Release Date(s)1982 (June 25, 2019)
Studio(s)Fulvia Film/Silent Warrior Productions (Blue Underground)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
Highly controversial, to say the least, Lucio Fulci’s 1982 giallo The New York Ripper (AKA Lo squartatore di New York) has been branded over the years as a misogynistic attack on the horror and thriller genres by many of its critics, both past and present. What on paper appears to be a perfunctory giallo tale of butchered New York women as a police detective attempts to discover the identity of the killer is punctuated by some of the most grisly gore effects ever produced for a Fulci film, which is saying a lot. Add to that a cadre of mostly irredeemable characters and a grim ending and you have Fulci’s most-talked about and incendiary work.
For most, The New York Ripper is a difficult work to approach, let alone analyze. It’s not easy to dissect it critically as it continues to trigger many viewers, including women who are completely justified in doing so. But the misogyny angle that has been in play since the film’s original release has never sat comfortably with me. During an era when Italian filmmakers seemed to be trying to one up each other in terms of shock value, it can certainly be seen as the genre’s zenith. It’s not a film that you just casually watch – it’s quite brutal, and unapologetically so, but I don’t believe that Fulci’s intentions were to make a movie about torturing and murdering women simply because he didn’t like them. If that were the case, the murderer might have been more of an Ed Gein or Ted Bundy type, or at least someone who despises women more overtly. When the reveal occurs and we learn who it is and why they’re doing what they’re doing, it becomes clear that these are crimes motivated by the bitterness of circumstance, not by a resentful director.
That said, these moments of violence are nearly unparalleled, and continue to be censored in places like the U.K. where the film was unavailable legally for many years. It’s no wonder that so many people took an instant dislike to it. Besides the murder sequences themselves, the film also has a rather dark ending, one that’s uncharacteristic for a giallo (or a slasher for that matter). To simply refer to The New York Ripper as nothing but misogyny... well, it’s more complicated than that. Overlooked are the sequences of suspense, as well as the performances. If the point of the film was to shock and push buttons, you can’t really fault it for being effective at doing so.
Blue Underground brings The New York Ripper to Blu-ray for a second time with a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative, completely uncut and uncensored. An issue involving an out of place shot around the 44-minute mark seen on some of the film’s previous releases is not present here – everything is as it should be. Suffice it to say, this is another gorgeous presentation with solid grain reproduction from scene to scene, as well as vast amounts of detail that’s been hidden in previous transfers. Every last detail, from the pores of actor’s faces to the streets of New York and the incredibly effective gore, are all crystal clear. The transfer also appears quite film-like without any evidence of filtering or sharpening. The color palette is robust, showcasing not only the period hues of city environments, both indoor and outdoor, but also sequences involving the uses of color gels. Greens, blues, and reds are much more saturated, especially the latter when it comes to the spilt crimson. Blacks are deep, even inky, but never crushed or gray. Contrast and brightness levels are excellent as well. The presentation is also stable with no leftover damage. I would venture that the film has never looked this good – even during its theatrical release.
The audio comes with a number of options, including English 7.1 and mono DTS-HD, Italian mono DTS-HD, and French and Spanish mono Dolby Digital. The English mono track is, like most mono tracks, flat and narrow, but represents the film’s original theatrical audio well. It’s clean with no leftover damage while dialogue is clear, although slightly loose like all post-dubbed films. The score, music tracks, and sound effects are a bit cramped in the mix, but it offers good fidelity. The Italian mono track is similar, but sounds tinnier by comparison. On the other hand, it’s not as flat with background ambience being more pronounced. It too is clean and free of any obvious damage. The 7.1 track certainly opens the music and score up, widening them and giving them a much fuller sound. Ambient moments, such as police station activity and the hustle and bustle of the busy New York streets, are also spaced out more. The dialogue and most of the sound effects are no different than what’s presented on the mono track – usually relegated to the front – with the exception being something like a passing subway car, the sound of which has definitely been expanded, giving it more of a presence. The mono tracks are the purest sources, obviously, but the 7.1 track broadens the original soundtrack without burdening it. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, Spanish, and English for the Italian audio.
The extras selection is quite abundant. It includes a great new audio commentary with author Troy Howarth, who is always a welcome addition to any release, covering many facets of the film – including its production, cast, crew, its sordid history in the U.K., and a defense of Lucio Fulci’s intentions; The Art of Killing, a 29-minute interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti; Three Fingers of Violence, a 15-minute interview with actor Howard Ross; The Second Victim, a 12-minute interview with actress Cinzia de Ponti; The Broken Bottle Murder, a 9-minute interview with actress Zora Kerova; “I’m an Actress!”, a 10-minute interview from 2009 with actress Zora Kerova; The Beauty Killer, an excellent 23-minute interview with author Stephen Thrower; Paint Me Blood Red, a 17-minute interview with poster artist Enzo Sciotti; the 4-minute NYC Locations: Then and Now featurette; the international theatrical trailer; a poster and still gallery containing 67 images of posters, press materials, promotional stills, home video covers, and a soundtrack sleeve; a DVD copy; a CD soundtrack containing 29 tracks of Francesco De Masi’s score for the film; and a 20-page insert booklet containing the essay Fulci Quacks Up: The Unrelenting Grimness of The New York Ripper by Travis Crawford, soundtrack information and a track listing, and chapter selections. For completists, the Shameless U.K. Blu-ray features a 19-minute interview with Antonella Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti, while a French Region 2 DVD release from Neo Publishing contains a number of exclusive interviews as well.
Blue Underground’s Limited Edition Blu-ray release of The New York Ripper is the top of the heap – no release of the film even comes close to the quality of care put into it here. Like their recent Blu-ray releases of Zombie and Maniac, this is an essential purchase for giallo fans the world over. It certainly isn’t to everyone’s taste as it’s still a tough watch even all these years later, but being misunderstood for so long, this new presentation of it warrants further investigation and will likely change more than a few minds. Highly recommended!
– Tim Salmons