The New York Ripper: Movie Review

The New York Ripper Review
THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Lucio Fulci, 1982)

by Jason Lees,

A few things become very apparent when watching Fulci’s THE NEW YORK RIPPER. One, the man was an absolute master craftsman. Whether he gets credit for it or not, the man knew exactly what he was doing behind the camera. Two, he never really got the chance to make the movie he wanted to make. And three, when money was tight, he knew to put the bucks into the blood, not the actors.

THE NEW YORK RIPPER is your basic police procedural where a duck voiced killer taunts the police while killing beautiful women across the city. Think any number of cat and mouse game movies, but with more gore than any American flick would attempt. Sort of a Law & Order: Slaughterhouse Unit, only here the evidence doesn’t lead to the killer, just wild guessing and random phone calls. Remember, this is a Lucio Fulci movie. We don’t question the logic, we just smile and enjoy the ride. Yes, you don’t question the logic of a film that has a POV shot from the perspective of a victim’s crotch. Golly, that’d just be silly.

Fulci never got the credit from mainstream critics for being so in control of his craft. Even in his lesser films, which NEW YORK RIPPER unfortunately is, his use of the camera eye was far beyond his contemporaries. Some of his shots here could have easily been lifted from Freidkin’s THE FRENCH CONNECTION in their precision. For a film that gets as little respect as this one does, there is some serious skill to be seen, even if it’s not meshed into a greater piece. Certain scenes obviously interested the maestro more than others, and you can tell when a sequence had his interest and where certain bits were just day work. It’s those eye catching scenes that made the man a legend.

Here more than most of his other work you get the sense that Fulci would rather be doing something else, something different. His NEW YORK RIPPER very much wants to be a Dirty Harry movie only set on the East Coast. We get several scenes following Jack Hedley’s Lt Williams that you just know were written for Eastwood. There’s even a montage of police cars coming screeching to a crime scene that make you forget this is a horror flick and not an episode of Hill Street Blues. Fulci was capable of making about anything, as evident by his pre-ZOMBI resume, but he was only hired to make bloodgushers. In RIPPER, you get the sense that he was fighting his notoriety, but he still knew that he was getting paid to show the red stuff, and he did. Man, did he ever.

RIPPER showcases some really effective gore, even for Fulci. While it has been dated a bit for BlueRay and DVD (the higher the definition, the more latex looks like latex), the unflinching camera never looks away as the knife or razor cuts through cloth and skin. Oh, and nipple. Even for a guy, that bit is hard to watch.

There are standout performances in most Fulci epics, but sadly, RIPPER seems to be mired by porn level acting. Maybe it’s the dubbing, maybe it’s something lost in the translation of post production voice over work, but I kept waiting for bad saxophone music to be piped in over some of the raunchier scenes. John Holmes himself might have made a good Lt Williams if the budget had a few more bucks in it.

THE NEW YORK RIPPER isn’t Fulci’s best. It isn’t THE BEYOND. It isn’t even HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, but it is a very effective time capsule to a time when movies (and New York) were a bit less safe and a bit more unique. Give me a duck voiced killer and a dirty Times Square anyday. I’ll make my own logic out of it.

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