MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY      Woody Allen   1993      Outline of Movie

 

Larry Lipton (Woody Allen), an editor for Harper’s Books in NY; Carol Lipton (Diane Keaton), his wife, who is thinking about starting a restaurant; Mickey, their son who goes to college (he makes a brief appearance); Ted (Alan Alda), a close family friend, a playwright; Marcia (Anjelica Huston), a novelist, one of Larry’s clients; Paul House (Jerry Adler), an older man who lives down the hall from Larry and Carol and who owns a small movie theater; Lillian House, his wife; Helen Moss, a young actress who is having an affair with Paul House; Mrs. Dalton (Marge Redford), an older woman who works at House’s movie theater and is also having an affair with him. 

 

Exterior shots, NY skyline. Exterior Madison Square Garden. Interior, Hockey game in progress. Larry and Carol are watching the game. Carol reminds Larry that the bargain is, she watches Hockey, and he goes to the opera.

 

On the way home, and entering elevator at their apartment house. Larry is looking forward to watching a Bob Hope movie on TV.  They meet their neighbors, Paul and Lillian House, in the elevator and have a polite conversation.  The Houses invite Larry and Carol to their apartment for coffee. Larry does not want to go. Inside the House’s apartment, Paul House shows Larry his stamp collection, explains “I own an old cinema, having it redone. I used to have a string of three, but you know business is not what it used to be.” We learn that the Houses have twin cemetery plots.

 

Larry and Carol apartment. Larry is annoyed to have wasted time on the boring neighbors, and wants to see the Bob Hope movie. Larry and Carol worry that they might turn into the Houses as they age.

Swap meet. Outside. Larry and Carol talk to another couple, obviously friends. They are going to see the noir movie Double Indemnity. Shots of Double Indemnity appear on the screen.  They leave the movie together and talk about who they should fix up with old friend Ted. Larry tells Carol that Ted has a crush on her.

 

They get out of the apartment elevator to find neighbors in the hallway. Mrs. House is dead. Everyone is much surprised.

 

Larry and Carol, leaving their apartment house, meet Mr. House on the street, coming in to the building. He does not seem very upset at all and they are puzzled by this.


Larry and Carol go to the opera. Exterior shots of Lincoln Center. Opera on sound track. Larry walks out of the building before the opera is over. Carol reminds him of their deal. He says he can’t watch the entire thing.

 

Restaurant. Larry, Carol, another couple, and Ted.  They discuss the sudden death of Mrs. House and wonder if it was murder. Ted is charming to Carol, and wants to help her start a restaurant.


Apartment. Larry and Carol in bed. Carol discusses her suspicion that Mr. House was not properly grieving. They get a telephone call from Ted (it is very late at night). He wants to continue talking about Mrs. House’s death, and Carol’s plans for a restaurant.


Day. Ted shows Carol a spot he thinks would be great for her restaurant. It is an old romantic spot from his past, when he was married to his now ex-wife.


House’s apartment. Larry and Carol bring a dessert, and House invites them in. Carol goes to make coffee in the kitchen, and finds an urn with ashes in it in a kitchen cabinet. In the living room they ask House about the funeral, and about the location of the twin cemetery plots.


Apartment. Carol tells Larry about the urn and the ashes. Larry is not interested. Carol calls Ted, who is. Larry warns her: “Too much Double Indemnity.” Ted points out that an cremation makes an autopsy impossible.

 

Apartment. Night. Dark. Carol hears a noise, gets out of bed, looks through the peep hole in the front door, and sees House get on the elevator. Larry is irritated to be awakened in the middle of the night. Carol calls House’s apartment to see if he is home. There is no answer. She calls the doorman and learns no one has recently left the building. She deduces House must have gone through the garage and taken his car. Larry is irritated.


Day. House leaves the apartment. Carol sees him leave, then goes to the garage and steals a key. She enters House’s apartment and begins searching it. House, on the street, forgets something, turns around, and walks back to apartment house. Carol continues to search. Carol turns Ted, from House’s apartment tells him where she is and tells him the urn is missing. He urges her to leave. She finds airplane tickets for 2 to Paris, one for a woman named Helen Moss. As House enters his apartment, Carol hides. From under the bed she hears him make one phone call and make another.

 

Larry’s office as book editor. He is talking to Marcia, an author he works with, and praises her book. When it turns out she knows how to play poker very well, he asks for lessons over lunch. She is openly flirtatious with him. Carol calls.

 

Circular fountain. Larry talks to Carol as they walk around the fountain. He is upset that she was in House’s apartment, and that she had a close call. She reassures him everything went well, except that she left her reading glasses. Larry is upset.

