BR: Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

April 27, 2018 | By

Film: Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Standard

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  February 20, 2018

Genre:  Comedy / Mystery

Synopsis: A couple with fairly dull lives find partially unwanted excitement when they suspect their senior next-door neighbour may have murdered his wife, seen just the night before.

Special Features: Isolated Mono Music Track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment and




In terms of trivia, Manhattan Murder Mystery was Woody Allen’s first film after the auteur and Mia Farrow ended their long-term relationship, and during filming the director was involved in an extended and nasty child custody battle. It’s also the last film in which Allen and Diane Keaton would appear together, mining the script’s increasingly ridiculous circumstances that have a couple suspecting their genial neighbour murdered his wife, and after disposing of her cadaver in a smelting plant, plots a tropical escape with a lover and bags of money.

The 104 min. running time does extend material longer than needed, but there are some painfully hysterical zingers in Allen’s script, mostly coming from the friction and quirks between Larry (Allen) and Carol Lipton (Keaton). MMM is a screwball comedy reformulated into a pitch black misadventure where dangerous entanglements recur with greater intensity, and the nonsense begins when against Larry’s wishes Carol agrees to accept an invitation of coffee & cake by senior neighbours Paul (Jerry Adler) and Lillian House (Lynn Cohen).

Carol’s being super nice to their hosts, while Larry finds them utterly interminable, especially Paul’s insistence on showing off new additions to his stamp collection. When Lillian apparently drops dead of a heart attack the day after, the mystery begins, and typical of Allen’s plot machinations is bringing in old flames and forceful provocateurs to test the fidelity of his core characters. Old flame & crime writer Ted uses Carol’s need for sleuthing tips to eventually express his still bright fire, while Larry is being starkly seduced by author / gothic temptress Marcia Fox, (Anjelica Huston).

Each pair has their moments with would-be lovers – Carol and Ted eating junk food while scoping out Paul’s home, and Marcia’s eyes making it clear she wants to jump Larry in private or in a restaurant booth – but it’s a card game between Larry and Marcia that’s probably the film’s funniest moment – not because of the dialogue, but Allen playing Larry as a near-sighted, nervous schmo who fidgets, reshuffles, and keeps his cards millimeters from his eyes. It’s one of his finest displays of idiosyncratic paranoia.

You can argue MMM is also a satirical take on noir conventions – hungry lovers, percolating sexuality, jealousies, a gruesome murder, a stash of cash – but  strangely enough, there are some moments that are creepy. Carlo Di Palma’s partial handheld cinematography and realistic lighting make Larry and Carol’s escape from a hotel pretty especially tense, particularly when the pair find themselves trapped in the bowels of the basement corridors and the killer may be just a whip-pan away.

That lengthy hotel sequence is also part of an homage to Alfred Hitchcock; Carol’s prior illegal entry into the House apartment in search of evidence and hiding under the bed evokes one of the tensest moments in Rear Window (1954).

Larry and Carol tailing Paul to the metal works is darkly funny, and Allen pulls off a bravura riff on Orson Welles’ Lady from Shanghai (1947) when there’s a chase in an old cinema with shattering mirrors, a gun, and a limping villain. And a prior scene in which the couple and their rival wannabe lovers use four tape recorders to blackmail Paul is pure lunacy. (The prior sequence where recorded words are chopped up and reconfigured in a vintage 35mm dubbing room is also amusing, and noteworthy for showing the guts of a post-production house before digital audio workstations would render those metal behemoths obsolete. The quartet’s use of chunky tape recorders feels less ridiculous because we’ve seen the complexity in refashioning audio in a pre-digital environment.)

MMM may be light and fluffy on the outer layer, but there’s some clever, pitch-black wit which neither Allen nor comedienne extraordinaire Keaton fail to vivify. Twilight Time’s Blu sports a fine HD transfer and an isolated mono music & effects track, which not unlike 1990’s Alice, features more contemporary jazz pieces; Allen still hovers around his beloved 1930s and 1940s hits, but it is shocking when Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” plays in a restaurant scene. Fans of his musical tastes might be a little baffled by the leap in decade and jazz style, but musically it works on an unconscious level, providing us with a signal that MMM is a cheeky contemporary take on mystery and suspense tropes, especially when a cut from Miklos Rozsa’s Double Indemnity (1944) pops up.

Julie Kirgo’s lovely essay celebrates the core quartet of cast members, as well as Allen’s former co-writer Marshall Brickman, with whom he collaborated on Sleeper (1973), Annie Hall (1977), and Manhattan (1979), and superb editing by Susan E. Morse.

Woody Allen films released by Twilight Time include Love and Death (1975),Interiors (1978), Stardust Memories (1980), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose(1983), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), September (1987),  Radio Days (1987), Another Woman (1988), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Alice (1990), Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), and the Allen starring in the Red Menace satire The Front (1976).



© 2018 Mark R. Hasan





External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB
Vendor Search Links:

Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK



Tags: , , , ,

Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

Comments are closed.