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Manhattan Murder Mystery Review

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Living in her New York apartment, a married woman watches the other residents and jumps to the conclusion that one of her fellow tenants has killed his wife. With persistence she manages to convince her cynical husband and even his friend as the three begin to make ludicrous assumptions. Or do they?

★★★★★

A remarkably carefree piece of work from a man majoring in real-life heavy turmoil at the time of its theatrical release, this now appears distinctly lightweight oh the smaller screen. Indeed, set against the background of last summer's courtroom dramas, critics marvelled at the extent to which this latest Woodmeister snapshot was an angst-free zone.

Opening with a splendid rendition of Cole Porter's I Happen To Like New York, the action — if action isn't a contradiction in terms for an Allen movie — centres upon comfortably married couple Larry (Allen) and Carol (Keaton), and their growing suspicions about the homicidal tendencies of the man next door. Spurred on by the always reliable Alan Alda as wannabe sleuth Ted, Carol quickly becomes obsessed with this particular Manhattan murder mystery (hence the name), gradually drawing her initially reluctant husband into the increasingly complicated plot.

For a good hour or so, this is more than passable video fare, but as time goes on the viewer is likely to be reaching for the remote in order to turn down the volume on Keaton. She and Allen, an odd enough couple at the best of times, eventually resort to simply shouting at each other at the same time, with the end result being that only the very best lines ("Claustrophobia and a dead body! It's a neurotic's jackpot round here!") escape from the mix, and what started as a typically dry Allenesque Upper East Side relationship ultimately descends into farce.

Still, Manhattan looks as good as ever, Alda is perfectly matched by the great Anjelica Huston and there are just enough one-liners to sustain a passing interest through to the classic cineaste climax. One of Allen's many therapists would no doubt make a lot of money explaining exactly why his client made such an apparently feelgood movie at a time when his life appeared to be collapsing around him. Video viewers investing in a night in front of the telly are, however, more likely to feel a trifle short-changed.

It might be easy to jump to conclusions as to why Allen made such an irreverent film when his life was in such turmoil, but more to the point why he made it at all. While relatively enjoyable and amusing, the acting begins to grate as the married couple bicker constantly but thankfully Alda and Huston are as reliable as ever.

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