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The amulet of Abnubenor

Manhattan Baby (1982) – #NineTenthsoftheLaw

3.5/5

This is the ninth in a series of articles looking at Eurocult films from the 1970s and 1980s that focus on a theme of diabolical/demonic possession. In this instalment, we examine Lucio Fulci‘s 1982 film Manhattan Baby, also known in Anglophonic territories as (The) Possessed and Eye of the Evil Dead.

The international popularity of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) provoked a slew of European horror films about diabolical possession; peaking in the mid-1970s, this subgenre slowly petered out at the end of the decade before becoming increasingly hybridised with other ‘lowbrow’ Eurocult subgenres (for example, the ‘nunsploitation’ film). Initially looking towards The Exorcist as their primary model, these films about diabolical possession sometimes also bore the influence of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), and, later on, Richard Donner’s The Omen (1976). These are their stories.

Susie is surrounded by a supernatural aura
Susie is surrounded by a supernatural aura

Plot

During a research trip to the Pyramids of Giza, Professor of Egyptology George Hacker (Christopher Connelly) finds himself making history when, decoding an ancient stone tablet, he discovers the location of an ancient tomb that is said to be cursed. Journeying into this tomb with a local guide, Hacker falls victim to a series of elaborate traps. The guide is killed, and in a subterranean chamber a mystic stone fires a blue laser at Hacker, blinding him. Fortunately, Hacker is able to find his way out of the tomb.

In the area around the pyramids, Hacker’s young daughter Susie (Brigitta Broccoli) becomes separated from her mother, journalist Emily (Laura Lenzi). Alone, Susie encounters an elderly blind woman, who presses an amulet bearing, at its centre, a blue “eye” into the child’s hand.

The family return to their home New York, and Hacker is told that his sight will return in good time. He becomes obsessed with finding out what he encountered in the tomb, learning that it was “the sacred symbol of the Grand Shadow,” associated with an ancient deity named Abnubenor. Abnubenor was a deity known for “tremendous cruelty and utter evil.”

The family babysitter, Jamie Lee (Cinzia de Ponti) becomes increasingly disturbed by unusual events that take place whilst she is caring for Susie and her younger brother, Tommy (Giovanni Frezza). Susie is haunted by strange dreams and visions of the blue eye of the amulet given to her by the blind woman. In her dreams, she travels to Egypt; and it seems, she is capable of opening a portal to the Egyptian desert in the children’s nursery.

In the Hacker apartment, lights go out by themselves and strange noises – including laughing – can be heard. Jamie Lee is attacked by a snake; she calls the building supervisor for assistance, and he becomes trapped in the elevator before falling to his death. When Emily’s colleague at the newspaper, Luke (Carlo De Mejo), visits the apartment to help, he has to force his way into the children’s nursery; subsequently, he is hit by a blinding light and vanishes. His body is revealed to be lying in the shifting desert sands of Egypt, thousands of miles away.

The situation in the Hacker household becomes increasingly perilous, with Jamie Lee vanishing and George’s friend Robert being killed by a snake bite. An antiques dealer, Adrian Mercato (Cosimo Cinieri), becomes cognisant of Susie’s ownership of “the Eye of Evil” and makes contact with George, offering to help him and vowing to exorcise Susie from the ancient evil that has possessed her.

Professor Hacker explores the ancient tomb
Professor Hacker explores the ancient tomb in Egypt

Critique: “A real nice souvenir”

Produced under the working title “L’occhio del male” (“The Evil Eye”), Manhattan Baby came at the end of the period in director Lucio Fulci’s career that is inarguably most highly-regarded by fans of Eurocult cinema. For a long time, the film has suffered in the eyes of Fulci fans owing to its proximity, in terms of production and release, to the director’s more highly-regarded (in fan circles, at least) quartet of zombie films. In its focus on psychic phenomena, including possession by an ancient Egyptian entity, Manhattan Baby also represented a shift away from the thematic territory of the zombie films, which remain the movies for which Fulci is chiefly known amongst fans of European genre cinema. Critical responses to Manhattan Baby invariably tend to hinge on comparisons with Fulci’s zombie pictures, some folk expressing displeasure at the film simply because it is not another Zombi 2 or The Beyond.

