Directed by Lucio Fulci
Distributed by Shameless Screen Entertainment
Keeping their rather eye-catching yellow box design in place for Blu-ray releases, the UK’s premiere purveyors of all things Euro-sleaze, Shameless Screen Entertainment, dish up their latest goods in the form of this high-definition outing of Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper. Fans of the Godfather of Gore (and those already interested in picking this release up) will likely be familiar with this particular tale, but for those who have not yet exposed themselves to it here’s the breakdown:
A vicious serial killer stalks the streets of New York City, horrifically mutilating women whilst taunting lead investigator Lieutenant Williams (Hedley) with a Donald Duck impersonation. As the bodies pile up, Williams finds himself at a loss until a surviving target of the Ripper, Fay (Keller), discovers that the identity of the killer may be much too close for comfort.
Fashioned as part giallo, part slasher flick, The New York Ripper offers little in the way of the narrative surprises or sophisticated “whodunit” machinations characteristic of the former genre, but plenty of the grand guignol expected of the latter. The plot is basic, lacking an investigatory thread for the audience to follow (the identity of the killer, alongside all relevant details for his spree, is simply sprung in the final 15 minutes) which also serves to hamstring the police procedural side of things as well. The script is equally pedestrian – filled with shallow, stock characters that exist solely to serve as fodder for the rampaging maniac and largely predictable, by-the-numbers dialogue and narrative developments. Where The New York Ripper makes its mark, however, is in the explicit violence and the utterly filthy, sordid tone that washes over the entire affair.
It’s a film that has been accused of being an outright misogynistic piece of work, and on occasion it is indeed difficult to argue against that point – most strikingly in the character of Jane (Delli Colli), who appears to exist solely to partake in protracted scenes of sexual deviation before being graphically offed. Fulci’s camera lingers on shuddering lips and flicking tongues as she stimulates herself in public, and is ultimately masturbated and humiliated by two men under a table in a coffee house.
These scenes offer nothing more than an attempt at sleazy thrills, with Jane’s character amounting, again, to nothing but meat for the beast. This is a shame, as Fulci does pull off a number of visually impressive stalk and attack scenes, and nicely ratcheted tension that would have been much more effective had further investment been placed in the characters themselves. On the other hand, though, this lack of investment further adds to the overall tone of the film — building on an equation that cements The New York Ripper as a relentlessly angry, nigh-on misanthropic tale right up until the relentlessly bleak and unforgiving final minutes.
The deaths of the Ripper’s victims also include many graphic attacks on sexual organs, including stabbing in the breast, and a broken bottle to the groin. Fulci does show a level of creativity with the kills, for example a throat slicing seen from inside the throat itself, and the rather horrific cutting of an eyeball. It’s a vicious piece of work and the level of brutality shown towards the Ripper’s victims is off the charts, making the murder set-pieces the definite focal point here. The most graphically effective scene of mutilation, a woman’s nipple being sliced in half by razor blade, still remains excised from the UK release by the BBFC.
It is of note to genre aficionados that the violence and sleaze factors found here actually made Fulci’s film close to Public Enemy No. 1 for the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) upon its release, with all theatrical prints being famously seized by police and escorted to airports at the behest of the then-BBFC Secretary James Ferman. To this day, an uncut version remains unavailable within the United Kingdom and this unfortunately also extends to Shameless’ Blu-ray. A number of shots during the murder of a prostitute towards the end of the film (consisting of close-up slicing of her chest and nipple) have been replaced by Shameless’ editors with existing reaction shots played in slow motion in order to provide a seamless experience without affecting the pacing of the scene and the overall runtime. It works to a degree, meaning those who haven’t seen the film in its unexpurgated form likely won’t notice that there’s anything missing.
The high-definition presentation found on this disc is very impressive, with plenty of fine detail and a surprisingly clean image to be found. Only a few restored moments from different sources (obtained to provide the most complete version of the film possible) offer a noticeable drop in quality. Film grain is prevalent, but welcome as part of the visual palette of the flick, and colours are solid and natural if somewhat bright. It’s an excellent step up from any previous DVD presentation we’ve seen.
On the Special Features front, we have a video introduction to the film by Fulci’s daughter, Antonella, and around 20 minutes of interview material with both her and writer Dardano Saccheti. A few interesting details on the creation of The New York Ripper, including an early idea for the killer which eventually became Ruggero Deodato’s Phantom of Death make this worth watching. Backing it up on the disc is a massive collection of trailers for the Shameless label’s current releases. Inside the case, we have a booklet on the film adapted by author Stephen Thrower from his book Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci. A well written and thoughtful piece, it’s an accurate and convincing dissection of the pervasively nihilistic approach of the film and, whether or not you agree with them, makes some solid points regarding Fulci’s manipulation of the audience through tone. It you already own the book, though, it won’t be of much use to you.
For existing fans, the only issue that stands in the way of purchasing this release immediately is whether the excised material is important to you. If it is, the existing Blue Underground US Blu-ray release may look more attractive but lacks the extras found here (and the shelf-pleasing yellow packaging with reversible sleeve). If, on the other hand, you aren’t too familiar with the flick or don’t mind missing a few moments of extreme violence, then it’s definitely worth a purchase as a cinematic curio. While The New York Ripper undoubtedly doesn’t rank amongst Fulci’s best work (those accolades remain reserved for his more fantastical output), or completely succeed per se as a giallo, it still offers flashes of brilliance wrapped up with a tone so sleazy and a mean streak so incredibly nasty that it becomes a challenge worth accepting. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It
Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido
Directed by David Moscow
It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.
Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.
Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.
While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.
Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.
Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan
Starring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Distributed by Arrow Video
As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.
An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.
Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.
First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.
Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.
Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.
The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.
“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.
“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.
“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.
A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.
- Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
- Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
- Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
- Theatrical trailer
While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.
Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?
Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.
A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.
When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.
Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.
Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.
While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.
Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).
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