Manhattan Murder Mystery

Movie Review #801: One of the most overlooked comedies of 1993.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano
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Comedy, Crime, Mystery
Rated PG (contains suggestive dialogue, mild violence, mild language)
104 minutes

“Manhattan Murder Mystery” focuses on a couple who lives in an apartment right next to a strange, strange elderly couple. They’re concerned about their health, but neither one of them mentions the fact that the woman has a heart condition. The next day, she dies, and the doctors conclude that her death was the result of a heart attack. But there’s also something about the husband’s behavior that suggests he was the one who killed her. It’s not so simple as it sounds, though, because the husband is always one step ahead of them.

This was a script that sat on the shelves for quite a while. The premise for “Manhattan Murder Mystery” formed an early draft for “Annie Hall” back in 1977, with its writer Woody Allen calling it a “light airplane book read.” But that’s exactly what makes it such a great movie. It’s a murder mystery that’s so lighthearted that it’s a comedy. It’s thrilling, but at the same time, it’s like a comical stroll around New York City. Notice the title is “Manhattan Murder Mystery”, because without the Manhattan setting, it wouldn’t be such an escapade. The self-acknowledgment of it being a “murder mystery” is a joke in itself, and it accurately suggests the spirited, magazineish, urban noir.

The screenplay is a collaborative effort of Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman. This being their first time working together since 1979’s “Manhattan”, and their greatest piece since 1977’s “Annie Hall”. In fact, I would contend that out of all the great movies Woody Allen has written and directed, “Manhattan Murder Mystery” stands in the top five. The film is essentially “Annie Hall”, focused on a couple in their 50’s rather than in their 30’s. It could easily be considered a followup, particularly with the still-incredible chemistry from Diane Keaton and Woody Allen.

“Manhattan Murder Mystery” is a lighthearted, carefree, and surprisingly wholesome little comedy.  Its Scooby-Doo-esque atmosphere is a great lot of fun, and I was dying for seconds.  That was twenty minutes through. ✴

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