When it comes to classic horror movies, I put Lucio Fulci's contributions to the genre right up there with Romero, Carpenter, Craven and Hooper. His films perfectly mash-up artistic flair, sleaze, and most importantly gore. Lots and lots of gore. Zombie, The Beyond, The House By the Cemetery, and City of the Living Dead are among some of my most favorite horror flicks of all time. Few, if any, directors (not even the aforementioned legends) could conjure up so much sexual sleaze, gore, and tension in a way that Fulci did. And The New York Ripper is quite possibly the quintessential example of those three elements combined into one tightly constructed package.
Thankfully, companies like Blue Underground seem to hold the Italian maestro in the same high regards as myself, as they've now given two of his films (Zombie and The New York Ripper) extensive 3-disc limited edition releases featuring 4K remasters and a ton of bonus features, with The House By the Cemetery soon to receive the same treatment! MVD was kind enough to supply me with a copy of this phenomenal release to review.
The movie is set in, you guess it, New York City where some of the more "sexually active" ladies are being stalked and carved up by an unknown assailant with a penchant for talking and quacking like a duck while he carries out his devious deeds. The city's police force, led by detective named Frank Williams (Jack Hedley), are on the case, however, after several attempts to profile the maniac, Williams quickly loses patience, as there does not appear to be a common thread between the killer's victims. Convinced that, in addition to a voice disorder, his target has some psychological issues, Williams winds up seeking assistance from a psychiatrist named Dr. Paul Davis (Paulo Malco) to catch the killer before he can strike again. Sadly, their combined efforts aren’t so spectacular and the Donald Duck wannabe continues ripping whores throughout the city. As the killer seemingly encroaches on Williams’ personal life, the bodies start piling up leaving the frantic detective desperately trying to bring the knife-wielding asshole to justice just as quickly as he can before it’s too late!
Highly controversial, to say the least, Fulci's The New York Ripper has been called a misogynistic attack on women and the horror genre by many critics, but I personally feel the film is artful with it's sleaze. Fulci had a unique way of creating set pieces around the sexual kinks and violence in his films, way beyond what someone like Brian De Palma or David Fincher would do in the genre, and that's what truly makes his films special. I like to think of Fulci's '80s efforts as a sort of middle finger up to the world, as many found (and still do) the sexuality and violence he was playing with to be all too much to handle. The unrestrained nastiness of some of the films he churned out during his notorious "gore period" really did push the envelope in terms of on-screen violence and sleaze, and would easily garner an NC-17 if released nowadays. Point of order, The New York Ripper continues to be censored in places like the U.K. to this day and was unavailable legally for many years.
Outside of graphic violence, Fulci definitely layered on the atmosphere with this film, and the best material comes from the buildups before each killing, it's somewhat of a cinematic foreplay that grows more and intense along with the victim's fear and panic and the creepy atmosphere makes it all the more effective. The seedy inner city settings in and around New York City also do the overall tone of the film a major favor. This goes a long way in making the somewhat trashy plot work, and this is a good thing, as the performances in New York Ripper, as fun as they are to watch, don't really stand out other than Hedley as Lt. Fred Williams. The film also has a very dark ending, one that's a complete gut-punch and rather uncharacteristic for a giallo or even a slasher film.
The instrumental score courtesy of Francesco De Masi adds an unexpected touch of class to the squalid subject matter. As is the case with many Italian horror films, it feels as thought the composer wrote the score for themselves and what they want to hear rather than what would logically gel with the film. It's jazzy, psychedelic and funky, and for me, it just works. The entire remastered soundtrack is provided on separated CD and is included with this three-disc release from Blue Underground. If you love the score, you're in for a real treat.
The New York Ripper isn't a film that you just casually watch, unless, like myself, you come under the spell of Fulci. It’s unapologetically brutal, but I don’t believe Fulci’s intentions were to make a film about torturing women simply because he didn’t like them. Otherwise, the film's killer probably would have been more of a person who despises women more overtly. When the film reveals who it is and why they’re carrying out the vile acts of murder, it becomes clear that Fulci wanted to portray the crimes as motivated by a bitterness of circumstance, not as a resentful attack on women. Referring to The New York Ripper as nothing but misogynistic would be downright ignorant. It's a film layered with sequences of suspense, an effectively haunting atmosphere, and some phenomenal practical effects. Even if the film's sole purpose was to shock and provoke outrage, you can't really fault it for being insanely successful at doing so. It's not necessarily a deep film or even Fulci's finest work, but The New York Ripper is a remarkable film in its own right and one well worth seeking out for fans of horror and cult cinema.
