From Egypt to New York…the terror never stops!
Lucio Fulci is known for making international horror films that have gone on to be semi-successful. His canon of work includes Zombie, The Beyond and City of the Living Dead, among many others. His work is varied at best, and Manhattan Baby represents a very dull film under his directorial hand. Starring Christopher Connelly (1974's Benji) and Martha Taylor (ummm…just Manhattan Baby, the poor thing), Anchor Bay curses us with this anamorphic version of the Italian shocker.
Facts of the Case
Manhattan Baby was a pretty hard film to follow. Here is my guess at what the plot was:
The Harker family is on vacation in Egypt when their young daughter Susie (Brigitta Boccoli) is given a mysterious, tacky amulet. You know, the kind you see next to the cash register at "Pic and Save." The charm causes her father, Professor George Hacker (Connelly), to go blind while looking around an unexplored pyramid tomb. Unfortunately, George's guide is killed when he's skewered on some very large sharp things after a nasty tumble, though George survives unscathed. All this takes place with some very odd music playing in the background.
The family goes back home to New York City where strange things start to happen to the Hackers, as well as a few friends. It seems that some supernatural powers are at work (including little Susie having ESP), and since this is a horror film (without much blood, mind you), people start getting bumped off one by one. One guy falls down an elevator shaft. Others meet different, horrible fates of their own. And there's even a black emperor scorpion in the mix. Ohhhh…ahhhhh!
Is this the strange work of the Egyptian amulet? Can it be stopped? Aren't those dubbed voices annoying?
Manhattan Baby is not a good movie. I'll be the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of Lucio Fulci's films. I've seen a few, and so far none of them have been very overwhelmingly good. Often times (as is the case with Manhattan Baby) one of the big problems is the music. What the hell was everyone thinking back in 1982 when they made this stinker? The music sounds like some kind of rejected Toto score from a David Lynch movie. It's very inappropriate for this film, much less any other horror movie.
Ah, but I digress. Manhattan Baby has many other things wrong with it, starting solely with the script, which ends up being a blatant knock off of The Exorcist and Poltergeist. The script is as loose as they come, and with such terrible dubbing it's a wonder that anyone is able to figure what's going on. The young son (who is like an evil version of Adam Rich) is so bad, and his dubbing even worse, that I'm surprised the filmmakers didn't just let the ominous scorpion have a go at him after the shoot wrapped.
The rest of the cast is forgettable, including Christopher Connelly as George Hacker, who spends much of the film with gauze and pads wrapped around his eyes. I can't blame him; if I were working on this movie, I wouldn't have wanted to see how bad they were botching it up either.
The effects are very uninvolving, though there was one nice effect in the beginning where the guide is skewered in Egypt (though it's obvious that it is just a fake dummy). There is little blood to be found, and the only scary thing Manhattan Baby has going for it is that it's 91 minutes long. Who in the name of Wes Craven decided to make a horror films sans any gore? This is the equivalent of making a two-hour porn film with only seven minutes of sex. I'm surprised audiences didn't storm Fulci's house with pitchforks and torches after the showing.
Manhattan Baby is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. As usual, Anchor Bay has done a quality job of taking a really bad movie and making it look very good. Colors were generally bright and clear, with blacks being solid and dark. Though there were instances of grain and dirt (and slight edge enhancement), overall the picture quality was very good. Too bad the same can't be said for the movie.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono, and is much less impressive than the video portion. In all fairness, Manhattan Baby was made in 1982, and since it's known as one of the lesser efforts of Fulci's career, it's not surprising there was no 5.1 remix done. It's a passable presentation, with dialogue, effects, and music mixed equally.
Extra features include an anamorphic theatrical trailer, featuring lots of cheesy music and a bunch of the characters screaming as proof that this is supposedly a scary movie. Also included are some talent bios featuring director Fulci and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. This brings us to the final feature, a nine-minute interview with writer Sacchetti. Sacchetti talks about the trials and tribulations of writing this script, pointing out that Manhattan Baby was a big break for him. If that was his big break, I hate to see what the downhill run for this guy's career will be.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Okay, all right. Maybe I'm being a tad harsh on Manhattan Baby. It's certainly not the worst horror film in the world, but it is pretty boring. With a running time of about an hour and a half, it tends to feel like it's going on and on and on…and on. I also realize that it's either dubbing or subtitles on these Italian shockers, and though I'd rather take the dubbing, it's still really annoying to hear a different voice than the actor's coming out of their mouth, and very poorly at that.
Geez, aren't I cranky on this review?
I can't say that this is the best purchase for your money. Though Manhattan Baby has a good-looking transfer and a decent audio track, it's still not worth the price you'll pay (even for a rental). I'd advise you to pick up some other great Anchor Bay titles that best this film, including Creepshow 2, Hellraiser, or John Carpenter's masterpiece Halloween. Those films will make much better additions to your collections than Manhattan Baby.
Guilty of being a boring, dull horror film with about as much blood and gore as Terms of Endearment.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Theatrical Trailer
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