Between 1979 and 1982, Fulci was extremely busy, directing no less than eight genre films (and one six-part television mini-series featuring Franco Franchi, one half of comic duo Franco and Cicchio). During this period, Fulci made his four zombie films – Zombi 2 (Zombie Flesh Eaters) in 1979, City of the Living Dead (Paura nella città dei morti viventi) in 1980, The Beyond (L’aldilà) and The House by the Cemetery (Quella villa accanto al cimitero) in 1981 – alongside the Gothic Poe pastiche Black Cat (Gatto nero, 1981), a gruesome poliziesco (Contraband/Luca il contrabbandiere, 1980), and the notoriously violent American-set giallo all’italiana New York Ripper (Lo squartatore di New York, 1982).

Including Manhattan Baby, five of Fulci’s films of this period were produced by Fabrizio De Angelis; De Angelis had produced Zombi 2, with Ugo Tucci, for Variety Film, and would go on to produce The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery, New York Ripper and Manhattan Baby under his company Fulvia Films. Coming in the middle of this frenetic collaboration between producer and director, City of the Living Dead was made for another production company: De Angelis gave Fulci a permit to break their exclusive contract and make a picture elsewhere. (City was ultimately produced by Renato Jaboni for Medusa, and the team of Mino Loy and Luciano Martino for Dania Film and National Cinematografica.)

Director Lucio Fulci's cameo as a medical doctor
Director Lucio Fulci’s cameo as a medical doctor

Interestingly, Manhattan Baby is also a film that, at least according to its credits, featured no script input from Fulci. Where Fulci has a writing or co-writing credit on almost all of the pictures he directed, this is not the case with Manhattan Baby. De Angelis has said that on each of the Fulci films he produced, De Angelis would devise the basic premise and then invite scriptwriter Dardano Sacchetti and Fulci to write a screenplay: Sacchetti had contributed to the scripts for Fulci’s giallo all’italiana Sette note in nero (The Psychic, 1977), Zombi 2 (in an uncredited capacity), City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery, and New York Ripper. The script for Manhattan Baby was provided by Sacchetti and another of Fulci’s frequent collaborators during this period: Elisa Briganti, who had co-written the scripts for both Zombi 2 and The House by the Cemetery. (Briganti would also go on to co-author the script for Fulci’s later post-apocalypse sci-fi film Rome 2033 – Fighter Centurions / I guerrieri dell’anno 2072 [1984].)

Sacchetti and Briganti’s original premise for Manhattan Baby focused on little Susie’s ability to perform astral projection, visiting alternate dimensions as she slept; the writers envisioned Susie’s journeys into other worlds as opening a portal for entities to invade ours. However, De Angelis suggested incorporating a curse that originates in Egypt, and the business with the pyramids and the amulet. This necessitated filming the opening sequence on location in Egypt, and was most likely an attempt to capitalise on Mike Newell’s The Awakening (1980), an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel The Jewel of the Seven Stars that had had some success in Italian cinemas.

Hacker’s discovery of the “cursed” tomb of course references Harold Carter’s discovery and excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Carter’s team, legend has it, fell victim to the “curse of the pharaohs”; in reality, the subsequent deaths of some of Carter’s associates are easy to explain in non-supernatural terms. That said, the “curse of the pharaohs” has provided fascinating material for writers and filmmakers, and is referenced in everything from Universal’s The Mummy (Karl Freund, 1932) and its numerous sequels and remakes, several of Hammer’s films about vengeful mummies, Robert Fuest’s Dr Phibes Rises Again (1972), and Frank Agrama’s Dawn of the Mummy (1981). Some memorable Eurohorror films focus on this curse too, including Paul Naschy’s hugely entertaining The Mummy’s Revenge (La venganza de la momia, 1975; directed by Carlos Aured).

Professor Hacker approaches the pyramid
Professor Hacker approaches the pyramid

Hacker’s journey into this sealed tomb also provides Manhattan Baby with some Indiana Jones-style shenanigans in its opening moments. (It may be worth noting here that Christopher Connelly starred in Ruggero Deodato’s Indiana Jones pastiche Raiders of Atlantis [I predatori di Atlantide] in 1983.) Hacker and his local guide enter the tomb in torchlight, Hacker finding a secret entrance into a hidden chamber. Inside, a King Cobra awaits; the guide shoots the snake, killing it. The notion of the snake as a guardian of the “treasure” within the tomb becomes a key motif within the film, finding its ultimate payoff in the final sequences.

