The New York Ripper Review

Quack, quack, quack. QUACK!

“When a twat is hot it’s more comfortable!” A sentiment that I’m sure we can all agree with this holiday season and just one of the many verbal dexterities which adorn Lucio Fulci’s unpleasant giallo like so many ornaments on a Christmas tree. Who could forget the coroner’s sensitive report – “He used a blade. Stuck it up her joy trail, and slit her wide open. He could have done a slightly better job if he had more time. But overall, it was a good, efficient butchery.” – or the PC declaration “You women are all the same! A menace to society! You women should stay at home where you belong. You’ve got the brains of a chicken!”? Most of all, whose Christmas would be complete without “You’re an asshole. Ciao!” or, best of all, “But you won’t understand me, you’ll never understand me! You’re too stupid! Quack! Quack! Quack!”

The New York Ripper was a bit of a hot potato back in the 1980s. It so horrified James Ferman that he had it deported and would, no doubt, have become a major target for women’s groups had they been given a chance to see it – not that most of them actually bothered to see the films they got hot under the boiler suit about. Even by Lucio Fulci’s famed standards, it’s a nasty film and no-one should see it without being aware of what they’re going to be watching. But twenty-five years after it was made, it’s a lot less shocking than it must have seemed when it first appeared and what we’re left with are some energetic gore scenes surrounded by an absolutely ludicrous plot, worse dubbing and performances which give the word ‘ham’ a new meaning.

Michael Mackenzie has already reviewed the film on this site and I can’t compete with the depth and insight of his review so I suggest that you have a look here and then come back to see what Shameless have made of the film on their new R2 disc.

The Disc

Shameless Screen Entertainment launched in October with a mission to bring the best in sleaze, horror and general exploitation to the UK DVD market. This isn’t something that I, personally, would want to try given two key factors; the BBFC; and the widespread availability of most of these films in Europe and the United States. However, Shameless are undaunted and some of their initial releases have been considerably more impressive than the track record set by their predecessors in this niche market – VIPCO and Redemption in particular – might lead you to expect. Torso was uncut for the first time in the UK while Phantom of Death was both uncut and the longest version of the film. The label’s determination to be as off-putting as possible to any straight-laced viewers is admirable – the covers, in true grindhouse style, are lurid and explicit – and the bargain price-point means that they deserve the support of exploitation fans; those twisted types who find the tagline “Where whores meet saws” funny rather than offensive.

Having said that, I have to register my disappointment with this release of New York Ripper. Even given the distinctly limited aesthetic qualities of the film, it should surely look better than this. Although not an NTSC-PAL conversion, it suffers from frequent aliasing and considerable blocky artifacting throughout. Colours are reasonably accurate and the black levels aren’t bad at all. But the quality of the print is dire and hovers between mediocre (at best) and abysmal. Scratches and white popping are omnipresent. The transfer is framed at 2.35:1 but is non-anamorphic. The soundtrack, in a Dolby 2.0 mono mix, is horrible at the beginning – every line slightly obscured by hiss and crackle – but gets better as the film goes on. The music score suffers least – who can resist the sub-Laurie Johnson main theme?

Given the disappointing video and audio transfer, the BBFC cut is the least of the problems. Considering that in the 1980s, the film had a police escort out of the country, it’s fairly remarkable that only one censorship cut has been inflicted on this release. 19 seconds has been removed from the sequence where a woman is slashed on the nipples and the stomach. Naturally, one is inclined to bemoan this sort of censorship but I am in two minds. On the one hand, don’t think it particularly harms the film to lose a sequence which is so consciously and explicitly intended to be as offensive as possible; on the other, the film is a famous and significant example of extreme cinema and, as such, any reduction in the level of extremity is damaging to the whole. Fans of Fulci and/or the film will want to own one of the uncut releases available elsewhere in the world. Casual viewers are less likely to be picky – and there’s certainly enough bloodletting left her to satisfy even the most demanding gorehound. It’s certainly nice to have a film which was once so controversial back in circulation in the most complete version yet available in the UK.

The only extras on the disc are various trailers for this movie and other Shameless releases – from which it is possible to glean that upcoming are Fulci’s bizarrely compelling Manhattan Baby and the glorious Baba Yaga.

Sadly, no subtitles are provided.

I’m quite a fan of Fulci’s films, although I prefer his more offbeat work like Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture a Duckling to the famous living dead movies. Sadly, The New York Ripperspends so much time trying to be extreme and obnoxious that the pleasures of the giallo – principally the elegant plotting and the thumbscrew tension – are largely abandoned. This DVD looks and sounds disappointing however and is not the best way to experience the movie.

Mike Sutton

Updated: Dec 12, 2007

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