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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