Review Date: May 4, 2001
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 6/12/2001
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Archaeologist George Hacker (Christopher Connelly
) is on a trip to Egypt with his wife Emily (Martha Taylor
) and daughter Susie (Brigitta Boccoli
) to study ancient tombs. The tomb that he is most interested in is that of Hapnubador, which, despite having been excavated, has yet to be opened by anyone because of fears of a curse. George and his guide eagerly accept the opportunity to explore the tomb, but as they are doing so, they step on a trap door that opens up underneath them. They fall into a secret chamber below and the guide is killed when he hits bed of spikes, although George manages to narrowly escape landing in the trap. Just then, George is bathed in an unearthly blue light, and two beams shoot from a nearby wall and strike him in the eyes, blinding him.
Meanwhile, Emily and Susie have been busying themselves taking photos of the local scenery. While visiting a landmark, Emily leaves her daughter for a minute. Suddenly, an old blind woman appears out of nowhere, saying "Tombs are for the dead" and handing the baffled Susie a beautiful jeweled amulet before she disappears into thin air. Susie hides the amulet and doesn't tell her parents about it.
The family quickly returns to their home in New York City, where they're reunited with their young son Tommy (Giovanni Frezza
), who had stayed behind with his babysitter Jamie Lee (!) (Cinzia De Ponti
). George sees an eye doctor, who tells him that his blindness is only temporary and his sight should return within a year. However, some strange things soon begin happening to the family. Susie begins to have strange visions and premonitions, although she tries to keep them as secret as possible from her family. One day, after George thinks he hears her screaming, he rushes to her aide only be somehow zapped by the weird blue light again and have his vision miraculously return. He and Emily aren't quite sure what to make of it.
One day while playing in Central Park with the children, Jamie Lee snaps a Polaroid of Susie, but it doesn't develop and they toss it on the ground and go home. After they leave, the picture finally develops, showing the amulet that Susie was given, but not her. A woman finds it and brings it to the attention of Adrian Marcato (Cosimo Cinieri
), an antiques dealer and specialist in the occult, who realizes what the object is. He writes his name on the back of the photo and makes sure that it gets to George and Emily.
Even stranger things soon begin happening. After receiving the photo, George gives it to a colleague of his so he can try to identify the amulet. As the man examines the photo in his office, he is suddenly attacked and killed by a cobra. Meanwhile, one afternoon Tommy and Susie's room suddenly locks itself shut for no apparent reason. Jamie Lee calls Emily at work and she go homes to investigate, bringing Luke (Carlo De Mejo
), one of her co-workers, with her. Luke manages to get the door open but then vanishes into thin air. When Emily investigates the room, she finds that the floor has been coated with sand, which, when analyzed, turns out to have come from the Egyptian desert. Soon, Jamie Lee also disappears and Susie begins to fall strangely ill. Out of desperation, the couple seeks out Adrian Marcato, who tells them about the amulet, and that it is an object of evil. He believes that Susie may be in possession of it. George and Emily search the apartment, and find the object in Susie's drawer. Marcato tells them that his worst fears have been realized - Susie has fallen under the thing's possession, and if it can't be stopped, she will die!
I usually like Lucio Fulci's films, but I found Manhattan Baby
to be a major disappointment when compared to many of his other works. Although Fulci shows his usual flair for atmosphere throughout the film, the movie is very limited by Dardano Sacchetti's script, which is too claustrophobic and disjointed (the result of a major slash in the film's planned budget), and leaves too many things unexplained. After the beginning scenes in Egypt, most of the film's action is concentrated in the Hacker family's apartment, a location begins to feel awfully small and tiresome after awhile. Meanwhile, the viewer is presented with a lot of nagging questions that are left unexplained. For instance, why do the evil powers behind the amulet blind George, only to restore his sight soon after? You'd think that violating a sacred tomb would earn a punishment a lot more severe than losing your sight for a few weeks. And why do the evil powers try to possess Susie, what good is she to them? Where did Marcato come from, and why does he know so much about the amulet?
Despite these problems, Fulci does manage to rise above it on a few occasions, although he usually seems to be bored by the production and sleepwalking through a lot of it. He perks up every time he's able to deliver a shock effect or scare, and he seems to feel right at home during the film's appropriately blood-drenched climax. However, overall the film can't be saved. Manhattan Baby
is mainly an interesting, but insignificant footnote in the director's career.
is presented letterboxed at 2.35:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. Anchor Bay apparently went back to the film's original negative to strike this transfer, and the effort has been well worth it. The image is consistently sharp and well-defined, with strong colors and a surprising absence of print damage, aside from a couple of specks. The image is somewhat marred by some vertical lines, occasional oversaturation, light grain in some of the exteriors, and some noticeable haze in many of the interiors, although these are not terribly distracting problems. Overall this is a very good transfer that should definitely please fans of the movie (although I don't think there are that many).
The soundtrack is in English in Dolby 2.0 Mono. I detected absolutely no distortion of any type on this soundtrack, and the range is certainly acceptable, considering that it's a big fat Mono track. Understanding dialogue was never a problem, and Fabio Frizzi's music score (much of it consisting of his earlier compositions from Zombie
and The Beyond
) sounds fuller and more vibrant than you would expect. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are provided.
Included here is an 8-minute interview with the film's screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. He shares his inspirations and motivations for writing Manhattan Baby
, and his feelings about the finished film and why it has so many problems. He also shares some of his own personal insights into Fulci as a filmmaker.
Also included are a trailer, talent bios for Fulci and Sacchetti, and liner notes by Anchor Bay's own Michael Felsher.
This disc is a very good job on the part of Anchor Bay, although the movie itself leaves a whole lot to be desired. Manhattan Baby is certainly one of Fulci's weaker horror films, and will probably only be of much interest to Fulci fans and completists, who should be very pleased by this release.
Movie – C
Image Quality – B+
Sound – B+
Supplements – B-
- Running Time – 1 hour 29 minutes
- Not rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- Interview with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti
- Talent bios
- Liner notes by Michael Felsher