Lucio Fulci’s Manhattan Baby begins with some beautifully filmed scenes in Egypt where a professor is part of a team excavating an ancient tomb. This instantly sets the film up as a possible mummy’s curse film but being Fulci it’s never going to be that simple.
While the professor’s wife is off doing a spot of photography with their small daughter in tow, the daughter is approached by a mysterious old blind woman who sells her an amulet which is referred to in the film as the ‘Sacred Symbol of the Grand Shadow’. An alternate title for this film is Eye of the Evil Dead.
The professor is temporarily blinded by a strange supernatural force in the tomb shortly after his colleague meets a grisly end by falling on some spikes; very nice!
From there we’re in New York where whatever evil force has followed the family back from Egypt via the amulet begins to wreak havoc on them and those associated with them in a series of supernatural and fatal events. Incidentally, it is here we meet younger sibling Tommy played by Giovanni Frezza who Fulci fans will recognise from Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery (1981).
Now, I would personally count this film as a true Fulci classic, up there with his best work. No, it doesn’t have the gore of his ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy (City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery) admittedly, but it is delivered in his own unique and highly imaginative style. I think you either love Fulci’s films or hate them and I am referring to his best films; I think Manhattan Baby is definitely more subdued than what his audience has come to expect if they’ve seen that trilogy or indeed Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) and it is this in my opinion which goes against the film rather than any particular drop in quality from his earlier works.
The soundtrack is a particularly strong feature of this film, adding a richness to the atmosphere, and the special effects, although fairly easy to criticise and maybe even laugh at in places, are never detrimental to the story; the finale in particular is a great over the top Fulci scene that fans know and love him for.
I don’t know if the version of Manhattan Baby I own is cut or not, possibly slightly, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is in that Fulci always had the knack of worrying the censors (and still does) in spite of how the special effects in his films might be received today by a much hardier public, a real testimony to the effectiveness of his films in spite of their flaws.