Following in the footsteps of Zombie and Maniac, Blue Underground gives The New York Ripper its definitive home video edition, improving upon their past Blu-ray release considerably. The film is presented with a new 4K remaster taken from the original 35mm negative, completely uncut and uncensored. Framed at 2.39.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, this is an absolutely gorgeous restoration! Grain is active and feels natural, colors look perfect, and the black levels are rich and deep. Details and depth are exceptional throughout the entire presentation. There's a tremendous organic appearance, no problems with noise reduction or edge enhancement, and nothing in the way of print damage. The picture is essentially pristine, and I can guarantee that you've never seen the film look this good before!
In terms of audio there are a few options presented: English DTS-HD MA 7.1 or 1.0 mono, Italian 1.0, French Dolby Digital mono and Spanish Dolby Digital mono, with subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, and English for Italian audio. Surround sound fans will absolutely love the 7.1 track, as it does a phenomenal job of spreading out both the score and the effects, it also boasts some obvious rebalancing and is much smoother. However, because of overdubbing some slight unevenness remains, but this is an inherited limitation caused by the process. If you're a purists, on the other hand, you'll most likely enjoy the English and Italian Mono tracks, which obviously stay more faithful to the film's original theatrical audio, even if they are somewhat flat and narrow. Either way, all options offer clean, clear dialogue, properly balanced levels, weighty sound effects, excellent fidelity for De Masi’s score, and are free or any hiss or distortion.
Extras, there's a lot of them. The release includes a brand new audio commentary with author Troy Howarth, who is always thorough with covering many facets of the film, from production, background info on cast and crew, it's unsavory history in the U.K., and even defends Fulci's intentions. All in all, Howarth provides a great, in-depth addition to this release.
From there, we're Blue Underground packs this release with a host of new special features, including The Art of Killing, a 29-minute interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti, who discusses his contributions to the script, his time with Fulci and various production stories; Three Fingers of Violence, a 15-minute interview with actor Howard Ross. Ross talks about working with Fulci, how he came to be hired and performing the film's sex scenes; The Second Victim, a 12-minute interview with actress Cinzia de Ponti. She recalls her casting and working with Fulci; The Broken Bottle Murder, a 9-minute interview with actress Zora Kerova, who goes into detail about her death scene and how it was shot, as well as her experience working with Fulci; The Beauty Killer, a wonderful 23-minute interview with Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci author Stephen Thrower. Thrower goes into detail regarding the production, release and everything else in-between regarding The New York Ripper. He also discusses the film’s misogyny or perceived misogyny and give a good reason as to why the film is what most people claim; Paint Me Blood Red, a 17-minute interview with poster artist Enzo Sciotti, who's responsible for creating countless iconic horror posters over the years.
Carried over from Blue Underground's preview release is "I’m an Actress!", a 10-minute interview from 2009 with actress Zora Kerova; a vintage NYC Locations: Then and Now featurette; the international theatrical trailer; as well as a poster and still gallery containing 67 images of posters, press materials, promotional stills, and more.
Being that this is a combo pack release, a DVD version of the movie taken from the same restoration is also included with the same extras. We also get a full'color insert booklet containing a new essay entitled Fulci Quacks Up: The Unrelenting Grimness of The New York Ripper by Travis Crawford, alongside soundtrack information and a track listing, and chapter selections. Blue Underground also provides reversible sleeve art featuring the original art and new art created for this release. This glorious 3-disc package is wrapped up in a stunning lenticular slipcover (provided for the first pressing only).
Overall, this Limited Edition Blu-ray of Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper is unmatched. No previous release of the film even comes close to the quality of care and passion put into this one in particular. Blue Underground has totally nailed it once again, rivaling even the work of Arrow Video and Criterion, and I can't wait to see what they have in store with their release of Two Evil Eyes. There is no doubt in my mind that, at the end of the year, this will be on multiple top home video releases of 2019 lists. This is an essential purchase!