Hacker and the guide descend a flight of steps, in a moment that is reminiscent of the journey into Freudstein’s charnel house basement in House by the Cemetery. (This descent is mirrored later in the film, when George experiences a vision in which he is travelling down some steps whilst on the soundtrack a Freudstein-like groan can be heard.) The pair fall through a trapdoor, the guide becoming gruesomely impaled on spikes protruding from the stone floor of the chamber below. In that room, Hacker sees a stone with a blue light emanating from it. Hacker screams; the blue light shoots out of the stone like a laser and strikes Hacker in the forehead. This is the incident that leads to Hacker losing his sight.

There was some conflict between Fulci and producer De Angelis during the making of Manhattan Baby, with the pair disagreeing over the film’s Egypt-set opening sequence. (Fulci didn’t want to shoot this, apparently, but the sequence lends Manhattan Baby a certain amount of exoticism.) Following Manhattan Baby, the two separated and Fulci signed a new contract with another producer, Giovanni Di Clemente. (It has been suggested that Fulci was attracted to working with Di Clemente because Di Clemente was less financially cautious than De Angelis, and wooed Fulci with the promise of better fees and bigger budgets.) Fulci made the sword-and-sorcery picture Conquest (1983) for Di Clemente, but the pair fell out during the production of that film; Fulci refused to honour his contract with Di Clemente, resulting in Di Clemente pursuing legal action against the director. Subsequently, Fulci would struggle to recapture the magic of the films he made for De Angelis, though some of his later pictures have experienced something of a critical reappraisal in the years since the director’s death.

Susie photographed in front of the sphinx
Susie photographed in front of the sphinx

Manhattan Baby undoubtedly fits into the Eurocult post-Exorcist trend in movies about spiritual and bodily possession, though here the possession (of Susie) is by an ancient Egyptian god (Abnubenor) rather than a Christian “demon.” Her “exorcism” too, is not by a Catholic priest but rather a dealer in antiques and antiquities. The demon is not expelled by the power of Christian prayer, but rather through Mercato’s application of ancient rites. The seed of this possession is planted when Emily takes a photograph of Susie in front of the Sphinx at Giza, and a strange expression falls over Susie’s face before a hole appears in the sand at her feet. Shortly afterwards, Susie is separated from her mother and encounters the elderly blind woman who, warning Susie that “Tombs are for the dead,” presents the child with the amulet of Abnubenor. This becomes the catalyst for the child’s brush with the supernatural.

As with so many other Eurocult films about the topic, in Manhattan Baby possession comes as a result of an encounter with a tainted artifact – much like the statue of the demon Pazuzu in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Furthermore, the setting of Manhattan Baby’s opening sequence at Giza in Egypt, where Susie’s father is engaged in studying the Pyramids, seems clearly to riff on the opening sequence of The Exorcist. Friedkin’s film, of course, opens with an archaeological dig in Iraq, where priest and archaeologist Father Merrin first encounters the Pazuzu idol.

The character of the elderly blind woman in Egypt, who presents Susie with the amulet, was a late-stage addition to the shooting script, as was the ending, which was substantially revised. The amulet recalls the tannis root necklace that is given to Rosemary (Mia Farrow) in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and the name of Adrian Mercato also seems to allude to Rosemary’s Baby: in Ira Levin’s novel and Polanski’s film, Roman Castavet’s (Sidney Blackmer) real father is revealed to be the black magician Adrian Marcato. However, “Mercato” may also be intended as a reference to the Aleister Crowley-esque villain Mocata in Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out.

For a long time, Fulci fans have suggested that Zombi 2 features an anti-colonial subtext, in its story of the island of Matul on which Caucasian visitors, suggested to have provoked or somehow stimulated the outbreak of zombie-ism on the island, are besieged by the shambling corpses of both the locals and long-dead conquistador conquerors. Critic Robin Wood famously suggested that horror films are largely about the “return of the repressed.” In Zombi 2, this manifests itself in the revenge of the colonised.

The mysterious amulet, captured on a Polaroid in Central Park
The mysterious amulet, captured on a Polaroid in Central Park

Manhattan Baby seems even more explicit in its anti-colonial motif. In Egypt, Susie – the daughter of a meddling American Egyptologist who insists on opening a “cursed” ancient tomb – is cursed by the elderly blind woman who presents the child with the amulet of Abnubenor. At the end of the film, after Mercato has exorcised the child (and lost his own life in the process), Fulci presents us with a coda that depicts the same elderly blind woman presenting another Caucasian young girl with an identical (the same?) amulet.

