Jack the Ripper had infamously preyed on prostitutes in London a century earlier, and New York's Ripper shares that taste for women who trade their bodies. A model. A prostitute (Daniela Doria; City of the Living Dead). A performer in a stage sex show (Zora Kerova; Cannibal Ferox). A bored, privileged housewife drawn towards the sadomasochistic (Zombie Holocaust's Alexandra Delli Colli). The Ripper isn't content to kill. He mutilates these women...carves them apart. Investigators gradually piece clues together, from the bastard's missing fingers to his penchant for sqwawking like Donald Duck in the throes of his bloodlust. The Ripper is insane, yes, but deviously brilliant – always several steps ahead of the police, who are tortured by the knowledge that the only way to inch closer to his identity is to wait for him to kill again.
Even for seasoned gorehounds, The New York Ripper is so vicious and visceral as to be grueling to watch. So many slashers in these early years were content to settle for a single swipe of a machete or an arrow to the chest. By contrast, the murders here are prolonged agony; the Ripper revels in his depravity, ekeing the most of every excruciating moment. Several of his victims are slowly sliced down the middle. Another is dismembered; all we see of her is a severed hand, discovered by a dog playing fetch by the water. A nipple and eyeball are cleaved in two. Another is all but disembowled with a broken wine bottle. This madman doesn't earn the nickname of The Ripper merely because of his body count; it's because he is literally ripping these women apart.
The argument goes that The New York Ripper is a misogynistic film – deeply judgmental of women and their sexuality. And, yes, nearly all of The Ripper's victims indulge their desires in ways outside of societally accepted norms – say, one making an audio recording of a sex show as she fingers herself in her seat. Sex and violence are so inexorably linked here that it was a struggle to find compelling screenshots for this review, as there are almost always bared breasts or pubic hair on display. Still, I wouldn't say that Fulci's film is misogynistic so much as it's misanthropic, given that The New York Ripper has nearly as little regard for its male characters. They're far more repulsive sexual beasts, whether it's a low-life toe-fucking a woman against her will in a dive bar, a supposedly proper gentleman fumbling for an excuse to cheat on his wife, or a police lieutenant who places the hooker he's shacking up with in danger to avoid revealing his secret shame. (Troy Howarth is more charitable in his commentary, describing the film's characters instead as lonely, frightened people desperately seeking some sort of connection. Your mileage may vary as well.)
I'm intrigued by the structure of the film. Rather than tread down the usual whodunnit? path, we're clearly shown halfway through who's preying on these women. The New York Ripper lacks a protagonist in the traditional sense. Those who return the most are either shuffled to the background too often to serve as a point-of-view character, meet a grisly end at The Ripper's blade, or have an importance that isn't apparent until late in the movie. Virtually everyone has in some way been corrupted, and though those few who are innocent manage to survive, they hardly escape unscathed. Its final moments are haunting, horrifying, and heartbreaking in a way that few other films have managed, and that's accomplished without a gleaming blade or a drop of blood. So, yes, there is indeed far more to The New York Ripper than splatter and sadism. The film cleverly upends everything you think you know. A bondage sequence in a sleazy motel is unnervingly suspenseful – being strapped to a bed while discovering what evil is sleeping next to you. That, honestly, is The New York Ripper's bravura sequence, not its bloodiest make-up effects or jaw-droppingly gruesome denouement.
Grimy, sleazy, and demented, The New York Ripper is not an easy movie to watch. I can't rightly say that I enjoy it. And though it's far from my favorite of Fulci's work, this is a more substantial and layered film than it's often given credit for being. If nothing else, it's essential viewing for those curious to see Fulci viscerally unite the giallo with the American slasher. For those well-acquainted with the film, even if it was through Blue Underground's first stab at it on Blu-ray a decade ago, this three disc re-release proves to be well worth the upgrade. Highly Recommended.
Newly remastered in 4K from the original camera negative, this reissue of The New York Ripper is worlds removed from the edition that Blue Underground released a decade ago. In lieu of film grain, the 2009 release was saddled with a sheen of analog video noise floating above the image. This noise lent the presentation a false sense of sharpness and suggested detail that wasn't actually present. There's also something frustratingly video-like about that thin, pale image. This new restoration of The New York Ripper, on the other hand, is an improvement in every conceivable respect:
Though some may argue that the revised grading is too modern, I'm thrilled with the rich, warm, vivacious colors on display here. I'm particularly floored by the way the neon lights pop against Times Square in the dead of night. Contrast is considerably more robust. The harsh video noise of a decade past makes way for a true filmic texture. This presentation is immaculate – not so much as a stray nick nor a fleck of dust stood out to my eyes – and this is accomplished without heavy-handed filtering. More of the image is exposed on all four sides of the frame, even with the marginally heavier matting here. (This latest remaster is presented at the more modern aspect ratio of 2.39:1, rather than the previous edition's 2.35:1.) Stepping up from 2009's BD-25 to a dual-layered disc, the reissue's bitrate is considerably higher as well, helping to ensure that there are no sputters or stutters in its AVC encode.
