“Manhattan Baby”: An ancient Egyptian amulet unleashes an evil supernatural plague in NYC

By on January 18, 2019

Lucio Fulci‘s 1982 horror-thriller headscratcher Manhattan Baby (Italian: L’Occhio del Mal) follows what happens after an archeologist’s daughter brings home an ancient and mysterious amulet, given to her by an old blind Egyptian lady, which unleashes an evil supernatural plague on the streets of New York City’s Manhattan.

Watch this bizarrely disturbing, often graphic and gore-filled film — which reminded many critics of The Exorcist, The Awakening, Poltergeist and other supernatural horror classics — on Night Flight Plus.

MANHATTANBABY8

While on an archeological expedition, exploring ancient Egyptian catacombs with her professor father “George Hacker” (Christopher Connelly), a ten-year old girl “Susie Hacker” (Brigitta Boccoli) is approached by an old blind lady, who gives her an Egyptian amulet before she almost literally disappears.

Later, Hacker comes across ancient hieroglyphs on the wall of a pyramid tomb, when suddenly, blue rays of light shoot out and blind him.

MANHATTANBABY10

The entire Hacker family, including mother “Emily” (Laura Lenzi, credited as “Martha Taylor”) returns home to New York City, bringing with them a strange, supernatural plague of evil and sudden violence.

Emily begins working on an article about what had happened in Egypt with her colleague, “Luke” (Carlo De Mejo).

MANHATTANBABY3

Hacker — whose blindness turns out to be a temporary condition — tells his colleague “Wiler” (Enzo Marino Bellanich, credited as “Vincenzo Bellanich”) about the snake hieroglyphics he’d seen on the wall of the tomb in Egypt.

Meanwhile, Susie and her younger brother “Tommy” (Giovanni Frezza), and their au pair “Jamie Lee” (Cinzia de Ponti) are each affected by the mysterious amulet, which gives them supernatural access to a dimensional portal (disappearing acts which Tommy calls “voyages”).

This portal into the unknown is the same doorway into which Luke also disappears inside the Hacker home, but his vanishing is treated as an unfunny stunt.

MANHATTANBABY9

Jamie Lee takes the children to Central Park, where she snaps a Polaroid photograph of the amulet against a grassy background.

The photo, later discarded, leads “Adrian Mercato” (Cosimo Cinieri, credited as “Laurence Welles”) to the Hacker home.

Then, in a round-about way, the Polaroid leads the Hackers back to Mercato in his antique shop, where they finally learn the truth about the evil plague associated with the amulet.

MANHATTANBABY23

There are many twists and turns in the film’s third act, including an appearance by director Lucio Fulci himself as “Dr. Forrester.”

He’s apparently baffled by Susie’s illness, and further confused by the dark shape of a hooded cobra snake he sees on the little girl’s chest.

Read more about Manhattan Baby below.

IDevices-For-NF-web

Hey! Do you have a Night Flight Plus subscription?

We’re offering up original uncut air masters of Night Flight programming from the video vaults of the 1980s TV show, as well as provocative new selections from the world of music, documentaries, animation, cult films and more. Sign up today!



MANHATTANBABY26

Lucio Fulci (b. June 17, 1927, in Rome) is generally considered one of the giants of Italian horror filmmaking — another title we recently wrote about, Zombie (1979), is likely his best known film in America — but this particular film has always confused and confounded those who’ve attempted to make too much sense of it.

Lensed in 1982, the same year Fulci moved to New York and filmed his slasher Lo squartatore di New York (New York Ripper), Manhattan Baby was released in Italy on August 12, 1982.

MANHATTANBABY14

The film — its working title was Il Malocchio [The Evil Eye] — was eventually re-titled by the film’s producer, Fabrizio De Angelis, in an attempt to evoke or allude to, Roman Polanski’s hauntingly satanic 1968 cinematic masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby.

Manhattan Baby was also variously released around the world as The Eye of the Evil Dead, Possessed, and Das Amulett des Bösen [The Amulet of the Evil One].

MANHATTANBABY22

Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti — who co-wrote Manhattan Baby with his wife, Elisa Briganti — once described Manhattan Baby‘s script as an attempt “to approach themes that were no longer classic or traditionally Gothic,” adding, “I was trying to bring horror in a different direction.”

Many of its scenes are still considered puzzling headscratchers, with no clear reason for their inclusion.

The opening sequence — which despite the relatively low production for Manhattan Baby were actually shot on location in Cairo — was added as an afterthought, perhaps to evoke the haunting opening sequence of The Exorcist.

MANHATTANBABY11

The cinematic score by Fabio Frizzi — recycled from a few of his earlier works — is an interesting blend of both traditional jazz and soaring strings, and simply a curious decision that someone made at some point.

Despite some of Fulci’s films being considered some of the best examples of Italian horror, Manhattan Baby was considered to be overall disappointing by many of its participants involved (as well as many critics).

Fulci himself had said he didn’t care much for the movie, saying that the producer De Angelis was obsessed with the film, and many of the wrongheaded decisions made about it were his alone.

MANHATTANBABY2

Even though Manhattan Baby isn’t considered one of Lucio Fulci’s best films, it’s still worthy of watching at least once because it was an important transitional film in Fulci’s filmography.

Manhattan Baby was the last of Fulci’s supernatural Gothic phase (the best of those films is The Beyond), and it was the final title of his to be released here in the United States.

MANHATTANBABY18

Fulci didn’t make too many more movies — and by the mid-’80s, his health was already beginning to present new challenges (his death in 1996 has always been considered suspicious, as the director went to bed one night without taking the insulin on which he’d been dependent for many years) — so that alone is one reason we should give this one some of our undivided attention for a few hours.

Watch Manhattan Baby on Night Flight Plus.

MANHATTANBABY1

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.