Ah, yes, Lucio Fulci a.k.a. "The Godfather of Gore". He has made numerous unsettling and equally legendary films throughout his epic career. He is probably best known for his horror films like Zombi 2 and The Beyond, but Fulci has made a name for himself in the worlds of spaghetti westerns and gialli as well. Of his entire career, The New York Ripper is probably his most sadistic and notorious giallo.
There really is no use in describing the pros and cons of any Fulci film to his fans; the gorehounds especially will enjoy them, no matter how bad they are altogether. The New York Ripper, however is one of his most controversial and unpleasant films. Upon its worldwide 1982 release, the film was banned in most countries due to its graphic depiction of violence/gore and implications of misogyny.
The story was that of a typical giallo with a rather strange twist; In New York City, a vicious serial killer with a bizarre Donald Duck-like voice is viciously mutilating and murdering women throughout the metropolitan area and making taunting phone calls to the investigator in charge, Lt. Detective Fred Williams (Jack Hedley). The detective eventually seeks the help of Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco), a famed psychologist, to better understand the psyche of the killer. One evening, the serial murderer fails to kill one of his female victims. The girl, Fay Majors (Almanta Suska) eventually makes a speedy recovery, but her memory is still clouded from that night. Soon enough, the detective and doctor suspect that her scant recollection holds the key to the killer's identity. As she begins to realize this as well, Fay decides to try and investigate the clues herself.
Now I have to say, there were way too many parts of the film that just did not sit well with me, which is my own personal euphemism for saying they pissed me off. One of the first scenes that bugged me was when Lt. Williams goes to meet with Dr. Davis and the guy correctly assumes, right there on their first meeting, that the detective is seeking help with the serial killer case as well as already describing the killer's background. When I mean he correctly assumes, I mean he is so articulate about the situation, that he might as well predict the entire outcome of the film. I couldn't stand how this character confidently perfectly probed the killer's background, despite no explanation of why, not to mention the detective doesn't even bother to ask how he came up with such an analysis so soon.
The film had an overall gritty feel that worked superbly and took exceptional advantage of its New York setting. The story itself held up pretty well, but still, no matter how pessimistic the film tried to be, it still had some serious WTF moments that left me shaking my head. I'm not exactly the kind of guy who yells at movie characters to the point that I want to actually jump into the film and tell them what they should be doing but I actually found myself doing exactly that with this one. One great aspect, however, was the use of the Donald Duck voice that would quack away as the killer stabbed his victims to death. That certainly helped elevate the film's more odd feel.
The dialogue was also on the corny side. In one early scene, a girl is riding her bike and hits the side of a car with her handle bar. The driver looks out the window, yelling at her and asking why she doesn't watch where she's going and the girl actually says "Sorry, I was thinking of Boston." (WTF?). The man then replies "You women should stay home where you belong! You're a menace to the public!" When the hell is this movie supposed to take place anyway: the 50's?
That brings me back to the film's accusations of being misogynist. I can definitely say there's quite a few scenes depicting the majority of females as being either sex fiends, pieces of meat for guys, and/or just downright unlikable. For what it's worth, not every woman in the film is like this, though that doesn't say much. When it comes to such a heated matter that serves a topic for discussion, I choose to neither defend nor attack.
On a somewhat more positive note, fans of gore (especially Fulci's) will appreciate the cringeworthy and graphic murders the killer commits. Fulci succeeded in pulling off some unsettling yet engaging murder depictions, particularly in showing how the blade cuts human skin. One of the film's most disturbing scenes is near the end, when the killer uses a small razor to cut through a victim's stomach, eyeball and nipple.
The climax ended up being a big disappointment. To be quite honest, I despise endings to a film like this. It felt like Fulci was trying to convey a hidden message after all the facts had finally been put on the table. It might work in other films, from time-to-time, but in The New York Ripper, it fails miserably. I don't want to give anything away, but I honestly thought the identity and motives of the killer, which is revealed in the film's conclusion, was a big slap in the face. It came out of left field and was just yet another WTF moment to add to my list.
Overall, the only people I could recommend this to are fans of either or both giallo films and the gorefests of Lucio Fulci. Also, fans of William Lustig's Maniac might get kicks out of this as well, since both films have many similarities. It's a rough film to take in; I'll be willing to even jump on the bandwagon and call it just plain out nasty. There is plenty of worse stuff out there, but that still does not exclude the fact that The New York Ripper is one rough, unforgiving crime thriller full of gross-out grit.
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