Grindhouse Review: 'The New York Ripper'

‘The New York Ripper,’ directed by Lucio Fulci, is poorly dubbed and not convincing.

“The New York Ripper” (1982)

Directed By Lucio Fulci

Starring Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross, Andrea Occhipinti, Alexandra Delli Colli and Paolo Malco

Hiding within the shadows of the Big Apple, he watches with a deep hungering lust for the young and the beautiful. Behind his maddened eyes is a frightening motive. He is an anonymous killer with a blood-thirsty rage for females who are extremely sexually active and don’t have the ability to control themselves when they’re
caught up in the moment.

From one of the original godfathers of gore, Lucio Fulci, the acclaimed cult director behind the macabre masterpiece, “The Beyond” (1981) and “Zombie” (1979), comes his early attempt in the slasher genre with his controversial shocker, “The New York Ripper.”

Shot entirely in a withering downtown area of New York City and featuring a nuisance of a killer that’s more comedic than intimating, Fulci attempted to create his own vision of the now-cliché genre that falls far too short for even his typical standards of a horror filmmaker.

When a burned-out New York police detective (Hedley) teams up with a college psychoanalyst (Malco) to track down a vicious serial killer who is randomly stalking and killing various young women around the city, the two embark on a sexual odyssey that leads them to adult playhouses, prostitute hangouts and even into their own hot-blooded desires to hunt down the deranged killer in hopes to put an end to his trail of mutilated corpses.

Borrowing the ideas and concept of the menacing Jack the Ripper character, who stalked the streets of London back in 1888, and marrying it with the cop-taunting Zodiac Killer from the late ’60s, Fulci and his production team set out to create an original take on a sadistic serial killer who has the ability to be an agent of chaos but falls short.

Based on a brilliant twist of a motive, the biggest flaw was the poorly dubbed soundtrack, which makes the story and characters less convincing, along with an upbeat music score that sounds like it should be played in the background of a “Chips” episode. Not to mention the killer has a really annoying voice that makes him less frightening and more comedic.

First of all, let me just say I’m a huge serial killer fanatic. I find them to be extremely fascinating, how they have the ability to dispatch someone so coldly with no empathy and are able to sleep at night as if it were any other day. One of the many things that interests me in this realm is the motive. Out of all the films and books I’ve come across based on the senseless or intelligent killers, their motive is what interests me the most.

Although “The New York Ripper” does have a clever and more emotional motive that creates the killer’s psyche than most films with this formality, the whole film falls apart and becomes a garbled mess when the actors start flapping their gums. Like all of Fulci’s films, the poor dubbing from Italian to English takes you away from the emotional impact of the film. When you watch it, you can totally tell the post-production crew re-recorded everything in the studio. It gives an almost narration feel to the characters that makes their performance so monotone you can’t feel the emotions behind the words.

I did some research on Italian cinema, and it turns out when they shoot any scene in a movie they record the sound effects, dialogue and everything else that makes the picture more sophisticated after the photography has been wrapped. What you’re supposed to do is capture everything while shooting so it matches continuity and sounds like you’re in that particular area where the actors are standing. The only time you record in the studio is when you need to re-record a line, a passage or a sound effect that’s impossible to clean in post. But filmmakers across the sea tend to have their own shooting and post-production style to fit their work ethics.

Another thing that threw me off was the music to the film: It is a very simple and moving score if you’re a fan of jazz, but when it comes to certain scenes when suspense is being built or a kill is about to happen, it completely takes you out of the mood and either puts you in front of the TV back in the early ’80s or it transports you back in time to when composers and filmmakers tried to create a convincingly good porno flick.

To top it all off, the killer’s voice is a horrible impersonation of Donald Duck. During scenes where he was supposed to be menacing and threatening, I found myself laughing hysterically, not being scared at anything that was going on in the film.

Although “The New York Ripper” is considered an over-the-top sleazy and mythological piece of cinema, it never shies away from any of the subjects it’s touching upon. The mythological aspect is what attracted me to it in the first place. If you’re fascinated by sleaze, like me, and find some interesting artifacts about it, then I consider this the “Citizen Kane” of sleaze.

What makes this so different than the majority of truly worthless sleaze out there is Fulci is honest about what he’s trying to say. In the scope, it’s garish colors and grimy settings are very gloomy and even somewhat harsh to the naked eye. But when viewing it from a filmmaker’s perspective, it’s another idea that is there and can work if the rest of the post and production team knew exactly what the hell they were doing.

One 1/2 out of Four Stars

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