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Manhattan Baby (1982)

Blue Underground
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/25/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/12/2016

Do you ever give much thought to how important a film's title is? Probably not, as most movie titles fit the film and don't draw any attention. But, the title can mean a lot. This may sound made up, but it's true because I've seen it happen -- There are people who literally just show up at the movie theater, having done no research whatsoever, and try to pick out something to see. And what are they going by? The title. Unless said title is able to paint a complete picture of what the film is about, then someone is most likely in few a surprise. So, when a movie comes along with a completely bonkers title, one must pay attention. Therefore, I give you Manhattan Baby.

Manhattan Baby opens in Egypt. (Which is not in Manhattan.) Professor George Hacker (Christopher Connelly) is here to explore a tomb. Once inside, he sees a symbol which shoots blue laser into his eyes, blinding him. Meanwhile, his wife, Emily (Laura Lenzi), and daughter, Susie (Brigitta Boccoli), are taking photos, when Susie is approached by an old woman, who gives her an elaborate necklace. The family then returns to Manhattan (which is in Manhattan), where George learns that his blindness should only last about a year. Also, the family is reunited with Tommy (Giovanni Frezza), the child they left behind while they went Egypt. As George continues his research -- while wearing glasses over his eye patches -- Susie begins to exhibit some odd behavior. Oh, and people who visit the Hacker's disappear. Could this be tied to the amulet Susie was given?

So we do get "Manhattan", but there is no baby in this movie. Manhattan Baby sounds like a romantic comedy, or maybe a Dreamworks animated movie, not a horror movie. In other parts of the world, this movie is known as "Evil Eye", "Possessed" or "Amulet of Evil", all of which are very serviceable titles. But, trying to wrap your head around Manhattan Baby is the least of your problems with this movie.

Manhattan Baby comes for Italian horror director Lucio Fulci, the man behind titles like Zombie, House by the Cemetery, and Cat in the Brain. Fulci is famous for making movies that some like to call "dream like", but most would say don't make any sense. It's very true that logic typically takes a backseat to everything else in these movies, and Manhattan Baby is no exception. This movie doesn't mess around with the questionable moments, as they start in the opening scene in the tomb where a snake pops out of the wall. From there, we scenes which begin and end seemingly without reason, inappropriate emotional reactions to tragedies, and that's just the beginning. The script introduces several ideas which it doesn't explore very far and some things just happen with no explanation. The third act features a malevolent character who suddenly appears and then becomes a hero...sort of. And then there are things like the aforementioned George wearing his while his eyes are covered. There are times when Manhattan Baby feels like a barely-connected series of scenes.

And yet, the movie has an odd sort of charm. Fulci fans are known for being rabid and they will defend his movies and attack those who don't approve (trust me on this). But, they seem to dismiss Manhattan Baby and the movie is rarely mentioned. Really, the godawful Cat in the Brain is better than this? For a Fulci film, Manhattan Baby has a fairly coherent story in the first half, although it is clearly borrowing ideas from The Exorcist and The Omen. The story unravels quite quickly in the second half, but at least things keep happening. They may not gel, but this isn't another talk Italian snoozefest. Fulci's obsession with close-ups of eyes, most of which are achieved with unmotivated zooms (seriously, what is up with that?), aside, the movie is well shot and have some clever camera movements. This doesn't include the gore found in Fulci's other films from this period, but only a select few will miss it.

If I were asked to give Manhattan Baby a new title, it would be "Wait, What?", as I kept saying that during the movie. The movie creates many more questions than answers, and one could easily feel that scenes were missing at times. Who was that old woman? What happened to the babysitter? Is that Bob from House by the Cemetery? The movie is certainly absurd at times, but it never wanders into silly or intentionally funny, as can happen in these movies. (Did you see the fake spiders in The Beyond?) I can certainly see how Manhattan Baby could be too subtle for those who hoped to see brains being ripped out, but it's oddness borders on art at times, and I found the lack of logic far more forgivable here.

Manhattan Baby gets all sandy on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Blue Underground. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 39 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, although it does show mild grain and some scant defects from the source materials. The colors looks good, and the image is never overly dark bright. The tones are a bit washed out in some moments, but this isn't distracting. The picture has a nice crispness to it and the detail is admirable. The biggest issue with films from this era is that they look flat, but Manhattan Baby actually shows some depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio never has that "dubbed" sound and the film's score comes through just fine. The surround effects are a bit scant and I didn't detect any subwoofer action.

The Manhattan Baby Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. "Fulci & I" (56 minutes) is an interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi, where he discusses his career and his experiences working with Fulci. We are also allowed to see Frizzi working with a group of musicians. This footage is also scene in "Manhattan Baby Suite" (9 minutes). "For the Birds" (9 minutes) allows actor Cosmo Cineri to reminisce about his times with Fulci. Make-up Effects Artist Maurizio Trani recounts many moments of bloodshed in "25 Years with Fulci" (11 mintues). "Beyond the Living Dead" (8 minutes) is an archival interview with Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti who talks about the origins of the story. "Stephen Thrower on Manhattan Baby" (13 minutes) gives the author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci a chance to chime in on the movie. The extras are rounded out by a THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film and a "Poster & Still Gallery".

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long