 

House’s apartment. Larry and Carol come in, with another dessert, and search frantically for Carol’s glasses. House tells Carol he found her glasses. She makes up an excuse about when she left them.

 

Outside apartment building. Ted comes by and picks up Carol. They are looking for Helen Moss. They drive to a house where a Helen Moss lives, park, and wait.  Ted is mildly flirtatious with Carol. They do not see a man leaving the Moss house, but later they do see Helen Moss leaving. She gets into a taxi, and they follow her in Ted’s car.

 

Deserted city street. Helen gets out of cab and walks into the back of a grimy building. They follow her.

 

Inside an old movie theater. This is what Helen Moss has entered. Mr. House is giving her a tour of the building. “We only show revivals now. Fred Astaire...Next week we have an Orson Welles festival before we start renovation.” Although the camera does not remain on House and Moss, we hear him kiss her. She laughs. “I’ve never been behind a movie screen before.” House: “It used to be a first run house when the neighborhood was better. . . Now of course we only show old movies.” House’s assistant, Mrs. Dalton comes by. She is older, and walks with a limp.

 

Night. Larry and Carol in bed. Larry is sleeping. Carol wakes him, wants to go back to House’s apartment again. Larry tells her to go back to her shrink. He commands her to go back to sleep but instead she goes into the House apartment.

 

House apartment. Dark. Carol calls the phone to get the last number dialed. Calling it she hears the words “Waldron,” but Larry makes so much noise the learn nothing more. Larry breaks something and fumbles with the pieces. Carol finds winter gloves on top of his dresser.

 

Restaurant, 21. Inside Larry and Carol are taking their college-age son Mickey out to lunch on his birthday. Marcia comes by and Larry introduces them all. She tells Larry that Ted has called her to make a date. Carol is jealous.

 

Wine tasting at another restaurant. Ted and Carol are drinking wine together. He flirts with her, tells her that she would be his first choice for a date, not Marcia. She looks pleased. He leaves, is late for appointment with his shrink.

 

Ted walks out of restaurant, down sidewalk. Carol sits inside by window and looks outside. A city bus goes by and she sees Mrs. House sitting inside. She rushes outside.


Apartment. Carol tells Larry about seeing Mrs. House. Larry does not believe her. She calls Ted and tells him. Larry is angry, and insists Carol come to the theater with him. In the apartment garage, they ask the garage man if he saw Mrs. House dead on the floor and he insists he did.


Audience at Guys and Dolls. Carol continues to talk to Larry in the audience about who got cremated.

 

Outside. Day. Ted is walking with Carol and has information about the death of Mrs. House, from obituary. She shows him where she saw the bus. They follow the bus route to its end, and at first find nothing. Then Carol sees a hotel, WALDRON. Ted calls the hotel and asks for Mrs. House or Helen Moss but gets nothing.

 

Restaurant. Larry and Marcia are having lunch and playing poker. He tells her that his wife has become attached to someone else, a man who is more adventurous. “I will be very lonely if it happens.” He tells her it is Ted. Marcia makes a flirtatious remark.

 

Waldron Hotel. Exterior. Larry and Carol in a car, watching. Carol sees this as an exciting adventure, and they quarrel. This is the site of their first date, many years previously, when Larry took Carol to see Last Year at Marienbad. Larry asks Carol if she ever slept with Ted. Then they both see Mrs. House enter the hotel. Larry is now excited.

 

Hotel lobby. Very seedy. Larry and Carol get Mrs. House’s room number out of a cleaning woman and they hurry up to her room. They find the door open, and find Mrs House dead on the floor. They get hysterical and flee.


Front of Hotel. Larry and Carol hysterically talking to the police. Police have searched the room but not found a body.  They ask them to file a police report and leave. They give Larry one of their business cards. Carol believes Helen Moss must be in on all this.

 

Nearby restaurant. Larry and Carol talk about what to do next. They are now both excited.


Street. Exiting restaurant they look back at the Waldron and see a light on in the room window. They come back into the hotel, bluff their way past the clerk, get the key, and re-enter the room. Larry finds Mrs. House’s wedding ring on the floor. When they hear the sounds of someone entering the room, Larry almost hits a cleaning woman over the head with a lamp.

 

Elevator. Larry and Carol talk; they are scared. The elevator stops suddenly and they are stuck. Eventually Carol opens the top of the elevator and part of the body of Mrs. House falls into the opening. Then all the lights go out. Larry is hysterical.


