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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Manhattan Baby
Manhattan Baby
Starz / Anchor Bay
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 3, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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"Manhattan Baby" -- I wasn't quite sure how to react upon reading the title. Was this a lost Rat Pack classic, where a lovely moll catches Sinatra darting out the door and asks, "Where you goin', Frank?", prompting Ol' Blue-Eyes to flick his hat with his forefinger and say, "Manhattan, baby!" Could it be a retelling of the story of Baby Jessica, transplanting the well from Midland, Texas to the bowels of Manhattan, and a full five years before the Plop Heard 'Round The World? Compelling ideas, all, but "Manhattan Baby" is one of three films from Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci coming to DVD in mid-June courtesy of Anchor Bay.

The actual plot has as little to do with the title as those goofy impressions of mine. I'm not entirely sure how to summarize the plot, as "Manhattan Baby" delves into 'what the hell...?' territory more than a few times. Christopher Connelly plays an archeologist (or something) who trots over to Egypt with his young daughter. While Connelly is being blinded by rays blasting from a wall inside of a pyramid, Jamie Lee (one of many unsubtle nods in this film), his daughter, is given an eeeevil talisman during some sight-seeing. After returning home to New York City, the eeeevil starts to emerge, with light bulbs exploding and their MCI Friends and Family dropping like flies. Scenes from "Poltergeist", "Rosemary's Baby", and "The Exorcist" are all shamelessly lifted in an unsuccessful attempt to revive Fulci's quickly-flagging horror career. Whereas the boredom in "The Black Cat" didn't kick in until the last half-hour, I started peeking at my watch in the first fifteen minutes of the excruciatingly lethargic "Manhattan Baby". Logic is left at the door, and although that's not entirely unexpected in a Fulci film, no gore or other interesting visuals take its place. "Manhattan Baby" is a dull, incoherent film that will only appeal to those most devoted to Fulci, though Anchor Bay has given it an excellent presentation on DVD that may win the movie a few new fans.

Video: Although the print used for "Manhattan Baby" isn't marred by the sorts of stripe-like anomalies seen in "The Black Cat", the end result falls just short of Fulci's loose Poe adaptation. Detail and clarity are strong but not consistently as striking as "The Black Cat", and film grain, when present, is a bit heavier. Colors are generally rich and vibrant, though seeming to have a slight yellow tint at times. Black levels and shadows are both solid, and print flaws, even dust and assorted specks, are entirely non-existent. I was expecting the more recent "Manhattan Baby" to sport a more spectacular transfer than "The Black Cat", and although the image presented doesn't quite reach that high mark, the end result is still eye-catching and vastly more impressive than the great majority of films of comparable age, budget, and obscurity. What few flaws I noticed, such as hairs on the camera lens and very infrequent softness, are likely a function of the film's microscopic budget, which was low even by Fulci standards, and looking back at some releases from other companies, I feel a tinge of guilt listing even these very minor complaints. "Manhattan Baby" is presented at 2.35:1 and is enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Audio: "Manhattan Baby" is another hearty mono entry from Anchor Bay. The audio, particularly the near-anemic score, doesn't seem nearly as full as the mono track from "The Black Cat", though still free of hiss and distortion. I'd imagine that this is very close to the way the film has always sounded, though, and dialogue is generally clear and easy to discern.

Supplements: Writer Sardano Sacchetti contributes an eight-minute interview and is candid about the film's flaws and the many barriers he and Fulci encountered during production. Sacchetti is also featured in a brief biography, alongside the recycled Fulci bio and an anamorphic trailer.

Conclusion: "Manhattan Baby", despite the inclusion of a very small amount of gore near the end, managed to out-bore even the dull "The Black Cat". If you have to buy one of the new Fulci releases from Anchor Bay on June 12, your best bet would be "House by the Cemetery", despite the disparaging and ineptly-written comments previously posted on this site by another reviewer. "Manhattan Baby" isn't enthusiastically recommended as a film, but given its very respectable presentation on DVD, this disc should fit nicely alongside other Fulci releases on your DVD rack.
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