New York Ripper (1982)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross, Andrea Occhipinti, Alexandra Delli Colli, Paolo Malco, Barbara Cupisti, Zora Kerova, Daniela Doria
Back in my early days, when searching out the video store shelves looking for the latest and greatest gore film, it didn’t take long to become familiar with Lucio Fulci. Starting with Zombie, which was always pretty accessible, you’d move to unknowingly cut versions of Gates of Hell (1980) and House by the Cemetery (1981), but still were damn happy to find them. Then you came across New York Ripper. This wasn’t any zombie chomping into their victim, no supernatural elements here but a sick and twisted serial killer that quacked like a duck!?!?! W-T-F? But at that time, who cared if it was crazy or just plain weird, Fulci delivered the goods with plenty of gore and exposed flesh.
Now skip ahead a couple of decades, some still find this a tough film to watch because of the brutality towards women and still the sheer craziness of it. While I tend to favor Fulci’s supernatural pictures, there is no arguing that NYR is an effective piece of cinema. Even with all of the gore, Fulci still is able to give us some very stylistic and beautifully shot sequences, such as the murder of Zora Kerova. It is one that definitely will make an impact on the viewer, for better or for worse. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that the purpose of cinema?
Jack Hedley plays a New York cop on the hunt for this killer who is brutally murdering women in the city. It makes it worse that the killer is calling the detective and egging him on, taunting him on how he can’t catch him, all the while quacking like a duck. There are plenty of characters in this film that are varying shades of gray, with even Hedley visiting a hooker (played by the wonderful Daniela Doria) seemingly on a regular basis. There’s the married woman that likes to go to live sex shows and being felt up by some strangers in public places. Then you have Paolo Malco trying to help the detective find this nut job, only to realize he’s got his own secrets as well. So the whole movie shows you that nobody out there follows life along the straight and narrow. Maybe that was Fulci’s point?
Nonetheless, he does create an interesting take on the giallo. Since there are so many characters within those shades of gray, there are plenty of red herrings here. We’re not even sure if the people trying to figure it all out are even in the clear. Unfortunately, for most critics, all of this tends to get lost in the nudity, blood, gore, and violence and they can’t see anything past that.
Another major difference with this film is the music. With this last few films in the realms of the supernatural, with scores by composers like Fabio Frizzi, Walter Rizzati, or Pino Donaggio, the music is meant to give an extra boost to the feel of the picture. But here, with sort of a jazz score by Francesco De Masi, it gives a completely different feel that what we’re used to. And it works.
Blue Underground has released really the definitive edition of this film. Not only do we get a new 4K restoration of the film, in both Blu-ray and DVD, but you also get the soundtrack on CD in this wonderful package! But the interviews on this disc are so much fun to watch, hearing and seeing the people that worked on it recall their experiences, such as actors Howard Ross, Zora Kerova, and Cinzia de Ponti, and screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, which is very insightful and great to hear him talk about Fulci. There are also plenty of great extras on here, including another very informative commentary by Troy Howarth, as well as a segment where author Stephen Thrower talks about the film and Fulci. Between Howarth’s commentary and Thrower, you’ll learn quite a bit about this movie. One real treat was the interview with poster artist Enzo Sciotti and getting to see all of these wonderful images that he created for these films that we love. It is amazing how many masterpieces that we’ve seen over the years that he was responsible for. Such a great talent.
Even if you have the previous DVD release of this film, if you are a fan of it, then this upgrade is well worth double-dipping for.