New York Ripper (Blue Underground Blu-ray)
Released by: Blue Underground
Released on: 9/29/2007
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Jack Hedley, Andrew Painter, Andrea Occhipinti, Alexandra Delli Colli
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Next to Zombie and The Beyond, Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper is, if not one of his better known pictures in mainstream circles, at least his most notorious. It’s been labeled as near pornographic, misogynist, sexist trash and it’s hard to argue with a few of those more colorful adjectives. That said, Fulci’s film definitely succeeds in creating an unsettling mood and a sleazy atmosphere – and it’s more fun to think he planned it that way rather than to assume it happened by accident.
The movie takes place in, you guessed it, the New York City of the early eighties where some of the local ladies are being stalked and slashed by an unknown assailant with a penchant for making quacking noises while he does his dirty deeds. The cops, lead by a detective named Frank Williams (Jack Hedley), are on the case however and they figure that the quacking has got to be some sort of clue worth following up on so that’s just what they do. Their investigation doesn’t move quite as quickly as they’d hoped, however, so Williams winds up working with a psychiatrist named Dr. Paul Davis (Paulo Malco) to catch the killer before he can strike again. Sadly, their efforts aren’t so spectacular and the maniac keeps ripping whores. As the killer seemingly zeroes in on Williams’ personal life, the bodies start pilling up leaving one frantic detective desperately trying to bring a knife wielding asshole to justice just as quickly as he can before it’s too late!
It’s interesting to look at Fulci’s later films as his own sort of middle finger up to the world that was starting to fall apart around him. After making some considerably more artistic films in the seventies, the eighties gave way to the gore period for which he’s become better known, ironically enough. The unrestrained nastiness of some of the films he churned out during this period really did push the envelope in terms of on screen violence and New York Ripper definitely falls into that trapping.
Fulci definitely pours on the atmosphere with this film. The period inner city NYC setting is the perfect place to tell his tale and the copious amounts of sex and violence that the film spoon feeds its audience feel right at home amongst the peeling paint, gaudy signs and myriad of strange background characters that pepper the film. The location shooting gives the film a remarkably squalid feel that goes a long way towards making its trashy plot work, and it’s a good thing too, as the performances, as enjoyable as they are, really don’t stand out. They’re serviceable enough, but they’re far from remarkable.
What does stand out in regards to the film, aside from the nasty murder set pieces and the seedy atmosphere, is the score and the camerawork. The film has a very voyeuristic feel to it aided in no small part by the instrumental score courtesy of Francesco De Masi. In the end, New York Ripper might not be a deep film, but it’s an entertaining enough slasher film that entertains in its own depraved way. Not Fulci’s best picture by any stretch but a remarkable one in its own right and one well worth seeking out.
From the opening sequence where the man plays fetch outside with his dog to the grittier scenes that take place at the various New York City locations used for the picture it’s obvious from the opening frame that this 1080p AVC encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, taken from the original negative, is an immediate improvement over other DVD releases. Flesh tones look good, color reproduction is just a bit more vibrant and lifelike, and there’s a very big increase is noticeable detail and texture throughout the movie. The image is clean and clear without looking over processed meaning that while there’s a bit of welcome film grain, there isn’t much in the way of actual print damage to note save for some minor specks here and there. Shadow detail is very strong and the encoding is great in that there isn’t anything in the way of compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement to note. The scene that takes place in the porno theater is a great example, the close ups of the eyes and lips revealing every pore and crevice while the performers are all bathed in red light. The movie looks great here, Blue Underground have done a very nice job indeed on this transfer.
Take your pick of an English language DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track or the film’s original Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix (sadly, not a lossless track but at least it’s here). Both sound fine, with the mono track the choice for purists allowing those who don’t mind remixing so much to enjoy the more open sounding 7.1 track. The score is spread out nicely with some strong punch in the lower end while the bulk of the dialogue and action comes from the front of the soundstage.
First up is a ten minute interview with Zora Kerova entitled I’m An Actress (9:30, anamorphic 1.78.1, HD). In Italian with English subtitles, Kerova talks about how she came on board this project and what it was like working with Fulci who hired her without an audition. She claims to have known nothing about the role before shooting started, and then goes on to talk about how she only worked for three days on the film. She tells some interesting stories about her work and about Fulci himself who she describes as ‘very nice.’
A second featurette, NYC Locations Then And Now (4:08, anamorphic 1.78.1, HD), gives us a quick but welcome comparison and shows us just how much the city has changed in the decades since Fulci lensed the film there in 1981. Shots of lower Manhattan are now missing the World Trade Center, Times Square is now squeaky clean, and the subways don’t have nearly as much graffiti in them. It’s simultaneously fascinating and depressing.
Aside from that, check out the film’s original theatrical trailer (3:20, anamorphic 2.35.1, HD) and dig some animated menus and chapter selection options.
The Final Word:
Blue Underground knock this one out of the park, giving one of Lucio Fulci’s most notorious films a gorgeous transfer, a fine audio mix, and some very welcome retrospective extra features.