Thursday, January 9, 2014

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #3: Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Main Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Adler
Click here to view the trailer


So just so everyone knows, I'm more than likely going to start my Netflix subscription back up tomorrow, which means I'll probably be back to reviewing movies from THE BOOK sometime next week. Watching a few personal favorites ("Hard Eight", "Manhattan Murder Mystery") has done wonders in recharging my batteries and getting me ready to continue my journey. Anyway, for now I'm still trying to bring you guys a few SINS OF OMISSION posts, detailing a few of my favorite films that THE BOOK, and even my own, makeshift list that I plan to tackle next, forgot. This time around it's Woody Allen's 1993 offering - "Manhattan Murder Mystery".

We all know "Annie Hall", "Hannah and Her Sisters", "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and "The Purple Rose of Cairo". From his earlier years we're all familiar with "Bananas" and "Sleeper" and recently it was "Midnight In Paris" and "Match Point" getting the recognition that they deserved. However, most movie fanatics tend to categorize Woody Allen's 90s projects as his duller years. I personally have fond memories of Allen's 90s works, such as "Husbands and Wives", "Bullets Over Broadway", "Might Aphrodite" and quite possibly his most underrated picture ever - "Manhattan Murder Mystery". The film begins by introducing us to Larry (Allen) and Carol Lipton (Keaton), an aging married couple, who have sent their son off to college and who live a quaint, unexciting life in their New York City apartment. One evening, when returning home from a hockey game, the Lipton's meet their longtime neighbors, the House's, an older couple, for the very first time and are invited over for a cup of coffee and a chat. The next night, as the Lipton's are returning home yet again, they find a commotion at the House apartment and are shocked to find that Mrs. House has died. At first they think nothing of it, but (possibly needing a little more excitement in her life) Carol begins to suspect that Mr. House may have played a part in his wife's passing. Larry, a publisher who is perfectly content leading a boring life, tries to dissuade Carol into scheming up a "Manhattan murder mystery", but Carol's mind runs wild as she follows leads that may or may not be relevant in solving the case of the may or may not have been murdered Mrs. House. As time passes, it becomes obvious that Mr. House may not be who he says he is and may be leading a life that no one suspects he'd lead. It also becomes apparent that there's more to Mrs. House's death than meets the eye.

This was the first Woody Allen movie I ever saw. Actually, I may have seen Woody Allen films prior to this one, but this is the first one I saw where I was aware that I was indeed watching a Woody Allen movie and knew that Woody Allen was not only the star, but also the director. I remember picking it up very casually, not renting it from the local Movie Gallery because it WAS a Woody Allen movie, but because the front cover of the case left much to be desired, only listing four of the principle actors names and a cartoon picture of the moon. I wondered what this movie was all about, so I rented, watched it and fell in love with it. That was probably over ten years ago. I liked the movie so much, that when that particular Movie Gallery began to sell off it's VHS inventory, I immediately purchased the VHS copy of the movie - the very one that I'd rented years prior. Years later, I got even more interested in the cinema of one Woody Allen and never forgot the movie that initially sparked that interest - "Manhattan Murder Mystery".

It became apparent to me, while taking in my latest viewing of "Manhattan Murder Mystery", that the best director's reveal pieces of themselves throughout their pictures. They reveal their personalities to us via actors, set pieces, atmospheres, shooting locations, dialogue, camera angles and many other things. It's the generic films, the one's that are seemingly directed by cookie cutter gingerbread men that reveal nothing about the true soul and mind of the filmmaker. While watching Allen's 1993 picture for the first time, many years ago, I would imagine I saw a man who grew up loving films. Who knew the power of the motion picture and it's ability to take us away from our daily, often mundane lives. I probably saw a man who loved to laugh, but more importantly loved to make people laugh, who wasn't afraid to be foolish for the sake of good joke or to make a silly picture, with clever twists & turns. I saw a man who loved the city that he lived in, just as much as he loved the woman on his arm. A man who didn't see New York City like the evening news saw it - full of gang bangers, knife wielders, trash filled street gutters, night walkers and hoodlums - but a man who saw New York City filled with just as much elegance as Paris or Rome. Not a New York City that is to be leafed through in magazines either - with glory shots of Time Square, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and all the other very recognizable monuments - but a New York City that only a tried and true New Yorker could show a non-New Yorker; one that was tucked away, that was magical and that all of us would want to be a part of. You see so many things when a great filmmaker starts to roll his camera and if they're good enough, you see the best parts of their persona. Maybe that's why I love Woody Allen's movies, because he's not afraid to show a little bit of himself, while never sacrificing a great picture.

I will always consider "Manhattan Murder Mystery" to be my favorite Woody Allen piece, just as I'll always consider "Revolver" to be my favorite Beatles album - because it's the first one I was exposed to. What you have with MMM is a fantastically fun time at the movies. It's not going to be a movie that is for everyone, but for Allen fans, it's one that will surely win you over. I had a blast with this, laughing out loud on multiple occasions and just generally smiling throughout. I wanted to exist in this picture, in Allen's world. I wanted to live in that apartment that required an elevator ride, to eat dinner with friends while Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" played on in the background, go to wine tastings with a friend, watch old movies late at night and to have a job that required business lunches that, in turn required me to sit in the back of a dimly lit, yet cozy restaurant, while buckets or rain poured down outside.

RATING: 10/10  An easy inclusion to MY book and one that I would have LOVED for them to have included in THE BOOK. I get why they didn't though and that's okay. Like I said, I'll probably get back into THE BOOK soon, but I would like to hammer out a few more SINS OF OMISSION posts, because I'm having so much fun catching up with some favorites of mine. And now, on a side note, I kind of REALLY want to formally review EVERY Woody Allen movie. The plate's getting full.

January 9, 2014  11:06pm


  1. Wow, what a great review..
    I loved your soliloquy about Allen's new york as what you say i agree with. I'd much rather go to THAT New York than the tourist new York any day... and yes that section where you want to live in an apartment and have intelligent dinner conversations to 'Take Five' with wine... Absolutely.
    Hey, Andrew, pop over one night.. I've got Dave Brubeck tapes, always a bottle of wine available and loads of old movies.. I'll do you dinner. (Would you mind going a tad out of the way and give Amanda a lift please?)
    Whilst MMM may not be a top list Allen film.. well, firstly this review has (at least temporarily) convinced me it is, and anyway, a second rank Woody Allen film has to be a hit...

    Oh, welcome back.

    1. Ray, welcome back yourself. I kind of thought you'd left me for Amanda. Anyway, thanks for the kind words. I guess that was a pretty good review and I'm glad I've gotten you to question whether or not this one's a hit or not. As noted, it's a favorite of mine, maybe because it's really the first Woody movie I saw. To others, it may be second rate and a backseat to better films of his.

  2. Thank you..
    Amanda, you up for this dinner sometime?? I'm sure Andrew will be happy to drive..


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #66: La piscine/The Swimming Pool (1969)

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