Everyone knows about the masterpieces — “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Hannah and Her Sisters” and a few others — but I’m often surprised by the blank looks I get when I mention the 1993 comedy, “Manhattan Murder Mystery.”
The truth is I wasn’t crazy about the picture when it first came out — it seemed like a lateral move for the writer-director after his amazing 1992 drama, “Husbands & Wives.”
Allen reunited with his 1970s co-star Diane Keaton (above) for this contemporary comedy mystery about a Manhattan couple who come to believe that a neighbor who apparently died of a heart attack was actually murdered by her husband.
Allen and Keaton play the comfortable Upper East Side couple who have their routine shaken up by this unexpected sleuthing adventure.
Alan Alda has a strong supporting role as a divorced writer friend — with a long-standing crush on the Keaton character — who is eager to get involved in nailing a killer. Anjelica Huston (below) is wonderful, too, as a novelist — Allen plays her editor at HarperCollins — who knows exactly how to trap the killer.
“Manhattan Murder Mystery” seemed slight 21 years ago, but subsequent viewings on video have bumped it up on my list of favorite Allen pictures.
It’s consistently funny and the mystery plot is clever.
One of the problems faced by the film in 1993 was the fact that Allen was still embroiled in his scandalous break-up with Mia Farrow (indeed, Keaton stepped into a role written for Farrow).
It was hard to be objective about an Allen comedy in the wake of such a nasty scandal.
One of the things that amazes me about the movie now is that Allen and his cast and crew could produce such a charming piece of froth in the middle of the tabloid hell of the Farrow split.
The comic teamwork between Keaton and Allen is so sharp — and so reminiscent of the work they did together in the 1970s — that it seems impossible the script was only weeks away from being filmed with Farrow as the would-be detective wife.
I watched the movie again a few weeks back and found it to be as delightful as ever. A trifle, to be sure, but a very well-crafted one.