As the supernatural events escalate in New York, Susie’s trancelike state quickly morphs into full-blown possession. George becomes aware that something non-human is preying on his daughter, and this is finally confirmed when Tommy informs George that Susie has been participating in astral projection during her sleep. The deadpan, blasé manner in which Tommy provides George with this information is unsettling: with childlike naivete, Tommy tells his father that “Susie always screams when she goes on a voyage,” adding that he too has “travelled” with his sister on more than on occasion. (Tommy tells George that he once came back with “a real nice souvenir”: a statue of Anubis that he found “on the riverbank.”) However, unlike in the vast majority of post-Exorcist Eurocult films about possession, which feature individuals possessed by demonic or diabolical entities, here Susie is possessed by something much more “exotic” than the Christian demons found in most Exorcist-inspired films.

Eventually, Susie becomes physically ill, and Adrian Mercato tells George that “It’s quite possible that your daughter has absorbed the energy irradiated by this gem [in the amulet].” He informs George that Susie is a “prisoner” of the gem, which is “using her for its own dark and malevolent malefactions.” Precisely what these “malevolent malefactions” are is left unexplained by the film. Nevertheless, as in so many films about the possession of young people, Manhattan Baby seems to speak of parental anxieties about children developing a sense of independence and self-motivation beyond the control of their parents: “Why is this happening to us,” Emily asks at one point, “We’re powerless, and this is frightening.”

Professor Hacker after he has been blinded by the amulet
Professor Hacker after he has been blinded by the amulet

To liberate Susie from the supernatural influences on her, Mercato performs a ritual not dissimilar to an exorcism. Fulci wisely chooses to present this obliquely, refusing to engage with the nuts and bolts of the “exorcism” – unlike the protracted exorcisms that anchor The Exorcist and many of its more direct imitators. Emily criticises what she calls Mercato’s “voodoo,” labelling it as “perverse.” A preliminary meeting between Mercato and Susie ends with Mercato convulsing on the floor, his face covered in blood, and inexplicably speaking with Susie’s voice.

Not entirely convinced that there isn’t a medical cause for Susie’s illness, the child’s parents subject her to tests at the hospital. There, a doctor (played by Lucio Fulci in a cameo appearance) places Susie on various monitors. This sequence, in which the possessed individual is subjected to a medical intervention, is a staple of films about possession; films that feature it, such as this, take their cue from the sequence in The Exorcist in which the possessed Regan is given a traumatic electro-encephalogram. The implication is that the medical intervention is almost as traumatic as the act of possession, and that not all ailments can be diagnosed (or remedied) by modern medicine.

As the tests are conducted, Fulci connects the rational/medical and supernatural by cross-cutting between the hospital and Mercato, who experiences a series of ominous, disconnected visions whilst holding the amulet. These visions include blood pooling on a wall, and both Tommy and Susie saying, “Punish me.” Mercato’s visions climax with a human hand symbolically pushing through the plaster of a wall from the other side of it. It’s a surreal image that recalls both Fulci’s zombie movies and the clawing hand in the dream sequence of Luis Bunuel’s Los Olvidados. The sequence climaxes back at the hospital, where an X-Ray reveals a curious anomaly: it seems that within Susie’s abdomen is a shadow that resembles a King Cobra.

Emily's ill-fated colleague, Luke (Carlo De Mejo)
Emily’s ill-fated colleague, Luke (Carlo De Mejo)

Subsequently, Mercato informs George that he has “exorcised” Susie from a distance. “There has been a transference,” Mercato tells Hacker, “I have substituted for your daughter [….] It is useless to try to explain. You will never understand.” The film leaves an enigma hanging over the nature of the rite that Mercato has conducted. However, the sense that Mercato has “transferred” the evil of the amulet from Susie to himself also seems to derive from the finale of The Exorcist – specifically, the moment in which Father Karras commands the demon Pazuzu to leave Regan and enter his (Karras’) body, before leaping from the window to his death. Mercato’s equivalent death is more protracted and gruesome.

Mercato’s death was changed at a fairly late stage in the filmmaking process. In earlier versions of the script, the character apparently met a much less dramatic demise. However, the idea was proposed that Mercato should be attacked and killed by the stuffed birds in his shop, which would re-animate and terrorise their owner before gruesomely tearing at his flesh, eventually pecking him to death.

