On a hunch that the death of an older
woman, Lillian House, who lived across the hall was really foul
play, the recently departed's middle aged neighbors, Larry and
Carol Lipton, and their 2 friends, Ted and Marsha, become involved
in investigating the suspected husband, Paul House, resulting
in unexpected adventures, and discoveries about themselves.
This film is one of the crown jewels of Woody
Allen's movie making efforts. It is a delightfully funny, yet
a suspenseful murder mystery as well, with elements of Alfred
Hitchcock and Sherlock Holmes nicely intermingled into the twists
and turns of the storyline. The second storyline, also in the
plot, follows how a relationship between a middle-aged couple
changes for the better, after some struggles and temptations.
Both storylines come together nicely at the end.
The middle-aged couple, Larry and Carol, is played
perfectly by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. At this point in their
lives, their relationship is in need of tweaking or adjustment,
as often happens when a son or daughter goes off to college, as
their only son did. They seem to have opposite feelings about
how to live life and what interests to pursue. Larry is more conservative
in outlook, ("stodgy"), while Diane is outgoing, always
on the lookout for new opportunities, and was planning to open
up her own restaurant, when this mystery "falls into her
Diane does a great job as an adventuresome, daring
sleuth, willing to follow up boldly on her hunches, to search
for the truth, from staking out the people involved to even willingly
taking the Super's key to go investigate the widower husband's
apartment, who of course, returns when she is still inside. Diane
hides under the bed, while eavesdropping on the husband's telephone
Woody Allen plays a mild-mannered, literary publisher
who becomes the reluctant, anxious Dr. Watson - type sidekick
to Diane Keaton's gutsy, Sherlock Holmes- type sleuthing. His
reactions to her bold investigative techniques are classic Woody
Allen reactions, and quite a chuckle.
My favorite scene that shows what a great team
Diane and Woody are in this film start with the discovery of a
dead body in a seedy hotel room. After talking to police who don't
believe them because the body is now gone, they wind up being
in a stuck elevator in this same seedy hotel in the dark, with
a dead body. The whole sequence is a fine combination of suspense,
scariness, and hilarity.
Alan Alda plays Ted, who is a recently divorced
mutual friend of both Larry and Carol. Ted is Carol's most enthusiastic
supporter of her cooking and restaurant aspirations and encourages
her eagerness to investigate this mystery, by listening to her
theories, giving some ideas of his own, and by accompanying her
on a stakeout. Ted has the spontaneous spark that Larry isn't
then willing to give, and longs for a relationship with Diane.
He refers to her as his second choice. Uh oh! Luckily, Larry had
set Ted up with a date with Marsha. Alan's performance was quite
entertaining, and added a lot to the film.
Angelica Houston, as Marsha, does her usual marvelous
job, as a strong-willed, sexy, brilliant author, who is a client
of Larry's, and has her eye on him, finding him very attractive.
However, she winds up giving Larry sound marital advice, while
she is giving him poker lessons. Larry then becomes the reluctant
sidekick for Carol's investigations, trying to be supportive,
After a harrowing adventure, experienced during
some heavy-duty sleuthing, the results of which confirm Carol's
suspicions, and make a believer out of Larry, Larry and Carol
meet Ted & Marsha at a restaurant to discuss the developing
case, which is another favorite scene. Marsha's theory and ideas
on the mystery completely wows both Larry and Ted, which steps
on Carol's toes considerably. Her reactions are amusing. The foursome
together are marvelous. They come up with an ingenious, bold plan,
based on a book, "Manhattan Murder Mystery," to bait
and trap the guilty husband, Paul House.
The last 20 minutes is right out of a Hitchcock
/ Sherlock Holmes story, full of excitement and danger, which
proves to be even too much for Carol. Under stress, Larry rises
to the occasion, becoming the rescuer / hero, when the need was
evident, out of his deep love for Carol.
This movie is suitable for most members of the
family, (older children and up). It is somewhat scary, suspenseful
in parts, but there is plenty of humor along the way. There is
no bad language, no blood shown, only one seen shooting, no sexual
jokes or scenes, and no adultery committed. Some children won't
be able to follow the twists of the story, or get the jokes.
If you enjoyed MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, you
may like REAR WINDOW, FOUL
PLAY, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE, WITHOUT A CLUE, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK
HOLME'S SMARTER BROTHER, and CLUE.