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New York Ripper

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Posted 22nd April 2009 at 06:25 PM by Philleh

So, how do you review a film as controversial as Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper? A film that was infamously ordered out of the British Isles by the (at the time) head of the BBFC (British equivalent of the MPAA), James Ferman. He was worried that the content of this movie would push the unstable (read: poor and uneducated) into committing acts of hideous violence, of course it’s all a pile of shit, he just didn’t like the film. Much like he didn’t like The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and while he was in charge, these films didn’t stand a chance of seeing a TV screen or a cinema projector.

He was certainly wrong when it came to the latter titles on his hit list, but what about Fulci’s sleaze opus? A film which revels in whorish women being graphically killed in increasingly brutal fashion, while Fulci shoots it all in perverted, almost pornographic, close-ups. It’s a filthy film for people with filthy minds, but what if this did get into the hands of a truly unstable person (educated or not), could it really have the effect Ferman feared? The answer is, of course, NO! It’s a film that features a man terrorizing New York while quacking like a duck! Ferman… you were a ****ing idiot!

So how does this tale of duck-filled menace begin? Well, it starts with an old man walking his dog near the Brooklyn Bridge, tossing a stick to the faithful hound (a bitch no less, not to mention a golden (read: blonde) retriever to boot!) who doesn’t hesitate to retrieve it, what the old geezer wasn’t betting on however, when he continues to throw the stick, was the dog stumbling on a severed hand, which she brings back to her master. As the frame freezes on his horrified expression we are hit by the funky sounds of Francesco De Masi, as the credits roll.

Fulci doesn’t give the audience much time to settle down though; as he is soon focusing his camera on Rosie (Cinzia di Ponti), a hot, blonde, cyclist in some ridiculously short, shorts. As she bikes her way through New York, she is met by some chauvinistic abuse when she crashes into the side of some mans car. His claims that women should be kept in doors are rebutted with a cool “Yeah, and you’ll always be an asshole – bye!” Too bad for this spunky young lady though, as the ferry she catches also happens to contain a quacking lunatic! She’s caught in the act of lip-stick graffiti, by an unknown male who proceeds to slash the poor girl to ribbons, her screams are muffled out by the sounds of the ferries horn.

Lieutenant Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) is having a bad morning, the press have gotten wind of the current batch of murders and is boss (Fulci, in a typical man-of-power cameo) is coming down hard on him to find the wacko. Clues are few and far between however. He catches a break when the landlady of Rosie comes in to confess about listening in to a few of Rosie’s calls, blaming it on crossed lines, she claims that Rosie had been receiving obscene calls from someone who talked like a duck(“you know, quack, quack”). Thinking the old bat is crazy he thanks her for the info and swiftly has her escorted out of the building.

The sleaze hits home once again, as we follow a shady looking bloke, Mickey (Howard Ross) finding his way into a live sex show. Amongst the crowd of whack-happy men is a woman, guess what… she’s blonde. Armed with a tape recorder, she records the ‘amour fou’ that’s taking place directly in front of her. Mickey sits himself down near her and watches as she masturbates to the on stage frivolity. Once it’s over she quickly leaves the theatre, leaving Mickey all alone. Back stage, the female performer (played by Cannibal Ferox star Zora Kerova) realises that her room’s light has been broken; she is soon attacked with a broken bottle that is repeatedly thrust between her legs. The duck has struck again.

When another young lady, Fay (Almanta Suska – You guessed it. Blonde!), is attacked and hospitalised by what appears to be Mickey, her partner Peter (A Blade in the Dark’s Andrea Occhipinti) rushes to her bedside. Giving him what details she remembers from the attack to Lt. Williams. With this information he seeks the help of a University professor, Paul Davis (Paulo Malco) and they attempt to bring down the ripper before he carves up more (blonde) women, including Fay, that rather perverted woman who records sex shows for her husband, and not forgetting, a hot hooker (the lovely Fulci regular, Alexandra Delli Colli) that the naughty Lt. Williams is seeing!

