THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)
aka LO SQUARTATORE DI NEW YORK, THE MANHATTAN RIPPER, PSYCHO RIPPER, THE RIPPER
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Written by Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino, Lucio Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti, English version by Antone Pagan & Rene Luotto
Starring Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross, Andrea Occhipinti, Alexandra Delli Colli, Paolo Malco, Cinzia de Ponti, Cosimo Cinieri, Daniela Doria, Babette New, Zora Kerova, Antone Pagán, Josh Cruze, Barbara Cupisti, Chiara Ferrari, Ralph Nieves, & Lucio Fulci as the Chief of Police!
Italian Giallo is one of my favorite subgenres in horror as it bridges film noir, hard boiled mystery, slashers, and gore and while filmmaker Lucio Fulci may be best known for his “Death Trilogy” (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE BEYOND, & THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY), his Gialli are pretty phenomenal as well. Fulci followed up this trilogy with THE NEW YORK RIPPER, a combination of the ultra-gore from the “Death Trilogy,” ultra-sleaze, and old school Giallo.
A killer with a penchant to quack like a duck while slicing up his female victims is terrorizing the streets of Brooklyn, New York. Detective Fred Williams (played by Jack Hedley) teams with a quirky psychology professor Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco) to track down the killer before he strikes again. Leaving very little clues, other than taunting phone calls a la the Zodiac Killer to the police, the New York Ripper continues to assault and kill more damsels until one of his victims named Fay Majors (Amanta Keller) is able to elude the killer with minor injuries. This makes her a target for the killer and crucial to Williams and Davis’ case. Can they stop this quacking killer before he can get to Fay?
The typical Giallo aspects are at play here. There’s a somewhat bumbling (or in this instance flawed and burnt out) police inspector on the case. A lineup of oddball suspects who all have motives and the wherewithal to be the killer. There’s a black gloved killer unseen by the viewer, but witnessed by one key witness (Fay). And the blood runs a plenty. But while most films of this sort show quite a lot of flesh, THE NEW YORK RIPPER is an especially nasty and mean spirited film. Adhering to the Ripper motif, the killer not only murders his victims, but also destroys their faces, breasts, and private parts in a particular vulgar and tasteless manner. While this might be true to the actions of the old Jack the Ripper case, it doesn’t make the murders any more easy to watch and Fulci points the camera with an unblinking eye—showing every gory cut, dissection, and desecration performed by this downright masochistic Ripper. In doing so, this feels much more like the gore-fests of Herschell Gordon Lewis (BLOOD FEAST and THE WIZARD OF GORE) than your typical Gialli.
Also atypical is the way this mystery is played out. While in most mysteries, all of the suspects are present in the first few minutes of the film, THE NEW YORK RIPPER has characters pop in and out of the film throughout, introducing some key characters and plot points almost an hour into the film. Those who are trying to solve this film before the dénouement are going to find this one frustrating.
Though there are quite a few sleazy moments (the gratuitous murders, the lurid sexual fetishery, and an especially uncomfortable assault on a woman in a bar), THE NEW YORK RIPPER is quite an accomplishment in bridging that gap between the Gialli and the films we know as slashers today. The attention to gore and violence makes this a bloodthirsty little film, oozing with over-abundance that seems right at home in the 80’s Times Square/Brooklyn setting this film is set in. With sex and peep shows lining the streets, along with trash and trashy people—this is an unflinching snapshot of New York at it’s most grimiest. I have always found this era of New York to be the perfect setting for an urban horror film and it takes a life of its own in THE NEW YORK RIPPER.
The quacking killer may sound a little nuts and might suggest that this is some kind of screwball comedy. But paired with the ultra-sex and uber-violence, it makes the killing rather surreal and downright harrowing. Fulci is able to imbue his films with this type of weirdness, yet still managing to keep everything feeling very real and dangerous. There are a few throwaway lines that don’t translate well from Italian to English, but for me, that only adds to the charm of this deviant little movie.
Blue Underground has out done themselves with this release. The company is known for it’s excellent restorations and this is no different. Paired with a soundtrack disk that captures all of the amazing and wonky scores by Francesco De Masi. The collection also features both Blu-ray and DVD editions, a 3-D lenticular slipcase, audio commentary with Troy Howarth – author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, The Art Of Killing – an interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, Three Fingers Of Violence – an interview with star Howard Ross, The Second Victim – an interview with co-star Cinzia de Ponti, The Broken Bottle Murder – an interview with co-star Zora Kerova, “I’m an Actress!” – a 2009 interview with co-star Zora Kerova, The Beauty Killer – an interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci, Paint Me Blood Red – an interview with poster artist Enzo Sciotti, NYC Locations Then and Now, theatrical trailer, poster & still gallery and a collectable booklet with new essay by Travis Crawford. If you’re a Fulci or Giallo fan, this is a no brainer of a pickup.