Judge Gordon Sullivan used to think Giallo was a brand of gelatin.
The Most Controversial Horror Film Ever Made
As a genre, the giallo is generally concerned with showing brutal violence coupled with psychological deviancy. So, it's no surprise that someone eventually connected that proto-giallo slayer Jack the Ripper to the genre. Although there's almost nothing connecting the Victorian crimes to The New York Ripper, Lucio Fulci's nasty little murder mystery carries on the tradition of slicing up women in the sleazier parts of the big city. For this reason The New York Ripper has long been the subject of censorship and limited distribution. Although Anchor Bay's previous release wasn't bad, this new release from Blue Underground is the way to go for fans.
Facts of the Case
A brutal killer is attacking young women on the streets of New York City. The only clue is that the many calls to taunt the police with a strange quacking voice, and it's up to Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) to get to solve the case.
Let's be clear up front: The New York Ripper does not earn the title of "Most Controversial Horror Film Ever Made." I won't argue that the film earns its place among other video nasties like Last House on the Left, but there are other, far more brutal and disturbing films out there. The New York Ripper has earned a bit of reputation largely because of the oddity of the duck voice and the focus of the killer. Here's what you can expect watching The New York Ripper almost three decades later:
• A boring police procedural. Really, the "mystery" aspects of the film aren't very interesting. We're certainly taunted with the killer's deeds, and we see Williams investigating, but in an era of CSI-oriented shows and fast-paced police dramas, the languid pace of The New York Ripper's investigation gets old in just a few minutes. I'll say that the murderer's reveal is pretty good, but the path to get there is long and winding.
• A time capsule of NYC as it was in the decline of its sleazy glory. From what I gather, the early '80s were really rock bottom for the red light district surrounding Times Square. Although all the smut and sleaze was still around, much of the glamour that the brief porn renaissance gave the area had worn off. Property values were low and crime was high before the tide started to turn in the late '80s building boom. I certainly won't argue that the area isn't cleaner and safer now, but it certainly is a lot tamer. All of this makes me appreciate The New York Ripper all the more for filming Times Square (and other parts of Manhattan) at such an historically significant time. Of course, for the more intellectually minded, there are a few glimpses of Columbia University in addition to the smut theaters.
• A bunch of brutal, gore-soaked, woman-hating violence. Honestly, this is why The New York Ripper has such a strong reputation, and why most people are going to watch it at this late date. If nasty violence is what you're looking for, then The New York Ripper will not disappoint. We've got broken-bottle-to-the-crotch shots, all kinds of slashing, and a quacking duck voice to pin the murders on. Often times murderers are supposed to be woman-haters in the movies, but The New York Ripper is one of the few times I genuinely believed that about a character. I'm not sure if I should be happy or disgusted with Lucio Fulci for bringing such a repugnant person to life, but I can't argue that the film's famous violence fails to live up to its reputation.
• A fantastic release from Blue Underground. The transfer is supposedly taken from the original camera negative, and I can absolutely believe it. Although detail isn't as high as a newer film would have, the softness is totally understandable in light of the twenty-five-plus years since the film was shot. The transfer also does a fantastic job with the muted color scheme of the city, with lots of grays and browns. This isn't a film that pops, but colors look accurate. There's also a pleasing filmlike quality to the video, with just enough grain present to be convincing without being distracting. The DTS-HD 7.1 audio track is a bit of overkill, especially since it looks like the film was mostly post-dubbed, anyway, but the audio is free of distracting distortion and hiss. Extras are a little slim, but include an interview with actress Zora Kerova and a short featurette on the NYC locations as they were then and how they look now.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Although The New York Ripper doesn't contain as much violence as other notorious gore classics, the tone of the violence is often more disturbing than other films can muster. It seems the violence is specifically directed at women, and specifically at some of their more vulnerable areas, like the crotch, inner thighs, and hands. Since the violence is the only real draw of the film and the violence is so unseemly, this film is probably not for most fright fans.
The New York Ripper is hard to recommend because of the absence of anything besides its brutal violence, which many viewers will find repugnant. With that said, the film has earned a certain reputation and those with a taste for the video nasties are going to want to track this one down. Those already fans of Fulci's take on the giallo will be more than pleased with the stellar look of this Blu-ray from Blue Underground. For them this discs is a no-brainer.
The New York Ripper is guilty of being a rather violent but otherwise tame look at murder in the seedier parts of NYC.
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