Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The New York Ripper (1982) review

Noticeable for being one of the few video nasties to still be edited for decency, Zombi 2 director Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper is exploitative, giallo heaven. The edition I saw, released by Shameless Screen Entertainment, still had cuts to it enforced by the BBFC, although you would barely notice them. With an introduction from Fulci's daughter Antonela asking us to consider the story above the gore and sex, Fulci's film is hard to comprehend beyond the blood.

We meet Jack Hedley as NYPD Lt. Fred Williams, investigating the murder of a prostitute after a dog finds a decomposing hand, but he is dismissive of information given to him by the woman's landlord. We then follow an attractive lady on a bike making her way to Staten Island. After an incident with a sexist driver, she goes to graffiti his car on the ferry, only to be met by the New York Ripper himself. Through a point-of-view shot, he slashes at her breasts and murders her. His defining feature? He sounds distinctly like Donald Duck, quacking as he kills his victim.

Yes, I brought this film for that very reason, as it is as funny and stupid as it sounds. Apparently, Fulci decided to use Donald Duck over Micky Mouse because Donald was more of an "anarchist". Why he uses a duck voice at all is a mystery. It does link in with the plot, but the idea must be more of a gimmick then any thing else, as if sexploitation and gory violence wasn't enough.

So while the Donald Duck killer is on the loose, we are introduced to two characters: Jane Lodge (Alexandra Delli Colli), a smartly dressed attractive woman, and Mickey Scellenda (Howard Ross), the scummiest of scumbag men you'll ever meet. We even meet them in the seedy part of New York in a live sex show theatre (even more nasty than the kind of places Travis Bickle likes to go in Taxi Driver). Jane likes to record herself masturbating to the sex show, of which her husband later gets off to in private. Jane and Micky quickly leave after the show finishes, and then we witness the next murder. The woman from the show is murdered brutally in an unusually specific way: she is stabbed with a broken bottle to the vagina, while the killer quacks to himself.

Jane, out of the many contentious characters in this film, is probably the one I have the most problem with. She is briefly set up as a suspect, but quickly degrades into just the sex character, the base of many of the misogynistic claims that this film has against it. She walks around with a trench coat covering just her lingerie and suspenders. She lets herself get humiliated after a man sexually arouses her with his toes. She then goes in for some rough bondage sex with the dodgy gigolo Mickey. Her character is there for titillation only, and any kind of real character building we could have with her quickly degrades into loud moaning.

Meanwhile, the killer is on the loose, and a young woman with an IQ of 182 is the next target. Fay (Almanta Keller) is approached by the distinctly 3-fingered Mickey, and as she escapes the underground she is attacked by the killer, but he only cuts her leg. The police now have a suspect.

The film tries to be suspenseful, but the constant red herrings are useless when it becomes pretty obvious who the killer is. At that point, you're half way through the film, forcing your way through more grizzly murders, including Lt. Williams favourite prostitute (who gets her eye razored), and just waiting for the inept, corrupt police to solve the case. Jane and Mickey, the two most interesting characters, are vastly underused, and we are left with Fey and her boyfriend Peter (Andrew Painter). Despite Fey's apparent intelligence, it takes her far to long to realise who the killer is.

Without the sex, gore, and Donald Duck voice, this film is nothing. The only reason you would watch this film is for those reasons, and Fulci obviously knows it. You don't watch The New York Ripper expecting a well written script, but the exploitative elements of this film are quickly tiring, and the use of a duck voice becomes almost embarrassing.

I will give credit to Shameless' release of this film though. Capitalising on the idea of giallo, the produces of the distinctly yellow DVD's obviously love their subject matter and retain a sense of humour about the ridiculousness of the films they release. The collectors book is a segment of Stephen Thrower's over-enthusiastic "Beyond Terror, the Films of Lucio Fulci", and an interview with Antonela Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti left me feeling kind of bad for criticising the film so much.

It doesn't excuse the fact that this is a film that has aged badly. The gore seems almost tame by today's standards. The fact that it never got shown in England, exported straight out the country without being screened, may have more to do with the fact it was released at the same time the Yorkshire Ripper attacks happened. This film is a master class in bad taste. Watch it to satisfy your curiosity, but don't expect the best from Fulci.



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