Manhattan Baby is a 1982 Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci, starring Christopher Connelly and Carlo De Mejo. The film begins in Egypt where Susie, the daughter of archaeologist George Hacker is given a mysterious talisman from an old woman while her father is investigating in a tomb where he becomes blind after being exposed to a blue light. Back in New York, George slowly begins to recover his vision as strange deaths begin to occur around them with the cause seemingly to be the medallion.
|Directed by||Lucio Fulci|
|Produced by||Fabrizio De Angelis|
|Music by||Fabio Frizzi|
|Edited by||Vincenzo Tomassi|
|Distributed by||Fulvia Films|
The film was originally planned to be one of Fulci's more expensive films, but had its budget cut in half during production. The film was shot in both New York and Egypt between March and April of 1982. After its release, both Fulci and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti dismissed the film, and Fulci did not work again with his producer Fabrizio De Angelis. The film received negative reviews from Corriere della Sera and La Stampa.
On holiday in Egypt with her archaeologist father George (Christopher Connelly) and journalist mother, Emily (Martha Taylor), ten-year-old Susie Hacker (Brigitta Boccoli) is approached by a mysterious blind woman who gives her an amulet. Soon after, George is struck blind when he enters a previously unexplored tomb.
Upon their return to New York City, George learns that his loss of vision is temporary. Susie, her younger brother, Tommy (Giovanni Frezza), and their au pair, Jamie Lee (Cinzia de Ponti), are affected by the mysterious amulet, gaining supernatural access to dimensional doorways. When George's eyesight returns, he describes the design on the wall of the tomb he'd entered to a colleague called Wiler.
At her office, Emily and her colleague, Luke (Carlo De Mejo), are working on an article about the events in Egypt when a panicked Jamie Lee phones to say the children are locked in their bedroom. Emily and Luke arrive at the house, but when Luke tries to unlock the door, he is sucked into a dimensional portal, appearing amidst the vast, arid Egyptian desert, where he later dies of dehydration. The Hackers treat Luke's disappearance as a practical joke.
Jamie Lee takes the kids to Central Park, where she takes photos of them. A woman picks up a discarded Polaroid of Susie that shows nothing but the amulet against the grassy background. The woman contacts a man called Adrian Marcato (Laurence Welles), and the next day she drops the Polaroid, now containing Marcato's contact details, down to Mrs. Hacker from a window.
The children continue to appear and disappear from their bedrooms on what Tommy calls "voyages". When Jamie Lee disappears after entering Tommy's room, he tells his mother that she has not come back from her own voyage. That evening, as George's colleague Wiler studies a photograph of the amulet, he is fatally bitten by a cobra that appears in his office. The photo reappears in Susie's hand as she recovers from a mysterious fit.
George and Emily track down Marcato to his antique shop. He tells them about the evil symbolism of the amulet, and suggests that Susie has absorbed its energy. When George and Emily find the amulet in Susie's bedroom drawer, she appears to them glowing with an unearthly blue light, and then faints. Marcato is called to the Hackers apartment to examine Susie, but is possessed by her inner voice crying for help, and falls to the ground, bleeding and foaming at the mouth. Marcato regains consciousness and succeeds in linking minds briefly with George, showing him a glimpse into the eldritch Egypt his children have been visiting. Susie is then taken to a nearby hospital where the physician Dr. Forrester (Lucio Fulci) examines her, baffled by her illness. An X-ray taken shows the dark shape of a hooded cobra mark in her chest.
While Emily maintains a bedside vigil for the near-comatose Susie, Tommy is alone in the apartment. Suddenly, Jamie Lee turns up, bursting through a wall as a reanimated rotting cadaver before she drops dead. A strange blue light of negative energy is shown flowing from Tommy, the bed-ridden Susie, and the dimensional doorways and channeled into Marcato's home where he is reciting an ancient Egyptian spell. George goes to see Marcato again, who tells him that he can stop worrying about his children. With the spell, Marcato has channeled the evil energy away from George's children and the curse is now on him. Marcato gives George the amulet and tells him to discard it so the curse will not affect anyone else. That night, Marcato is killed at his shop when the re-animated carcasses of his stuffed birds come to life and tear him to pieces. At the hospital, a healed Susie wakes up with her mother by her bedside. The following morning, George, following Marcato's last suggestion, flings the amulet into the East River, bringing an end to their ordeal.
