Horror, Supernatural

Manhattan Baby (1982)

Comments Off on Manhattan Baby (1982) 25 October 2016


Studio: Blue Underground

Theatrical Release: July 27, 1984 (USA) 

Blu Ray Release: October 25, 2016

Director: Lucio Fulci

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Manhattan Baby, Lucio Fulci’s follow-up to his controversial and ultra-gory New York Ripper is a much tamer film than any of his previous horror outings, and that includes 1981’s The Black Cat. While I respect and admire Fulci’s need or desire not to outgross or outshock his fanbase with something even more gruesome than New York Ripper, Manhattan Baby falls victim to cinema’s greatest sin: it’s boring. While some will say it doesn’t make much sense (it doesn’t) I have more of an issue that the film doesn’t evoke much of an emotional reaction from me.

The opening of Manhattan Baby is promising; archeologist George Hacker stumbles upon an old, hidden tomb while doing research in Egypt (Christopher Connelly from 1990: Bronx Warriors). As he and his guide go down into the tombs, the men are confronted with various booby traps and a trap door that drops both men onto a bed of spikes. Escaping injury, George stumbles upon an old relic which causes George to go blind temporarily. His daughter Susie (Brigitta Boccoli) meanwhile meets an old gypsy woman who gives her the same relic which eventually causes her to be possessed by an Egyptian entity. While strange and a bit incoherent, I enjoyed this opening and it set the plot or what little there is, to what may be a strange but yet interesting supernatural horror film.

manhattan-babyThe problems begin when the film turns it’s attention to New York and suddenly becomes boring. Instead of using some great New York locals in various parts of the city, Manhattan Baby is forced to be set in the Hacker’s apartment. I can only assume the film was not shot in New York and most likely Italy since all of our actor’s are dubbed and dubbed poorly. As George starts to regain his eyesight, many strange happenings occur in their apartment and are never explained. There is a glowing closet where characters disappear and later reappear at various moments, an antique dealer who may know something about this strange curse becomes briefly possessed and bleeds from his eyes and mouth, and an elevator suddenly gives out with its floors break away causing one helpless maintenance worker to plunge to his death. All the while the characters stand about with blank expressions, looking idiotic as weird supernatural events take place in front of their eyes. Not once did I care about what happens to anyone in the film nor was I pulled into this strange, supernatural story. There seems to be something missing from Manhattan Baby. Was Fulci not as involved in this film as say, The Beyond?

lucio-fulciWhile technically well made with some unique camerawork that tries its best to maintain the viewers attention, Manhattan Baby (such a stupid name, Eye of the Evil Dead was a better alternate title) dulls the senses in that the film doesn’t go all out in being batshit crazy and relies too much on mundane and blase conversations about this curse or the happenings that are taking place in the apartment. While I can enjoy a film that makes no sense (I’m looking at you Dario Argento) at least provide some entertainment. I will admit I did enjoy the silly yet shocking bird attack at the film’s conclusion as this sequence went for broke and provided the viewer with a memorable moment and some nasty SFX.

cosimo-cinieriBlue Underground’s 3 disc limited edition set also proves to be a disappointment. If this was released by any other company, I may be more forgiving but Blue Underground has proven time and time again they are the Criterion in genre titles. Their transfers reign among all blu rays and for some reason they somewhat disappoint with a lackluster picture presentation. Remastered in 2K, the movie looks way to soft and at times a bit blurry, especially during the sequences set in Egypt. Most noticeably is an annoying hair or some sort of dirt that pops up time and time again in various shots. This was driving me nuts and was distracting to say the least. The DVD disc that is provided also has the same hair/dirt. The blu ray does come in a 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack along with a DTS-Mono soundtrack, both sounding pretty good but nothing spectacular.

lucio-fulcis-manhattan-babyA third disc is also provided and that is the film’s soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi. While I enjoy the composer’s music, I feel this soundtrack isn’t anywhere as scary or memorable as say City of the Living Dead or Zombi. Also annoying is when I place the CD in my laptop, the track titles are not listed leaving me stuck with titles like Track 01. This couldn’t have come with a title listing? It’s a minor complaint I admit but a big pet peeve of mine.

christopher-connellyBlue Underground does go all out on the extras as there is an hour documentary about composer Fabio Frizzi’s relationship with Fulci, entitled Fulci & I. While a bit overlong, I enjoyed hearing the man speak about his long passed friend and their working relationship. There is a brief interview with actor Cosimo Cinieri who discusses Fulci and the make up process for the bird sequence. There is an interview with make up effects artist Maurizio Trani who started working with Fulci on 1972’s Don’t Torture a Duckling and went on to make several movies together. Also on the disc is a brief interview with Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti and a quick interview with author Stephen Thrower on Fulci’s film career. The Manhattan Baby Suite is a live studio performance by Frizzi which was fun to witness as I personally like to watch composer’s perform live. There is the obligatory poster & still gallery and the theatrical trailer. The blu ray set has a reversible cover where one can flip it to the alternate poster art from Eye of the Evil Dead as well as a collector’s booklet by author Troy Howarth who actually admits the film isn’t very good!

Both Fulci and Blue Underground have done better.

Movie Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★☆☆

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