Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) + Alice (1990)

April 28, 2018 | By

As I move into Woody Allen’s 1990s output, I think I’m noticing more overt similarities between his prior work and template variations to what aren’t regurgitations of characters, conflicts, and plot shifts, but perhaps portents of the overt ‘We’ve seen this before – and better’ sentiments that had critics and fans feeling a little dismayed, not unlike the Martian visitors in Stardust Memories (1980) that tell Sandy Bates (Allen) ‘We especially like your older funnier films.’

Small Time Crooks (2000) is among the few late career works I’ve seen, but even calling it a late career entry seems outmoded, since he’s still auteuring a film per year, and what could’ve been written off as a lesser work of an artist in need of a creative break was 18 years ago.

Few directors continue such a steady stream of feature films, and not unlike Alfred Hitchcock, there are favourite career peroiods, and favourite films within those periods. What’s perhaps most unique about Allen is a body of work on home video that’s almost bereft of critical analysis in the form of audio commentaries by historians and documentaries on specific productions and periods.

Part of the reason has to be Allen himself, seeing little logic to augment his work with publicity pap or personal reflections; they exist on their own to be assessed, but there’s no interest in commenting on the nuances of each creative process that resulted in a finished film, let alone deleted scenes, alternate takes, or footage featuring replaced actors.


Available on 8mm? Why?


Of the two recent releases on Blu from Twilight Time, I favour Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) over Alice (1990) precisely because it evokes the brilliant satire and quick wit of his early work; it’s not  a sketch comedy script but another journey into hyper-absurdity with Allen and Diane Keaton, and romance replaced by a fusion of angst and unwanted horny advances by provocateurs who refuse to stay within the friendship zone or maintain editor-client professionalism.



The most radiant aspect shared by the two is Carlo Di Palma’s cinematography – never showy, but delicately lush, yet tasteful and warm, and luxuriating a fine palette of colours, soft lighting, and meticulous coordination between lighting, costume design, and set decor; for movies made in the 1990s, they’ve aged extremely well. Mia Farrow may be trapped in a snooty lifestyle, but her wardrobe is utterly meticulous.

I’m following the two reviews with what one film historian calls ‘one of the best films of the 1970s you’ve never heard of’ – Mark Rydell’s oddball Harry and Walter go to New York (1976) – which also features Diane Keaton is a tightly rendered comedic role alongside the unlikely but perfectly teamed James Caan, Elliott Gould, and Michael Caine, but up next is The Maze (1953), William Cameron Menzies’ 3D mystery thriller released on Blu by Kino’s KL Studio Classics with the heavy restoration work done by the 3-D Film Archive.

Thanks for reading,



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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