In the final scene back in Egypt, the mystical blind woman once again appears and gives the same amulet to another young girl, intending to continue the curse for the forces of darkness, bringing it full circle.
- Christopher Connelly as Professor George Hacker
- Laura Lenzi as Emily Hacker (credited as Martha Taylor)
- Giovanni Frezza as Tommy Hacker
- Brigitta Boccoli as Susie Hacker
- Cinzia De Ponti as Jamie Lee
- Cosimo Cinieri as Adrian Mercato (credited as Laurence Welles)
- Andrea Bosic as Optician
- Carlo De Mejo as Luke
Manhattan Baby was originally conceived as the most expensive of the films director Lucio Fulci would have made for producer Fabrizio De Angelis. Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti stated that the films budget was drastically cut from 800 million lire to 400 million lire. Sacchetti collaborated with his wife Elisa Briganti on a script originally titled Il malocchio (lit. The Evil Eye). Sacchetti spoke on his script, describing it as "an attempt to do a technological piece. I was attempting to approach themes that were no longer classic or traditionally Gothic. I was trying to bring horror in a different direction."
Shooting the film started on March 8 and ended at the end of April 1982. The film was shot partially around Cairo, at De Paolis Studios in Rome and in New York around the same time that a second unit team was shooting Enzo G. Castellari's film 1990: The Bronx Warriors. Sacchetti says the extended opening scene in Egypt was added as an afterthought to "give the film an international feel."
Manhattan Baby was distributed in Italy by Fulvia Films and on August 12, 1982. The film grossed a total of 409,424,657 Italian lire domestically in Italy. Manhattan Baby was picked up for distributed in the United States in 1984 but only released theatrically as Eye of the Evil Dead. It was titled The Possessed in the United Kingdom where it was released directly to video in 1983. The film was released on DVD on May 29, 2001 by Anchor Bay Entertainment.
The film would end the partnership between Lucio Fulci and producer Fabrizio De Angelis. Fulci disliked the film himself saying he had no choice in making the film as De Angelis was obsessed with it. Fulci commented that it was "a terrible movie; I'd venture to describe it as one of those setbacks that occur as you go along" Sacchetti and Briganti were also not pleased with the films finished product, with Sacchetti stating that "when the producers decided to cut three-quarters of the budget, some of the special effects could not be realised, and the film was ultimately very poor."
From contemporary reviews, Kim Newman (Monthly Film Bulletin) described the film as Fulci's "smallest, most personal genre film." Newman commented on the films focus on eyes, stating that "some of the effect is lost on video, this wide-screen dwelling on a single infinitely variable image turns the film into an almost hypnotic screen experience. It is also woodenly scripted, stiffly acted, funereally paced and impossible to follow on any narrative level." Newman concluded that the film "absolves itself from having to make sense: the rough circularity of the story, the insistence on mosaic images rather than smooth plotting, and the impossibility of attributing noble or heroic motives to the character of Marcato, finally serve to remind us that the supernatural is also the irrational." Aldo Vigano of La Stampa found the film "unconvincing and rather predicatable" Leonardo Autera of Corriere della Sera commented that "They say that Lucio Fulci, the director, is the most gifted heir in the "Italian horror" genre, of the late Mario Bava. But there is a substantial difference: Bava knew how to follow Poe's lesson that even the absurd must have an inner logic; Fulci, instead, navigates in the most absolute arbitrariness, the kind not even the old-tim e"Grand-guignol" would have dared."
From retrospective reviews, AllMovie panned the film, finding it to be one of Fulci's worst films. The review went on to critique the continuous presence of eyes in the film, declaring it to be " a pointless and stupid film of no possible interest to anyone except demented opticians." Louis Paul, author of the book Italian Horror Film Directors, opined that "although it contains some graphic murders, ultimately L'Occhio del Mal is a decidedly lifeless affair."
- Curti 2019, p. 101.
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- Newman, Kim (1986). "L'occhio del male (The Possessed)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 53 no. 624. British Film Institute. pp. 92–93.
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- "Terrore in casa dell'archeologo". La Stampa (in Italian). 26 August 1982.
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