Monday, May 17, 2010

Day Two: The New York Ripper

I've always had a hard time when it comes to Lucio Fulci.  Part of it may be first impressions.  I knew of him when I learned about Dario Argento (or as I like to call him, the gateway director).  But it wasn't until I was 17 when I got a chance to see his work.

This was courtesy of another Mom & Pop video store, this time in Crestwood, KY (this one also had the Moroder version of Metropolis--I should've never let that one get away after I rented it).  I'd seen video boxes of Seven Doors Of Death and Zombie in the past, but never picked them up.  Eventually I managed to find a motherload of Fulci at this place and decided to give him a shot.

But enough nostalgia.  Lemme cut to the chase.  I rented Manhattan Baby.  Watched it, said "What the fuck?" and returned it.  I didn't see the appeal.

Anyhow, after multiple attempts, I finally realized what frustrated me about Fulci.

When it comes to the more plot-driven stuff, he's not bad.  At times, he's even very good.  But the moment he gets to the gore gags he's so well known for, everything comes to a dead halt and you're pulled out of the movie.  The gore is so fake at times it's laughable, sucking whatever tension he's built out of the celluloid.

I had quite a few trepidations when I added the Blu Ray of New York Ripper to my Blockbuster queue.  After all, it's one of his more notorious efforts.  The film was outright banned in Britain, all the prints supposedly escorted out of the country.

I consider New York Ripper to be one of those "initiation" movies.  Like Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, or Cannibal Holocaust.  It's a threshold you hear about constantly in horror circles.  The more of these thresholds you cross, the more serious you're supposed to be about horror or something.  Whatever.

I wasn't so worried about the fake gore pulling me out of the film.  I've survived it in the past and knew I could survive 90 minutes of Fulci-grue again.  The thing that bothered me was that I heard the violence was rooted heavily in misogyny.

I had a hard enough time with What Have You Done to Solange.  Took me three tries to get through that one because of the killer's MO.  I'm not a big fan of violence towards lady parts.  I somehow made it through Solange, but I ended up selling it to FYE for store credit not too long afterwards.

This one was supposed to be worse.  Hence saving my last shot of Jack.  I thought I'd need it to make it through.

I must've done a better job mentally preparing for it, because I managed to get through New York Ripper in one try.

And the strange thing's actually a well constructed film.  Albeit a perfect example of my like/dislike relationship with Fulci.  The cinematography is great, and the actors likeable (even though they are all dubbed).  The story line is engaging as well (even though you do need to forgive the Donald Duck thing).

But the murder scenes, again, took me out of the picture.  First off, the violence toward lady parts immediately threw me off.  With the exception of Daniela Doria's death, not much is shown in as horrifying detail as all the stories tell you.  Some of it is alluded to.  But knowing what exactly the killer's doing, even without seeing it, makes me squirm.  And not in the good horror movie way.

And, of course, the fake gore.  Flash of a knife, whoosh, sight of two pieces of latex separating, blood spray, repeat.

It's a shame, because the buildup to some of these scenes is quite good.  The subway/movie theater sequence with Antonella Interlenghi has some suspense.  Another standout is the scene where Jane is tied to a bed, trying to escape as the man she believes is the New York Ripper sleeps next to her.

The subject matter makes the film hard to truly recommend.  After all, it's about women getting stabbed in their private areas in various ways.  So instead I'll say this: If reading about the film sticks in your head, it's gonna stay there until you break down and watch it.  I tried to avoid it for ten years and finally folded.  So fight it or see it.  Your call.



  1. For me, the hardest thing to swallow with New York Ripper was the Donald Duck thing. I still don't get it. I know Fulci had a sense of humor about things but I still get embarrassed whenever the killer makes those "threatening" phone calls (even when I'm watching it alone).

    As for New York Ripper's place in the world of giallo, I think it might be a bit dubious. (Not trying to pick on your pick, I promise.) Any giallo released after 1976 seems too self aware to me. It seems like people had to try harder to make a giallo than a straight up slasher film. Does that make sense?

    As for Fulci's gore sequences, they are more important to the Fulci aesthetic than they are to the realism of the film. The wood splinter in the eye in Zombie just warms my heart. Eyeballs sliced in half, a woman vomiting her own intestines, a man's throat torn out, etc. are what Fulci's horror films needed to exist. It doesn't matter if they look fake or that the film comes to a complete stop while silly rubber spiders bite out a duder's tongue. It wouldn't be a Fulci film without all that crap.

    But as for violence to female genitalia, you should be squeamish, duder. I abhor rape scenes in movies but unfortunately I like Italian genre pictures where rape scenes are freakishly commonplace. I love What Have You Done to Solange? That movie ranks up in my top 20 favorite gialli of all time but I can't friggin' recommend it to anybody. Especially not women! That moment when we finally meet Solange is just chilling. For me, it is worth slogging through all the chauvinistic nonsense. In New York Ripper, Fulci uses the killer's horrifying MO to try and freak out audiences that, by the early 80s, had seen it all. It's still shocking and it's still fucked up. The guy pushed the envelope because he thought that's what people wanted.

    But yeah, New York Ripper is a giallo but for my personal taste in the genre, I always prefer things between 1970 (post Crystal Plumage) -1976 (pre Laughing Windows). There are tons of gialli that came before and after that very small amount of time but that's where all my favorites reside.

    I hope that you'll give some of Fulci's other gialli a chance this month. Don't Torture a Duckling (perhaps the secret origin of the Donald Duck voice in New York Ripper?) or One on Top of the Other (AKA Perversion Story). Those are both incredibly good and represent Fulci in a totally different light.

  2. I do agree the golden age of giallo was during the 1970-76 era. Though there were a couple of booms in the 80's that produced some good flicks.

    As for the gore sequences, I've always had a hard time. That said, I do enjoy City of the Living Dead. One of these days I'm gonna rent Zombie and The Beyond. After this month, cuz it's full.

    For some reason, Solange actually disturbed me more. I remember a shot in the movie where you see one victim and can actually see the knife sticking out of her crotch. Maybe it was lack of mental preparation. Yes, the last portion of the film was great, and the score is amazing (has Ennio made a bad giallo score?). I might give it another shot eventually, but not this month. Only because I have so many already.

    I will watch another Fulci giallo this month. It's already arrived from Blockbuster Online.