Featuring some gruesome effect work by the likes of Gianetto De Rossi and Franco Di Girolamo, the films Fulci made during this period pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in terms of screen violence. The four zombie films ended up on the official “video nasties” list(s) in the UK, thanks to their outrageous violence (often memorably directed against characters’ eyeballs), and were later released on home video formats in heavily cut variants; New York Ripper was notoriously rejected outright in the UK owing to its allegedly misogynistic violence and the timing of its release (which coincided with the endpoint of the Yorkshire Ripper case). Even Contraband featured some stupendously violent moments, including a scene in which a character’s face is destroyed with a blowtorch, and a deeply unpleasant moment in which the film’s protagonist (Fabio Testi) is forced to listen on the telephone as his wife is raped at the other end of the line.

Manhattan Baby, by contrast, is a relatively restrained picture. Perhaps for this reason, with a story that isn’t punctuated by regular outbursts of outrageous gore, Manhattan Baby has often been criticised as being too sedate or poorly paced. Certainly there’s a sense here of Fulci and De Angelis intending to make a film for a wider audience, and the film was planned with the biggest budget out of all of the De Angelis-Fulci collaborations. A good chunk of this planned budget (said to be around 800 million lire) was intended to go towards providing some electronic visual effects. (In the finished film, these basically consist of blue “lasers” being fired from the amulet towards various characters.) However, at some point before production began, the budget was cut by about a half.

Marcato is pecked to death by his stuffed birds
Marcato is pecked to death by his stuffed birds

In comparison with Fulci’s zombie films, Manhattan Baby seems fairly tame in terms of its depiction of violence – particularly coming from a filmmaker whose work is often described as deeply misanthropic. At the end of the film, however, the death of Mercato displays some of the fascination with grue that is evident in Fulci’s other pictures of this period. In fact, it would be fair to say that the sequence stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the haunting onscreen carnage in Fulci’s zombie movies. In this sequence, Mercato’s stuffed birds come to life and tear at the flesh of their owner, the viewer half-expecting the birds’ beaks to pierce one or both of his eyeballs in the manner of the ocular violence on display in Zombi 2 and The Beyond.

It’s tempting to see this attack by the birds as an homage to Hitchcock, given the prominence of stuffed birds in Psycho (1960) and the bird attacks that are central to The Birds (1963). In its staging, though, the sequence recalls most vividly the spider attack in The Beyond: the birds peck and tear at their victim’s flesh in grisly close-up, pulling off chunks of flesh much like the tarantulas in Fulci’s earlier zombie picture.

Elsewhere, Manhattan Baby draws on some of the imagery of Fulci’s earlier zombie films. There is an emphasis throughout the film on eyes, sight, and objects resembling eyes: the strange blue stone in the tomb from which the “laser” that blinds George emanates; George’s ensuant blindness; the extreme close-ups of the opaque corneas of the elderly sorceress in Egypt, which recall the tight close-ups of the blind Emily’s eyes in The Beyond; the amulet itself, which resembles the “evil eye” of many Mediterranean cultures and the Egyptian Eye of Horus; even the googly eyes on springs that practical joker Luke wears in the newspaper office. Aside from imagery, Manhattan Baby recycles music from other Fulci films: large chunks of Fabio Frizzi’s score for the picture are lifted from Frizzi’s soundtrack of The Beyond, in particular. On a narrative level, too, Manhattan Baby employs a similar bag of tricks to Fulci’s zombie movies.

Susie's eyes emit a strange blue light
Susie’s eyes emit a strange blue light

Like The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and House by the Cemetery particularly, Manhattan Baby features some non-linear storytelling and crosscutting of time and space that is occasionally confusing. As in House by the Cemetery, in Manhattan Baby the domestic space becomes unfamiliar and threatening. In House…, of course, the family home is revealed to sit atop the subterranean laboratory/charnel house in which Dr Freudstein commits his inhuman experiments with the intention of extending his lifespan. Likewise in Manhattan Baby, behind closed doors the children’s nursery becomes a portal to Egypt that is opened by the psychic activities of Susie. At one point, the room becomes filled with desert sand that has slipped through this portal. When Emily’s colleague Luke slips into this space, he ends up lying dead in the Egyptian desert. (Here, the imagery recollects the ending of The Beyond, and its sandy wasteland littered with corpses.)