This remaster strikes an ideal balance, resisting the urge to polish away the grittiness inherent to The New York Ripper's visuals. It shouldn't dazzle in quite the same way as the 4K reissues of Fulci's Zombie and Manhattan Baby as it's a very different film with a very different approach. Still, what Blue Underground has delivered here is nothing short of extraordinary, and it's a compelling upgrade even for those of us who'd already bought their initial Blu-ray release a decade earlier.
The three disc set also includes an anamorphic widescreen DVD based on this same restoration.
The audio options are considerably more expansive on this reissue. Blue Underground's 2009 Blu-ray release was limited exclusively to English – 16-bit, eight-channel DTS-HD Master Audio and a lossy monaural track. Both English soundtracks now enjoy a higher bit-depth, and they're joined by dubs in Italian, Spanish, and French as well. The same as the two English tracks, the Italian dub is served up in 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio, while the Spanish and French tracks are in Dolby Digital (224kbps).
Given the film's setting and that its characters are all meant to be New Yorkers, I again opted for the lossless 7.1 English audio, and I went back afterwards and sampled a few sequences in Italian. This is, as before, a respectful remix, without a compulsion to relentlessly fill every speaker with sound. An argument could be made that it's perhaps too subdued. Francesco De Masi's score is unmistakably the focal point, and it sounds sensational: bass that's pronounced but never overcooked, strong separation across channels, a terrific sense of distinctness and clarity, and the primary source of most of the activity in the surrounds. Atmospherics occasionally make their presence known in the rears, whether it's the sound of the Staten Island Ferry crossing the bay, ambient bustle as Jane and her gigolo pull up to a fleabag motel, or police sirens outside the hospital.
Music aside, the surround channels rarely seem to draw attention to themselves, and there were several moments where I was surprised by just how dead silent they were. Take Lt. Williams being surrounded by clacking machines when tracing the Ripper's phone call, for instance, or a subway train bearing down on the camera and Fay's terrifying ride that follows. The rears aren't just low-key in these moments; if there's not music, there's nothing, full stop. I'm not a fan of hyperaggressive remixes from monaural sources anyway, so I'm certainly not complaining, especially when the elements are this clean, clear, and readily discerned.
From what I sampled of the lossless Italian mono track, its inclusion is even more cause for celebration. For anyone who's interested, below is a quick comparison I recorded. I did have to downmix the 7.1 audio, of course.
Consider the deservedly high score in the sidebar for the lossless monaural tracks, and the 7.1 remix is just a pleasant bonus. As with the initial Blu-ray release, subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, and French. This time, however, there are two English streams – SDH subs for the English audio as well as a translation of the Italian dialogue.
The New York Ripper is – like Maniac, The Stendhal Syndrome, Zombie, and Manhattan Baby before it – another of Blue Underground's three-disc limited editions. This new restoration is on display on both Blu-ray as well as an accompanying DVD, and an audio CD is lurking just behind the liner notes. Nearly all of its many extras have been produced expressly for this new edition.
Enzo Sciotti's newly-commissioned artwork is also showcased on a lenticular slipcover. It doesn't convey the sort of motion or action that the Zombie covers offer, no, but it still looks fantastic. Purists can breathe easy that the cover inside is reversible.
There's a bizarre editing error in the liner notes. Travis Crawford's "Fulci Quacks Up: The Unrelenting Grimness of The New York Ripper" has issues with words containing "fl" or "fi". So instead of, say, "film" or "aficionado", every instance is instead printed as "☒lm" and "a☒cionado". Gotta say: that's a first for me. I have what looks sure like a final retail copy; I'm unsure if this has since been corrected.
Also very much of note is that The New York Ripper is coded for all regions.
The Final Word
I've been subjected to plenty of memes floating around Facebook horror groups, grousing and groaning about Blue Underground's current streak of re-releases. If you're content with their previous edition of The New York Ripper from back in 2009, no one's holding a straight razor to your neck and forcing you to upgrade. Me...? I'm floored that the label is going to such staggering effort to craft lavish special editions of so many of their most coveted titles.
The New York Ripper doesn't just benefit from a new 4K restoration, although that alone to my mind would make it worth another go. This edition marks the first domestic home video release of the film to feature Italian audio. There's somewhere in the neighborhood of three and a half hours of extras. Blue Underground enlisted the artist behind some of the most iconic posters in Eurohorror to craft its cover art. This is an extraordinary release of a film that's irresistible to those with a taste for sticky, depraved slashers.
So, meme away. It's your loss. Highly Recommended.