the room behind the theater's screen. There are renovations being done, and there are several mirrors and windows reflecting the movie being played. Paul stalks him down with a gun but Mrs. Dalton shoots him. It is evident that they were having an affair, and she does not want him to run away with Helen. Larry finds Carol tied up and saves her, and they both call the police, with the thrill of the whole ordeal having brought them closer together.
In an ending scene, Marcia explains to Ted what exactly took place (which is almost exactly what she supposed) - the dead body in the apartment was Lilian's rich sister. The sister had a heart attack while visiting them, so the couple took advantage of the situation. Lilian hid as her husband called the police and claimed his wife died. They looked so similar no one noticed. Lilian left the apartment early in the morning and checked into a hotel. She was to pretend to be her sister, changing her will so she and her husband received all her money. After this was done, Paul double-crossed and killed her, so he could run off with Helen. The plan went perfectly until Carol and Larry interfered.
- Woody Allen as Larry Lipton
- Diane Keaton as Carol Lipton
- Jerry Adler as Paul House
- Lynn Cohen as Lillian House
- Alan Alda as Ted
- Melanie Norris as Helen Moss
- Marge Redmond as Mrs. Dalton
- Anjelica Huston as Marcia Fox
The screenplay for Manhattan Murder Mystery started out as an early draft of Annie Hall, but Woody Allen did not feel that it was substantial enough, and he decided to go in a different direction. He had put off making the film for years because he felt it was too lightweight, "like an airplane book read". Allen decided to revisit the material in the early 1990s. He contacted Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote Annie Hall, and they worked on the story some more. The role of Carol was originally written for Mia Farrow, but the part was recast when she and Allen ended their relationship and became embroiled in a custody battle over their three children. Allegations in the media claimed that changes were made to the film in what was "definitely a reaction" to Allen's relationship problems, including the casting of Anjelica Huston as "a much younger first-time novelist" with whom Allen's character became romantically involved (Huston was 41 during production).
In the fall of 1992, Allen called Diane Keaton and asked her to fill in for Farrow, and she immediately accepted. When asked if he had re-written the script to fit Keaton's talents, Allen said, "No, I couldn't do that. In a regular script I would have done that upon hiring Diane Keaton. But I couldn't [here] because it's a murder mystery, and it's very tightly plotted, so it's very hard to make big changes... I had written [the part] more to what Mia likes to do. Mia likes to do funny things, but she's not as broad a comedian as Diane is. So Diane made this part funnier than I wrote it."
Making the film was a form of escape for Allen because the "past year was so exhausting that I wanted to just indulge myself in something I could relax and enjoy". He also found it very therapeutic working with Keaton again. After getting over her initial panic in her first scene with Alan Alda, Keaton and Allen slipped back into their old rhythm. After she had trouble with that scene, Allen decided to re-shoot it. In the meantime, she worked with her acting coach and did other scenes that went well. According to Allen, Keaton changed the dynamic of the film because he "always look(s) sober and normal compared to Keaton. I turn into the straight man". Huston said that the set was "oddly free of anxiety, introspection and pain", and this was due to Keaton's presence.
The film was shot in the fall of 1992 on the streets of Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Allen had cinematographer Carlo Di Palma rely on hand-held cameras, "swiveling restlessly from one room to another, or zooming in abruptly for a close look " in a style one reviewer called "meaningless affectation."
Larry and Carol Lipton's apartment is at 200 East 78th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue and between two groups of New York City Designated Landmarks, east of one group of rowhouses and west of another group. Allen staged a climactic shoot-out in a roomful of mirrors that, according to Allen, referenced a similar shoot-out in Orson Welles' film, The Lady from Shanghai.
This was Allen's second and final film with TriStar Pictures, and it was speculated in the press that this deal was not extended because of the filmmaker's personal problems, or that his films were not very profitable. Allen, however, denied these allegations in interviews at the time. Zach Braff made his feature film debut in a one-scene role as the son of Allen and Keaton's characters; Braff later said, "When I look at that scene now, all I can see is the terror in my eyes".
Manhattan Murder Mystery opened on August 18, 1993 in 268 theaters and made USD $2 million in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $11.3 million in North America, below its estimated $13.5 million budget. Its £1,920,825 in box office made it the number-one film in the United Kingdom for the weekend ending January 23, 1994.
In his review for Newsweek, David Ansen wrote, "On screen, Keaton and Allen have always been made for each other: they still strike wonderfully ditsy sparks". USA Today gave the film four out of four stars, and advised fans to forget Allen's tabloid woes because "there's a better reason why Allen fans should give it a shot. It's very, very funny, and there's no mystery about that". Janet Maslin called it a "dated detective story" but also wrote, "it achieves a gentle, nostalgic grace and a hint of un-self-conscious wisdom". Desson Howe, in The Washington Post, complained that there was "little 'new' in this film. Allen and Keaton are essentially playing Alvy Singer and Annie Hall gone middle-aged".
- 1994 César Awards: Best Foreign Film
- 48th British Academy Film Awards: Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Anjelica Huston
- 51st Golden Globe Awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role - Comedy/Musical, Diane Keaton
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- Manhattan Murder Mystery at Rotten Tomatoes
- Manhattan Murder Mystery at the Internet Movie Database
- Manhattan Murder Mystery at AllRovi
- Manhattan Murder Mystery at Box Office Mojo
- Manhattan Murder Mystery at Rotten Tomatoes
- Manhattan Murder Mystery at Turner Classic Movies