If a serious film scholar were to sit down and give this film the time of day it deserves, they would no doubt find Fulci’s most personal work. It’s no secret that Fulci was going through a brutal divorce during this period, I’m guessing his ex-wife was blonde, and his hostility towards women in this film is almost an act of fear, he’s lashing out like a scared little boy. It’s reminiscent of the angry lyrics of Daryl Palumbo in his ‘Glassjaw’ days, where his intelligence is won over by his anger, and it shows.

It’s also interesting to note that the ONLY educated person in this film, Paul, is homosexual. This is a departure from Fulci’s previous approach to men of this sexuality; see Don’t Torture a Duckling where the ‘only gay in the village’ just so happens to be a child killer. It’s a departure in many regards, but the fact that women are portrayed, on the whole, as nothing but cheap sluts is overly offensive. Only Fay is seen as a clean living girl, shacked-up and loyal to her boyfriend, much like the golden retriever at the start of the film, loyal to her master. Once all’s said and done though, it’s almost as if he’s condoning the hedonist life style of the other woman, but condemning the traditional woman. As the final plot twist will reveal, the ‘loose women’ may have lived up to their social title, but they knew how to pick a man!

Amidst all the cries of misogyny that was launched at the film, which in all fairness on first impression does feel like a giant hate letter to the female gender, it’s interesting to note that every male in this movie is equally, if not more so, deviant than the women. Take for instance the rich man who thrives on his wife’s extramarital affairs because he isn’t ‘man enough’ to satisfy her. Or the butch Mickey who is portrayed and a deformed maniac, thriving on the filth the city spew’s up. Finally, look at Lt. Williams, a man of the law who happily pays for sex with a prostitute instead of going home to his wife! Men are the real scum of this movie; women seem to have adapted to the change, grown stronger from it, more independent which is a beautiful thing. Yet there are still men out there wanting to crush that, showing once and for all how low the male gender is.

Unfortunately, as with most of Fulci’s work, this requires repeat viewing. This is why, I believe, the film as been so reviled. Not many people are willing to give this film a second watch, as the after taste is truly unpleasant. Those who are willing to venture into the mind of a truly original maverick filmmaker will find themselves confronted with the harsh truth of a director who was as afraid of the world and the situations that can arise, much like the characters in his movies, he’s unable to confront the respective situation maturely, but also unable to accept it, he’s constantly at battle: only this time within himself, and not against evil zombies.

If you have an ounce of respect for Fulci, yet haven’t been able to sit through this all over again, do so. Those who are unaware or Fulci’s work and are looking to get into his stuff, start with Zombie or The Beyond. This may be his most controversial, which is always tempting, but it’s his least accessible and I’d advise you to look else where before this, as it may leave you with an (undeserved) unfavourable opinion on the late, great Lucio Fulci.

Even today, New York Ripper upsets the BBFC. When Shameless Screen Entertainment applied for a certificate the film was passed, but they demanded on some trims to the violence. Those wanting the uncut version should seek out the Another World Entertainment release. Which ever release, it’s a title that deserves genre fans time.

Directed by:
Lucio Fulci

Cast:
Jack Hedley
Paulo Malco
Andrea Occhipinti
Almanta Suska
Alexandra Delli Colli

Recommendations: Zombie & The Beyond
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Comments

  1. Old Comment
    Peter Neal's Avatar
    I love this movie, particularly the surprisingly emotional and downbeat conclusion, which contrasts a lot of what has happened before, yet fittingly puts an end to it, leaving an uncomfortable impression, which'll probably linger a while in the back of your mind
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    Posted 22nd April 2009 at 07:26 PM by Peter Neal Peter Neal is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sam@Cult Labs's Avatar
    Quack! Quack! such an evil concoction New York Ripper.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 22nd April 2009 at 10:53 PM by Sam@Cult Labs Sam@Cult Labs is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Pete's Avatar
    Ripper is my all time fave Fulci
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    Posted 23rd April 2009 at 11:54 AM by Pete Pete is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Philleh's Avatar
    It's quickly becoming mine too, still, I'm not sure I'm ready to replace Zombi 2 just yet!! ha.
    Comment with Quote permalink
    Posted 23rd April 2009 at 01:14 PM by Philleh Philleh is offline
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