2/20/09

Fulciuary: New York Ripper (1982)

I'd like to get an exact count on how many Italian movies open with a shot of the New York Harbor. I know it's very nice to get your panoramic skylines and all, but are these few shots of the Big Apple really going to convince us that the rest of the film was shot on location? Or is this just the shorthand they used to introduce the first character, the city. In the early '80's, New York city was still recovering from the Son of Sam murders when tonight's film filled with sadistic excess came to the screen. After the opening shot of the harbor, we see a man playing with his dog. He tosses the dog's toy, and it returns with a hand in it's mouth. The screen freezes and reads....

New York Ripper (1982) starring Jack Headly, Antonella Interlenghi, Howard Ross, Paolo Marco. Directed by Lucio Fulci.

A killer stalks the city. A killer preying on young women. A killer that sounds like a duck. It's up to hypocrite cop Fred Williams (Headly) to get to the bottom of it. Accompanied by psychologist Paul Davis (Marco), Williams soon find himself embroiled in the seedy, sexual world of the killer as each killing becomes more and more depraved. False leads and false suspects block Williams' path, but he will stop at nothing to get the Ripper off the streets.




Film Facts

  --When the film was censored by the British Censors in 1984, the man in charge ordered the film's print to be immediately escorted to the airport and removed from the country.

--The lead female part was offered to Catriona MacColl who had worked with Fulci on The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, and House by the Cemetery. 

--Speaking of breaking up streaks, this film also did not include work from Fulci regulars composer Fabio Frizzi,  cinematographer Sergio Salvati, and special effects artist Giannetto De Rossi.

The Bug Speaks

You know what's a good way to start your day? Get up, find there's nothing for breakfast, have a smoke, and then put on New York Ripper. Not only will the killer quacking like a duck bring a smile to your face, but you'll leave the house with an optimistic feeling about the whole world. Wait, did I say good way and optimistic and smile? My mistake. What I mean is that you won't want to leave your house, you'll feel a bleak emptiness, and I doubt you'll be smiling. New York Ripper is one brutal movie filled with the kind of graphic violence that we've come to expect from Fulci, and yet this one is a different beast with it's own special impact. 

Let's get a couple of the more infamous elements out in the open right off the bat. First off, some say the film is implicitly misogynistic. While I can say it can be construed that way, the killer has his own demented reasons for his  stalking and killing of women, and they are never defended. Lt. Williams surely has reprehensible behavior toward females, but I never felt him a sympathetic character. That really hits closer to why I can't accept the label for the film. There really are not any characters who are not portrayed as deeply flawed and troubled individuals. Men, Women, all shown in their worst light with no holds barred.

The second thing that springs to the mind of most folks when they think about this film is the level of violence. The style to this film is very gritty and raw, and the killing reflects that vision. While we get warmed up with a little throat cutting, it's not long until the Ripper graduates to broken bottles, cutting nipples. and the carving out of eyeballs. Yes, that's right. Fulci is back at it with the eyes in this one, and while I still enjoy the splinter to the eyeball of Zombi 2 better, this scene is nothing to sneeze at. The difference in the violence is fully on display in this scene. While Fulci's movies like City of the Dead relied on the over the top gross out, New York Ripper survives on acute realism that turns the stomach. 

All the acting in this movie is fine, but there is one particular standout. Alessandra Delli Colli really does something special in her scenes as the swinging, open marriage, wife Jane Lodge. The pain she wore in her eyes made the scenes of sexuality more intense. The most harrowing of the erotic scenes in the film has to do with Jane being fondled under the table by a stranger's foot. Yeah this is a film that goes to some strange places. Yet what else could you expect from a movie with a quacking killer? I'm not even sure what to say about the Donald Duck killer. At first it seemed kind of amusing, but when juxtaposed against the violent murders, it does tend to enhance the image of a deranged personality. 

On the whole, this is a more than decent late era giallo. The plot contains some decent twists, and the characters are quirky enough to capture the imagination. When these pieces are added to the bleak nihilist feeling, the tortured victims, and sexual perversion, what you've got is a pretty interesting piece of sleaze. This may not suit fans who only like the supernatural Fulci, and may be disappointed at the more straightforward story. Personally it easily goes into the top two or three Fulci films for me, so check it out. 
Bug Rating

8 comments:

  1. Welcome to the small but cultured group of people who a) think New York Ripper is one of Fulci's best films and b) is more misanthropic than misogynist.
    (I think Fulci's reputation for hatred of women is as much based on his treatment of the actresses in his movies as it is on the things you see on screen.)

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  2. Not one of my favorite Fulci films, but I do like it. I think if he had stuck w/Frizzi and Salvati I would have liked it more. As far as the misogyny aspect of the film, I don't think it's any more violent/harsh towards women than any 80's slasher movie. Can you make a film about a guy violently killing women without coming across as misogynistic?

    Fulci was a rumored woman hater, so I second houseinrlyeh's thoughts above.

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  3. House and Rev! Thanks for the comments fellers. All in all NYR is a mean spirited film, but enjoyable which seems strange. Some films with this level of depravity don't lend themselves to multiple viewings, but I think this one might.

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  4. Sadly ave not dropped by your lair for a while and looks like you have been busy. I am really trying to get into some of the better giallo stuff. I just have never been a big fan if Dario Argento's work and ma trying to find something that appeals to me more and have some classic (I hope) Fulci queued up for viewing soome, like Perversion Story. This one is on my list now as well.

    Bill

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  5. I'm going to have to track this one down. Sounds like a must have.

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  6. Great Review Bug!
    This one is in my Netflix Queue - I'll have to move it up, closer to the top. . .

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  7. Great review,Bug.Personally I love the NY skyline of the 80s shots so many of my fellow paisans chose to incorporate in their films,as the Big Apple of that era,though gone forever by now,remains my favorite!I used to love the forty-deuce back then...Remind me to tell you about Sex World 2000 sometime,haha.

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  8. "Remind me to tell you about Sex World 2000 sometime,haha."

    Will do !

    I do love seeing the city looking like that. The NYC of film in the 70's and 80's is what I would expect going there, and I;m sure I would be let down,

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