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MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993)

This humorous who-done-it begins with an untimely death of one  of Carol and Larry Lipton's neighbors, Lillian House. Paul House, the supposedly grieving husband, begins acting in ways which tells a different story. His odd behavior inspires an amateur sleuthing adventure, initiated by a daring, determined Carol Lipton, against the better judgement of her husband, Larry, who first thinks Carol is imagining things.  Carol turns to their mutual friend, Ted, who has always been supportive of her interests, as well as being interested in her.  To keep his marriage intact, Larry introduces his client, Marsha to Ted and the situation, and gets on board as a reluctant Dr. Watson, becoming involved as well in Carol's investigation. The suspenseful twists, turns and hilarity begins!

The cast includes: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Anjelica Houston, Jerry Adler, and Lynn Cohen.

Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman. Directed by Woody Allen.

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Synopsis:

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 lap."

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 conversation.

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, sort of.

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.