Darkness. Larry and Carol exit the elevator and walk through dark halls, clearly in the basement of the hotel. They get into a room, find their way out, eventually find their way out the back door of the hotel. They get back to their car.

 

Larry and Carol see someone leaving the hotel with what looks like a body and getting into a car, and they follow in their car. They end up at a large industrial operation that melts down cars in gigantic furnaces. They see Mrs. House’s body go into the furnaces. They see Mr. House drive off.

 

Apartment house, outside. Larry and Carol, returning, come upon Mr. House and Mrs. Dalton, leaving the building. Mr. House tells them he will be moving.

 

Apartment. Larry and Carol in bed. The book on his night table is “Romantic Comedy.”

Larry goes over the various possibilities. We see earlier scenes from the movie. Body had to be of a different woman. Noise in the night was Mrs. House leaving. Although it is very late at night they decide to drive to New Jersey and join Ted and Marcia on their date and talk it over.


Restaurant in New Jersey. Ted, Marcia, Carol, and Larry talk. Marcia says that House has committed the perfect murder. Another woman must have died in their apartment, and they used it as an opportunity . Mrs. H hides and checks into a hotel. But the husband is cheating on her and double crosses and kills her. Is Helen Moss in on this? Mrs. Walton is covering for him. When Marcia goes to the bathroom, Carol accuses both men of lusting after her. When Marcia returns, she continues her explanation: Mr. House does not care if they know because they do not have any evidence. No body. They will have to bluff him, and pretend they do have the body. They will then try to shake him down for money. They will have to get Helen Moss somehow to corroborate their story.  Here the group takes it inspiration from a book Murder in Manhattan, where they tape record someone and use splices from the tape to make a phone call. They decide that Ted will set up a fake audition for a play, and get Helen to say words they can later re-record in a different order, and play on the phone for House. Larry is somewhat upset when he realizes they are setting up House to try to murder him and Carol.


Helen Moss calls for messages from an outside phone.

 

Fake audition in a theater. They record Helen Moss saying lines.

 

Recording studio. They watch as an engineer rearranges Moss’s words on tape.

 

House. They all sit around with different parts of Helen’s lines on different tape players. Larry dials House and they start playing the tapes. Some of it works well and some of it is thoroughly screwed up, but House gets the basic message. After House hangs up Mrs. Waldron accuses him of pulling away from her.

 

Larry and Carol leave the house where they made the call. They quarrel over Larry’s interest in Marcia. Larry: “There’s nothing wrong with you that can’t be cured with a little Prozac and a polo mallet.”

 

Restaurant. Ted charms Helen Moss who tells him the story of her life. Apartment. Carol returns to her apartment alone. House enters behind her. Restaurant. Ted and Helen Moss talk.

 

Outside, phone booth. Larry calls House, tells him he has to pay up. House tells Larry he has his wife tied up. Carol says it is true. We see she is bound and gagged. House threatens to kill Carol unless Larry produces the body of his wife. Larry reminds himself to bluff.

 

Dark alley behind House’s theater. Larry drives up. House comes out with gun, demands body. House opens truck, finds inflatable sex doll. Larry runs into the theater. Inside theater. The Orson Welles movie The Lady from Shanghai is playing (with its famous gun fire in house of mirrors scene about to appear). House chases Allen backstage where they are piles of mirrors waiting for the theater renovation. The mirror scene from Lady of Shanghai is reflected in the mirrors backstage. Gun fires in the movie and in the theater.  Meanwhile Carol, in another part of the theater, tries to work herself free.  Line from Lady of Shanghai, spoken by a woman. “HE was mad. He had to be shot.” Mrs. Dalton appears with a gun, angry that House dumped her for Helen Moss. Larry looks for Carol. Mrs. Dalton shoots House, after House and Dalton shoot reflections of each other in the mirrors. Mrs. Dalton drops her gun. Larry finds Carol, hysterical, and frees her. Larry: “I’ll never say that life doesn’t imitate art again.”

 

Police station. Ted, Marcia, talk outside. They last parts of the story are now clear. Mrs. House’s wealthy sister died accidentally in their apartment. She was not leaving them any of her money. They hatched the scheme so Mrs. House could slowly withdraw all of her sister’s money. Everyone else was as Marcia had predicted. Ted wants now to celebrate with Larry and Carol but Marcia says she thinks Larry and Carol want to be alone. Ted tells Marcia that he can not sleep with her because he already slept with Helen Moss today and he is not as young as he used to be. Marcia: “You’ll do anything to catch a murderer.” Larry and Carol walk together down the street. They affirm their love for each other.