Starring: Jack Hedley, Almanta Keller, Daniela Doria
Lieutenant Williams is a jaded New York cop assigned to investigate a series of brutal murders perpetrated by a serial killer with a penchant for slicing up sexually active (and attractive) women while taunting them in a Donald Duck voice. With no leads to follow except for the likelihood that the suspect is male and left-handed, Williams consults a local university psychoanalyst in the hope of building up a more detailed profile of the madman.
Shortly afterwards, the detective gets a big break when the latest victim, Fay Majors (Almanta Keller), survives an attack on her and is able to give a detailed description of the man she believes was responsible. But Williams’ luck changes for the worse when it becomes apparent that the killer is always one step ahead of him, tracking his movements and constantly aware of his whereabouts.
Shameless’ Blu Ray of Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper is described as a “fan edit”. This is because, despite the film’s age, the BBFC still demanded cuts to be made to a particular scene (see below). By using alternative shots, Shameless have been able to keep the audio track and running time intact.
New York Ripper is a butal and hateful film, portraying a psychotic serial killer’s rampage against random women who all have one thing in common – they are all sexually active. As such, the killer targets the womens’ genitalia in his bloody and frenzied attacks, and Fulci shows us everything in lurid detail.
A woman is murdered on the Ferry, her breasts are slashed and her groin mutilated. Fulci not only shows us the violence, but makes sure we understand the intense pain being meted out. This is one of the aspects that makes New York Ripper so unsettling. We’re used to seeing screen murders which are largely silent, or muted from the victim’s point of view. The actresses here all scream in agony as their bodies are insulted with a knife.
As Lieutenant Williams (Jack Hedley, playing the character with zero charm and the weight of the world on his shoulders) starts investigating, the audience is presented with three possible suspects. There’s a strange man with two fingers missing on his hand, who had tried to grab a woman on a subway train. The woman, Fay Majors, managed to escape, but the film keeps coming back to the guy. Then there is Fay’s yuppie boyfriend, Peter, and a psychiatrist, Dr Paul Davis, who just happens to be Fay’s boss...
New York Ripper has been accused of being incredibly misogynistic, as the victims are all women who happen to be sexually active/promiscuous, and there is more than a suggestion that their lifestyles invited this sort of violence towards them. Part of this is kind of the point, as the killer is murdering out of intense envy that his younger sister will never enjoy the joys of womanhood. But there are a couple of other scenes which have nothing to do with the killer’s modus operandi –One involves the sleazy torment hands out to Jane Forrester, a woman who looks for sexual thrills but gets more than she can handle from three thugs in a bar, and its not difficult to presume that the film is siding with the thugs. Then there is the moment when the killer taunts Williams with his latest victim – Kitty, a prostitute who Williams frequently spends time (and money) with. As the killer threatens her life over the phone, there is a distinct moment of hesitation from Williams. He knows the woman’s address, but doesn’t want everyone wondering how he knows it. As Kitty starts screaming over the phone though, he yells out her address and starts making his way there. Of course by the time he gets there he’s too late and the killer’s gone...
Okay, we need to mention the Kitty murder scene, as this is where the BBFC once again drew the line. Considering all that we’d already seen in this film (including a broken bottle being shoved forcefully into a woman’s crotch) you might be wondering what horrors have been excised on our behalf. The main difference between what happens to Kitty compared to the other women is that Kitty is tied up and naked, and there is a shot of the razorblade slicing straight through her nipple. Slowly. In lurid close-up. Having seen the full version of this scene, there are probably only one or two shots missing, and Shameless have done a great job of editing in alternative shots, so as to keep the audio track intact. The murder of Kitty marks a significant change in the killer’s modus operandi – whereas the other murders are to satisfy a psychotic need and performed in a frenzied fashion, Kitty is murder is a purely sadistic act, a slow torture perpetrated solely to torment Lieutenant Williams.
So who is the killer? I’ve already alluded to his motive, but that has nothing to do with his identity, which remains a secret until the very end. Even then it manages to give you a slap in the face as one character suddenly attacks another right out of the blue! And
New York Ripper
manages to end on a real gut-wrenching downer – something we’re used to in Fulci’s horror movies, but without the supernatural trappings, this is particularly hard-hitting.
One of the most notorious “video nasties”, and rightly so – in fact the BBFC still feels it’s too strong for UK audience’s sensitivities in it’s uncut form. Even with that scene re-edited though, Shameless’ blu ray is the longest print of New York Ripper, and as usual they have put together an enticing package for Fulci fans, including a booklet containing excerpts from the definitive book on Fulci’s work, and their usual huge library of trailers for other titles.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)
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