Various cast members also link the film to Fulci’s other pictures of this period. Carlo De Mejo had appeared in both House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead; Cosimo Ciniero acted in New York Ripper and Rome 2033; and Cinzia de Ponti was in New York Ripper as the cyclist Rosie, the killer’s first onscreen victim. As Tommy, Manhattan Baby features Giovanni Frezza, the blonde child actor who had also played Bob in House by the Cemetery. (Bob’s “Curious George” teddy, featured prominently in House by the Cemetery, also makes a reappearance.) Tommy’s sister, Susie, is played by Brigitta Broccoli; the part was originally written for Silvia Collatina, who had played Dr Freudstein’s ghostly daughter, Mae, in House… Reputedly Broccoli was accompanied on set by her mother, with whose parental interjections during production Fulci became profoundly frustrated.

Fulci’s City of the Living Dead had been intentionally devised as an homage to the work of H P Lovecraft, and Manhattan Baby opens with a quote that is claimed by an onscreen title to come from Lovecraft (“Mystery is not around things, but within things themselves”). However, the film has little to anchor it in Lovecraft’s work, and the “quote” in fact seems to be a concoction by the filmmakers – much like the invented “quote” from Henry James that appears at the end of House by the Cemetery (“No one will ever know whether children are monsters or monsters are children”). Both of these quotes may perhaps be manglings of passages from the respective writers’ work, translated into Italian and then re-translated back into English; or they may simply have been fabricated by the filmmakers and then credited to known authors in an attempt to give the films a sense of literary credibility.

Filmed on location in Cairo and New York, and at the De Paolis studios in Rome, Manhattan Baby was photographed between the beginning of March and the end of April, 1982. The movie was photographed by a different cinematographer (Guglielmo Mancori) to Fulci’s other ‘scope films of this period (Zombi 2, The Beyond, House by the Cemetery, and Black Cat were lensed by Sergio Salvati; New York Ripper was photographed by Luigi Kuveiller). Despite this, however, Manhattan Baby is visually similar to the films Sergio Salvati, in particular, photographed in widescreen for Fulci; like those films, Manhattan Baby features heavy use of shorter focal lengths (resulting in visible barrel distortion in many shots) and zooms used to emphasise specific moments in the narrative.

Captured by Mancori’s photography, Manhattan Baby features some startling imagery that lingers in the mind long after the picture has ended: the children’s nursery filled with sand transported through a supernatural portal; a fistful of sand falling through the fingers of Susie; the scorpion encased in glass and kept in the drawer of a writing desk; and of course, the Eye of Horus amulet and the creepy elderly lady who presents it to Susie in the film’s opening sequence. Notable, in particular, is the manner in which Mancori frames a close-up of Susie against the Great Sphinx (the Sphinx is in the distance on the left-hand side of the frame, and Susie’s face is on the right), racking focus from one to another; then, shortly afterwards, a near identical composition is used to introduce the elderly woman who gives Susie the amulet. In this instance, the elderly woman takes the place of the Sphinx, on the left-hand side of the frame, and Susie remains on the right. It’s a highly effective introduction for the character, using visual shorthand to connect her with Egypt’s ancient past. (De Palma would have used a split dioptre lens rather than rack focus from one to another, but I digress.)

Interestingly, Mancori was director of photography on the two features directed by novelist Pier Carpi: Povero Cristo in 1976, and Ring of Darkness (Un’ombra nell’ombra) in 1979. The latter of these is another possession and exorcism-focused horror film that has already been discussed in a previous article in this series. Mancori also photographed a further exorcism-themed film, the 1975 comedy L’esorciccio (Ciccio Ingrassia), which will be examined in a future article. 

The UK VHS release from Entertainment in Video
The UK VHS release from Entertainment in Video

Release/Distribution

Distributed in Italy by Fulvia Film in August of 1982, Manhattan Baby was poorly received and didn’t do well either commercially or critically. The film was released theatrically in a number of European territories, in 1983 and 1984; in the US, it received a theatrical release in 1984, as Eye of the Evil Dead, before being released on VHS (as Manhattan Baby) through Lightning Video in 1986. In the UK, it was released directly to video in the UK, as Possessed, by Entertainment in Video in 1983.

In the digital video era, Manhattan Baby has fared well, being released (widescreen, thankfully) on DVD by Anchor Bay during the first few years of the format, and more recently being released on Blu-ray by Blue Underground in the US and XT Video in Austria. Seeing the film in widescreen is essential, and one can’t help but wonder if some of the negative response to Manhattan Baby in the pre-digital home video days was at least in part due to people first encountering the film via VHS releases that cropped the sometimes remarkable compositions.

Manhattan Baby (1982) - #NineTenthsoftheLaw - Malevolent Dark
Manhattan Baby 6 e1687821438350

Director: Lucio Fulci

Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33

Editor's Rating:
3.5

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