by Anthony King
Nobody fakes New York like the Italians.
Confession: I watched Lucio Fulci's Manhattan Baby for the first time in 2020 and thought it was boring. I had no plans to revisit it in the future, but I remember a semi-recent tweet from Patrick where he praised the movie. When I sat down to figure out what two movies I needed to write about this week I realized two films from el maestro, both set in New York, were released in the year of my birth. So I prayed to the Italian gore gods I was wrong about Manhattan Baby, and guess what? I was wrong. June 2020 was early on in the pandemic, end-of-the-world depression was new for me, and cynical movies weren't helping. So I'm happy to report I enjoyed Manhattan Baby doubly as much as I did the first time.The Beyond in your catalog.
Christopher Connelly plays the archeologist/father who goes blind and then gets his vision back after the evil spirit brought back in the medallion shoots lasers at his eyes. (Just go with it.) I can't help think Connelly is only a stand-in for who Fulci really wanted in this role: Christopher George. Not only do the two men look alike, they also sound alike and their mannerisms are similar. His kids, one of which is played by the infamous Bob from The House by the Cemetery, are insufferable. This is Italian horror, though, and one of the rules of Italian horror is that children must be the most annoying creatures that ever existed (see Beyond the Door). And like in most of his films, Lucio himself appears here as Dr. Foster, and in our next film as the chief of police.
Since this is a Fulci movie, we get some extreme violence (on top of the vaginal mutilation). Every time the killer stabs someone, they not only stab but proceed to saw the wound. Fulci makes a point of showing this several times; another indicator that the killer (Fulci?) hates his victims (women). Simply stabbing them isn't enough. Then we have our signature Fulci eye trauma. While a woman is tied to a bed, the killer drags a razor blade across her chest, and Fulci makes sure we see the blade slice right through the nipple. Then the killer moves up to the face and slowly drags the blade down through the eye, all while the camera is as close as possible. You're asking: Why in god's name do you like this movie so much? As brutal as it is, it's still an exciting '80s cop movie! Hedley looks at everyone in the movie with such contempt I'm almost convinced he didn't want to be there in the first place. After shooting someone he is expressionless and you almost expect him to lazily toss a cigarette in his mouth, roll his eyes, and walk off screen. Whether that's Hedley the actor being miserable or the character of a hard-boiled, desensitized NYC cop, it works and I love it.