Speaking of mentioning a Maestro of genre cinema for the first time this GIALLOWEEN season...what would a giallo countdown be without mention of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time? The great...Lucio Fulci!
A word on Fulci. The man was a tortured artist. He has lived through so much pain and torment and it is said that a lot of his work was the direct result of all that pain. Influenced by despair. Often, a great artist creates amazing work out of diversity...it is sort of a staple. However, I've read stories of Fulci being such a good-natured guy that it kind of breaks my heart to hear about the man suffering through so much. Although one could make the argument that had he not endured so much pain...we might not have gotten so much brilliant work. I won't go into the details of the man's despair...because it is not my intention to bring focus on someone else's private stuff. I mean...it is out there if you look hard enough. Let us just leave it at...Fulci went thru some rough shit that would make a normal man throw in the towel. Instead...he created art. Be it...darkly warped art.
When one mentions the name Fulci in a room filled with hardcore horror fans it will always inspire each individual to talk about their favorite films of his. Usually, you'll hear titles like Zombie (or Zombi 2), The Beyond (a personal favorite), A Cat in the Brain, City of the Dead...and House by the Cemetery. In that same crowd...you might here some of the gialli fans call out stuff like Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Perversion Story and Don't Torture a Duckling. Out of those gialli fans...you might here a few utter the title...The New York Ripper...and sort of look around the room with a glint of shame.
The New York Ripper is not a film for everyone. It's not that it is such a rough film to watch. Well...there are certain parts of it that are pretty damn rough. But, I think films like Zombie and The Beyond have way more gruesome stuff in them than Ripper does. I feel like The New York Ripper is one of those films where you just feel a bit dirty after watching. Does it make you smile once the credits role? Well...that depends on your particular flavor of horror. In my case...yes. I love all of Fulci's films...but, this one in particular makes me giddy for some unknown reason. I will never argue the fact that it is awfully sleazy and its tone captures perfectly that stink of the New York seediness from the early 80's. And it really isn't the kind of film that will leave you with the warm fuzzies. It is the opposite of that, actually...but, it entertains like no other film in Fulci's catalog.
For starters...the film has a killer with the voice of a demented Donald Duck mocking the police every chance he gets. The main "hero" is an over-the-hill Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley), who actually manages to bed a girl way beyond his league...perhaps using his charm? No. This guy has zero charm and absolutely no game. But, still...he gets the hottest girl in the picture. Not to mention the perverse Jane Lodge (Alexandra Delli Colli), who gets herself into all kinds of weird and kinky situations...one of which involving a stinky Latino toe. I'm Spanish...so, I can call it stinky. Meanwhile...the whole crux of the story being laid out by Mr. Fulci has something to do with a sick child. It's all so goddamn convoluted and wrong-headed...that it has no choice but to come across as either one of two things: absolutely stupid and upsetting...or absolutely stunning and entertaining. I'm of the latter opinion and find this to be one of my favorite Fulci experiences.
As a giallo, it fits the bill delivering one of the most catchy soundtracks of Italian cinema and one of the most memorable killers of...well...ever. I'm not altogether sure if the Maestro just had a thing with ducks...because of the involvement of fowls of some kind in some of his films. Here, the killer disguises his voice as a fore-mentioned sadistic Donald Duck...which, I have to say, is utter brilliance. I mean...what better way to knock the police force on their collective asses than to phone them and make believe that you are a beloved cartoon character. That's some genius shit right there.
With the exception of the peep-show scene...most of the feel of this film recalls American cop shows of the time...rather than the giallo staples that we're so accustomed to. The viewer could easily make the mistake that he or she is watching a re-run of Hill Street Blues...rather than a giallo classic. Still...there's a lot of elements that ultimately paint it as the erotic thriller mystery that we came to see. Not to mention that awesome score again.
The New York Ripper is the complete opposite of a "feel-good" film. It was a "Video Nasty", after all. So, I won't blame you if you skip this one on tonight's GIALLOWEEN selection and, instead, go for something much cleaner and more fulfilling. The scene involving straight razors and a dead hooker alone will be enough to remain in one's psyche for all of time. However, if you have an iron will that cannot be shaken (mostly because it is a bit warped and Deviant) and you yearn an 80's giallo with little-to-no style during a time when gialli were quickly becoming a thing of the past...while one Maestro strived to keep the Italian spirit alive and well...this is the one, my friends. Not to mention Blue Underground has put out an amazing version on Blu-ray. Get some.
Thanks for reading,