Saturday, June 15, 2013

DVD Review: MANHATTAN BABY (1982)

MANHATTAN BABY (1982)

Label: Shameless Screen Entertainment 
Region Code: 0 PAL
Duration: 85 Minutes
Rating: 18 Certificate
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Christopher Connelly, Martha Taylor, Brigitta Boccoli, Giovanni Frezza, Cinzia de Ponti, Cosimo Cinieri, Andrea Bosic, Carlo De Mejo, Enzo Marino Bellanich, Mario Moretti, Lucio Fulci, Tonino Pulci

Ten-year old Susie Hacker (Martha Taylor) is on vacation in Egypt with archaeologist father George Hacker (Christopher Connelly) when she meets a strange, blind woman in the city bazaar whom gifts her with an ancient amulet with weird, inter dimensional powers. While excavating a cursed Egyptian tomb George is struck blind when an ancient jewel emits a blue laser-blast to his eyes, the effect is pure 80's awesomeness, it's fun stuff, even if dated. These opening scenes in Egypt are fantastic, perhaps a bit confusing, but Lucio Fulci was at top of his game in '82, these shots are atmospheric and creepy, particularly the gorgeously shot and spooky Egyptian tombs with secret passages, serpents, trap doors and spiked booby traps. 


The family returns to New York City where Professor Hacker is told by doctors that the blindness is only temporary, which is great for him but things just get weirder for his poor daughter Susie, strange things begin happening to those around her, there's some connection between the amulet and the tomb her father was exploring, you never quite comprehend just what the fuzz is actually going on, you might, but it's never explained to any satisfactory degree, which is just fine by me. A fun note,  Susie's younger brother Tommy is played by Giovanni Frezza, that spooky creeper kid Bob from Fulci's The House by the Cemetery (1981), the one with that awful dubbing, but worry not for he's not quite so annoying here.

Manhattan Baby really does come off as a head-scratching schlocky rip-off The Exorcist (1973) and Rosemary's Baby (1968) with a nasty nod to Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) but it's a bit more than just that, there's also a poorly conceived rip-off of the elevator death scene in Damien: Omen II (1979). Lucio Fulci and cinematographer Guigliemo Mancoro put some great images on-screen, sure some of the effects are super schlocky, the glowing doors, birds on wires, and the 80's laser effects come immediately to mind, but there's some decent gore effects, too. An early scene in Egypt features a great impalement and late in the film a roomful of stuffed birds wreak exquisite suffering on a para-psychologist, in the gore department it's not a complete disappointment, just a bit restrained by Fulci standard of the time. 

Story wise there's a lot of weird and unexplained events transpiring, you won't walk away from this with any real understanding of what you've just seen but the connective tissue of the film are suspenseful and intriguing, or at least pleasantly confusing. I think Fulci gets hammered on, perhaps not unjustly, for poor storytelling and this head-scratcher, penned by longtime collaborator Dardano Sacchetti (Zombi, New York Ripper), certainly won't dissuade that line of criticism.  However, if you have love for Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981) and City of the Living Dead (1980) or other Italian supernatural weirdies you will enjoy this one, it's pretty slim on the gore, quite restrained for this period of Fulci, but it's thick with creepy atmosphere and schlocky supernatural fun. 

DVD: Shameless Screen Entertainment present Lucio Fulci's Manhattan Baby (1982) in it's anamorphic original widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1)  on a region 0 PAL formatted DVD. The print looks quite nice, there's a fine layer of film grain and the print is mostly free of minor scratches and damage. The transfer features strong vibrant colors and decent black levels. The English language Dolby Digital mono audio is well balanced and clean, dubbed dialogue and effects come through clear and  Fabio Frizzi's recycled score from The Beyond (1981) and City of the Living Dead (1980) sound fine, there's the usual odd English-dubbing funkiness but that's par for the course with  80's Italian features. There's not much by the way of special features unfortunately, no commentary or featurettes, but we get a selection of trailers and a reversible sleeve of artwork, but that's it. 

Special Features:

- Shameless Trailer Gallery (13:33): New York Ripper (1982), The Black Cat (1981), Torso (1973), Frightened Woman (1969) , Night Train Murders (1975)  
- Theatrical Trailer (3:03) 
- Sleeve of Reversible Artwork

Verdict: Not on par with Lucio Fulci's The Gates of Hell Trilogy but this supernatural scholcker is nothing to sneeze at, this is fun 80's schlock and it definitely gives me hope as to what I might discover further exploring Fulci's post-New York Ripper (1982) filmography. Prepare yourself for a "what the fuck did I just watch" sorta experience, you might never quite understand many of Lucio Fulci's films, you just sorta get a feel for 'em, and this one feels just about right for the period, a medium recommend. 3 Outta 5 

No comments:

Post a Comment