THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: LUCIO FULCI / SCREENPLAY: GIANFRANCO CLERICI, VINCENZO MANNINO, LUCIO FULCI, DARDANO SACCHETTI / STARRING: JACK HEDLEY, ALMANTA SUSKA, HOWARD ROSS, ANDREA OCCHIPINTO / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 25TH (US)
One of the most controversial horror films of all time, Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper has been repulsing and inflaming people since its release in 1982. Its reputation as being highly misogynistic as well as the brutally gruesome murders throughout precedes it whenever it’s mentioned. The fact it’s still unavailable uncut in the UK speaks volumes.
Detective Williams (Hedley) is on the trail of a maniac who’s killing women in the most horrific manner; sexually mutilating them but there is not sign of abuse. The only clue is bizarre, taunting phone calls from the sadistic murderer, who speaks with a quacking, Donald Duck-type voice.
In many ways, The New York Ripper is the perfect blend of police procedural giallo and the slasher subgenre. Giallo had influenced the latter anyway, but Fulci takes the brutality of the murders to the most extreme level. To say the killings are horrific and disturbing is an understatement, but the misogyny accusations come more from stories of Fulci’s interactions behind the scenes rather than what’s on screen. The women featured are stronger than most seen in films of this ilk. They are mostly independent, Almanta Suska’s character enjoys voyeuristic pursuits and occasionally puts herself in danger, but she’s a powerful character with her own needs. It may be more graphic than anything that had come before, so just be glad that he didn’t have the more advanced effects of today. Which is not to say the gore here is unrealistic. Far from it, there are many moments that are utterly wince-inducing and will have those with a weaker stomach running for the door.
With many scenes set slap back in the sleaziness of old 42 Street, it’s almost a dirty relative to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, but with none of the social commentary. The score, by Francesco De Masi is magnificent, continuing the groove of the ‘70s giallo masters, and fortunately, Blue Underground’s new Blu-ray release includes the soundtrack on CD. The new transfer, taken from a 4K scan, looks amazing, but importantly, doesn’t diminish the impact of the special makeup effects (by Germano Natali, who worked on Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Deep Red), which are remarkably realistic.
Extras-wise, rather than filling it with items ported over from the previous US releases, there are some newer interviews with the stars, who talk about working with Fulci and much more. An informative talking head feature with writer Stephen Thrower is particularly of interest.
Like many films of its age, it’s amusing to see the blatant disregard of real procedures in the police department - Detective Williams is continuously smoking in the autopsy room and is having a relationship with a prostitute - but these moments add a little levity to what is a nasty but entertaining horror classic. It's not for those easily upset, but it's an important piece of work and should be embraced as such.