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Killer who talks like a duck wanders around New York City killing women by various means including slicing an eyeball with a razorblade. Detective Jack Headly is hot on his trail. Written by
The late Italian director Lucio Fulci remains a controversial figure among horror film fans. Some view him merely as a hack exploitation director, who unsuccessfully tried to mimic the ideas and techniques of skilled horror directors such as Dario Argento and George Romero. Others view him as a directorial genius with his own distinctive style. Upon viewing my first Fulci film, THE NEW YORK RIPPER, I am inclined to believe that Fulci has not been given as much credit as he deserves.
THE NEW YORK RIPPER is a good example of an Italian "giallo" film, which blends the graphic gore sequences typically found in "slasher" films with the police investigations typically found in crime dramas. The film's plot is simple: a psychopath who talks like a duck is killing beautiful young women in New York City in vicious ways. Burned-out Lieutenant Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) is assigned to investigate the case, and soon gets taunting calls from the killer. At the same time, the one woman to survive the killer's attack, track star Fay Majors (Almanta Keller), finds that her life remains in peril.
THE NEW YORK RIPPER is unapologetically sleazy. The gore effects are very well done, and will make even the most hardened fans of gore wince at their brutality. There is also plenty of sex, which is quite explicit even by today's standards. In short, THE NEW YORK RIPPER is tasteless. But that doesn't mean it's bad. The film is well paced and there is hardly a dull moment. The murder mystery aspect of the film will keep you guessing until the film's climax. Fulci also delivers stylish direction and the film has some nice atmospheric shots of New York City.
One of the main criticisms of THE NEW YORK RIPPER is that it is brutally misogynistic. On the surface, this appears to be true. The killer's victims are almost all sexually promiscuous young women, who are killed in a brutal, sexual manner. However, in my opinion, the film is not so much anti-woman as it is anti-humanity. Fulci's New York City, much like Martin Scorsese's in TAXI DRIVER, is a seemingly inescapable hell, filled with perverts, sex shows, prostitutes, and "42nd Street gigolos." It should also be noted that the film's one strong and sympathetic character is a woman, Fay Majors.
Also, it is often said that THE NEW YORK RIPPER is Fulci's ripoff of the 1980 film MANIAC (also one of my favorites). This is simply not true: their only similarity is that they concern a psycho killer on the loose in New York City. MANIAC is a character study horror film, while THE NEW YORK RIPPER is a mystery thriller, much like Brian DePalma's DRESSED TO KILL(1980).
Lastly, I must say that the recently released, uncut, widescreen version of THE NEW YORK RIPPER is a major improvement over the old video version. While the dubbing remains shoddy in some parts, this new edition looks beautiful in its widescreen format. Additionally, the old edition chopped up some scenes which contained crucial clues about the killer's identity. With these scenes now intact, the killer's identity is not as totally out of left field as some critics have charged.
*** out of ****
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