Banned in many countries and released in others heavily edited as an ‘adults only’ movie, in 1984 New York Ripper was so shocking that the then Secretary of the British Board of Classification, James Ferman, ordered all the prints of the film to be escorted to the airport by the police and sent out of the country without ever being screened.
Released now on DVD and Blu-Ray, by the appropriately named ‘Shameless Entertainment’ and after being rebuilt with previously missing scenes, the film still may not be complete but is the longest most comprehensive version ever seen in the U.K.
For horror fans Lucio Fulci’s gripping Grindhouse Giallo full of explicit sex and graphic gore is definitely a must see.
The story set in New York follows Lieutenant Williams (played by British actor Jack Hedley) a world-weary cop on the trail of a serial killer who has a taste for targeting attractive young women who he slices up for his sick entertainment.
With no leads and lots of bodies Lieutenant Williams is taunted by the killers phone calls where he talks in a high pitched voice and quacks like a disturbed duck mocking the police for always being one step behind.
As the rampage continues through the seedy world of porn clubs straight up to the sex obsessed high society Lieutenant Williams is desperate to break the case seeking help from a local university psychoanalyst however it seems there is nothing anyone can do to stop the New York Ripper.
Nothing that is until one of his victims manages to survive an attack giving the cops the hope of a lead and the killer cause to finish what he started.
So is New York Ripper still as shocking and perverse today as it was back in 84? The answer is yes and no. The high level of graphic sex and gory violence although more common today in horror cinema is still at times quite controversial and brutal and although special effects may have moved on the motives of the madman and the way in which he butchers his victims is still disturbing and divisive.
However to view New York Ripper as a simple exploitation film is a mistake. Yes it does contain more hardcore sex and violence than most horrors but beneath that is a great twisting thriller and an interesting analysis of the psychology of a psychopath.
The strong link between sexual desire and death is apparent throughout not only in the killers choice of victims who are all good looking sexually active women but also imbedded in the direction in the constant close up’s of mouths and lips and stab wounds and cuts.
The killers obsession with sex and murder is emphasised in the lingering camera shots of his penetrating knife and Fulci plays with the audiences voyeuristic desires forcing us to witness the murders from the point of view of the killer challenging our disconnection with the criminal and forcing us to feel as if we are participating in the evil act ourselves much in the same way Michael Powell did in Peeping Tom.
Having had many of his films cut, band and branded as Video Nasties in the U.K Italian horror maestro Fulci, who directed and co-wrote New York Ripper, was no novice when it came to controversy. An expert in the horror and exploitation genre having made such classics as The Beyond, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Zombie Flesh Eaters he was also a master of suspense filling his film with tension and crafting the twisting storyline perfectly, pacing it just right all the way till the final reveal.
Packed with explicit sex and brutal gore New York Ripper is much more than a simple shock-fest skin flick and beneath the blood and boobs there is a well directed, intelligent Giallo thriller with a great story as excellently executed as the killers victims.