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Film / Manhattan Murder Mystery

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Woody Allen's 22nd feature film as director, released in 1993. He also starred and co-wrote.

The plot revolves around Larry and Carole Lipton (Allen and Diane Keaton respectively), a well-to-do middle-aged couple living in an apartment building in Manhattan. One night, they by chance happen to stumble across their new neighbours, Paul and Lilian House, in the corridor of their building and, after introductions, the two couples spend a very pleasant evening getting to know each other. The next night, however, tragedy strikes when Lilian House dies very suddenly. Carole becomes suspicious and soon gets it into her head that Paul has murdered his wife. Much to her husband's exasperation, she begins an unofficial investigation, which ropes in their mutual friends Ted (Alan Alda) and mystery novelist Marcia (Anjelica Huston).


  • Actor Allusion: Carol Lipton claims to hate wearing a tie with a skirt. Diane Keaton made that look famous playing in Annie Hall.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: The last lines of the film have Larry laughing at Carole's loving put-down of him in a heartwarming moment — especially if you pretend the Liptons are the Singers.
    Larry: Ted?! You've gotta be kiddin'! Take away his elevator shoes and his fake suntan and his capped teeth and what do you have?
    Carol: You!
  • Alliterative Title: All three words in the title begin with "M".
  • Always Someone Better: Larry gets negatively compared to the more enthusiastic and savvy Ted a lot after he first starts helping with the investigation. Later, Carole seems envious of how much and how fast Marcia contributes to the case and how excited that makes Ted and Larry.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Carole Jumps At The Call to become this. Larry is a lot more reluctant.
  • Claustrophobia: Larry suffers from it, big-time.
    Larry: I'm-I'm-I'm a-a world-renowned claustrophobic...I don't like this, I don't, I don't...It's easy for you to say, but I can't breath, I'm phobic...I'm not panicking, I'm not panicking, I'm...I'm just gonna say the rosary, now...Oh, I don't know, I don't like this...I'm running over a field, I see open meadows. I see a stallion. I'm a stallion...There's a cool breeze passing over me. I see grass. I see dirt...Let's go, my life is passing in front of my eyes. The worst part of it is, I'm driving a used car. (later) Oh, my God. It's her....Oh, Jesus! Claustrophobia and a dead body - this is a neurotic's jackpot!
  • Ambiguously Evil: It's speculated that Helen Moss is in on the entirety of the plan, and Mr. House doesn't seem too surprised to hear her discussing the Lipton's knowledge of the crime, but it isn't confirmed in as many words. Mrs. House was definitely in on the plan except she had no idea that Mr. House was unfaithful with her with two other women, and was going to be Killed to Uphold the Masquerade.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Carole sees the "dead" Mrs. House riding a bus going past her wine tasting. The background scenery shows it's near Bellevue South Park, which no New York City bus drives by. Later, Carole and Ted are following the M23 bus to its appropriate terminal, near FDR Drive on E. 23rd St; that bus drives down 23rd St, but Bellevue is on E. 27th.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mr. House seems like a Happily Married unassuming stamp collector when he first appears, which makes the implications that he murdered his wife all the more shocking, especially to Larry. This is partially justified by the fact that -although he was already cheating on his wife with two other women- he may not have started planning to murder his wife until some time later in the story, after the death of her sister and their inheritance scheme..
  • Bluffing the Murderer: When they pretend to have retrieved Mrs. House's body and act like they're blackmailing him. Marcia almost name-drops this.
    Marcia: Since he's gotten away with it, all we can do is bluff.
  • The Cameo: Joy Behar and Ron Rifkin play the Lipton's dinner guests.
  • Casting Couch: Ted admits he had to sleep with Helen Moss (a hungry model/actress) several times to keep her distracted. Marcia makes the standard "it's a dirty job but somebody's gotta do it" snark.
  • Chessmaster Sidekick: It is only late in the film that the Lipton's recruit Marcia to help with their investigation, but as soon as they do, she quickly pieces together all of their hard-gathered clues to understand how and why the murder must have happened and also comes up with the plan about how to expose Mr. House.
  • Death by Gluttony: Ted jokingly speculates Mrs. House was murdered by being fed rich desserts til she had a heart attack.
  • Faking the Dead: Mr. and Mrs. House pretended the woman who died of a heart attack was Mrs. House. Unfortunately, for her, Mr. House was going to make her death very real soon after.
  • Funny Background Event: Several waiters and other customers eavesdropping on The Lipton's, Ted and Marcia talking about the mystery.
  • Genre Savvy: Within minutes of hearing the story, Marcia is able to put the remaining pieces together and work up a plan to catch Mr. House.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Helen Moss (a suspected accomplice to murder) has apparently had four abortions, though this is just part of her being a Talkative Loon offscreen.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Larry, despite having rubbished Carole's suspicions, gets involved in the investigation in part because he's jealous about how close Carole and Ted seem to be getting. Carole in turn gets a bit of this when she thinks that Marcia is putting the moves on Ted.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Mr. House and Mrs. Dalton have a shootout in one.
  • Happily Married: The Liptons, although at the beginning of the movie their marriage has fallen into a bit of a rut. Their adventure gives it a much needed spark.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: Larry breaks his promise to Diane to sit through the entire opera she drags him to, explaining: "I can't listen to that much Wagner, I start getting the urge to conquer Poland."
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Marcia dismisses the idea that the conspirators induced a heart attack in their victim, calling it "Hollywood bullshit." Instead, she says, the victim had a heart attack and the conspirators took advantage of it.
  • Homage: The film was inspired by The Thin Man series.
  • Incriminating Indifference: Carole becomes suspicious of Mr. House due to how well he has been taking the death of his wife despite how close they had seemed earlier. Ironically, this is partially because his wife isn't actually dead yet, although he does end up killing her.
  • Likes Older Men: Helen Moss is sleeping with Mr. House, and happily hopped in the Casting Couch with Ted while he's distracting her as part of the plan.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Larry briefly accuses Carole of using the investigation as a pretext for an affair with Ted.
  • Pair the Spares: Larry expresses interest in setting up Ted and Marcia, although Ted has reservations about this. It's played straight once they actually meet though and instantly hit it off.
  • Really Gets Around: Mr. House turns out to have had two mistresses.
    Larry: (amused) He doesn't look the type!
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the scene in which Carol sees her "dead" neighbour riding a bus, there is an advertisement for Vertigo, one of the many references to that film that appear in the movie.
    • The house of mirrors sequence was inspired by The Lady from Shanghai. It helps that the film itself is playing on the screen behind them as the characters reenact the scene as it happens.
  • Woman Scorned: Mrs. Dalton shoots Mr. House after realizing he had another mistress.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Larry and Carole's attempted explanation to the police about finding the dead body is not particularly calm or convincing..