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  • The Bearden of Knowledge

The New York Ripper

Dir. Lucio Fulci (1982)

A serial killer is stalking the women of New York City, and a police detective and a psychoanalyst team up to try to stop him.

Directed in 1982 by the infamous giallo master Lucio Fulci, The New York Ripper tells the story of a serial killer stalking beautiful women amongst the seedy backdrop of early 80s New York City. It's probably the sleaziest of Fulci's films but, in my opinion, some of his best work. The film opens with a man playing fetch with his dog. When he throws the ball and the dog returns with a decomposing human hand, it kicks off an investigation into who she is and who killed her.

Jack Hedley (For Your Eyes Only) plays Lt. Fred Williams, tasked with bringing in the killer, who has now been dubbed "The Ripper" due to his use of a straight razor as a murder weapon. We quickly find out that the police's only clue is a phone call by a strange person "sounding like a duck." Lt. Williams decides to enlist the aid of local Psychotherapy teacher Dr. Davis played by Paolo Malco (Watch Me When I Kill, House By The Cemetery) to help him create a profile of the killer.

Even though this is more a slasher than a giallo, in true giallo style the police are inefficient as fuck, and the murders continue to pile up. There are a few things that make this film stick out compared to others of its time. The "Donald Duck" voiced killer, the infamous "footsie" scene, the 42nd Street sex shows. It really is a unique film and one that's hard to forget. Woo boy, this film is brutal, too! Both in its depictions of sex and of violence, nothing is done in half measures here. The kills are extremely severe. More than one woman is killed by being stabbed in.... let's just say uncomfortable places, and, for a man who's probably poked out a hundred eyes in films, I think this is Fulci's best eyeball trauma scene to date.

The sex doesn't hold back either. Gratuitous? Yes, but what makes the film stand out are its themes. A major plot of the film deals with a husband and wife in an open marriage. Bondage, foot fetishes, gay porno magazines... I think Fulci hit about every taboo he could in the early 80s. I gotta say that that kinda bravado is what makes him a master! I've noticed lately an East Coast/West Coast theme with 70s and 80s horror films, and this film is a great example. The West Coast tended to make a more bubblegum pop type film (Night of the Comet, Chopping Mall), while the East Coast was more grimy and gritty(Maniac, The Driller Killer). In my personal opinion, I tend to be drawn to the East Coast ones a little more. Of course, this being set in NYC, it fully cements itself as the latter. And, ironically, this film is one that would be right at home playing in a 42nd St theater.

Bottom line: If you haven't seen it, I highly suggest watching. If you're a grindhouse or exploitation fan and you haven't seen it, quit your job right now and go watch it! Or maybe wait until after work... Such a notorious film should be seen at least once, and it's easier than ever because it's streaming now on Shudder, Pluto, and Tubi. 

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