OCTOBER 24, 2010
While doing my usual post-movie “research” (looking at the Wiki and IMDb entries, basically), I was amazed to discover that Lucio Fulci had directed a whopping 56 movies in his career, including The New York Ripper (Italian: Lo Squartatore Di New York). Many were TV projects and obviously not all of them were horror, but goddamn do I feel like I am missing out on the majority of the man’s work. I’ve actually only seen I think 7 of his films (including this) – I need to work on that.
I also need to see more that take place in Italy, or at least not the US. All of the ones I’ve seen take place in America, in whole or in part (Zombi), which I find kind of interesting. And even though this was produced at the height of his popularity/success, it’s one of the weakest of his that I’ve seen (it’s also the only one without any supernatural elements). It’s not Door Into Silence bad, but it’s just boring for the most part. Nothing against the guy, but he’s just not as skilled a director as Argento or either Bava, so he doesn’t bring the visual prowess that they can to the typical Giallo film. Thus, attempts at being visually interesting often fall flat – why is that one stripper’s room completely bathed in green light? No reason other than to try to mimic Argento’s penchant for over saturated colors, as far as I can tell. He does add some offbeat flair to certain scenes – there’s a scene with the police searching a suspect’s home that’s shot entirely from the POV of one of the cops.
No, Fulci’s strength lies in ridiculous gore, which he demonstrates a few times throughout the film (most notably in the hooker’s death, with the sliced eyeball). But since this is a giallo, and not a zombie movie, it just makes the whole thing seem sleazier than it should. Hardly any men die in the film, just women who are often in an advanced (or total) state of undress. As we learn in the conclusion (true to form, key information is kept from us until the last reel, in this case the killer’s invalid daughter), the killer is striking back because he hates that his daughter will never get a chance to be a real women due to her disability. Kind of a creepy motive (he kills promiscuous women because his daughter will never get to sleep around?) anyway, but Fulci’s excessive gore makes it all the more “Grindhouse-ready”.
Our hero doesn’t help much, since he’s got a colorful way of dealing with people – he calls a fellow officer a “bastard” for no reason, calls his prostitute girlfriend a “dumb bitch”, yells at a coroner... he’s a delight. And he’s pretty useless in the movie, since the killer keeps calling him and yet he is unable to prevent a single murder in the entire movie. Hell, he even questions the killer early on but doesn’t figure it out (nor does he apparently do any digging – wouldn’t the daughter’s existence have been discovered sooner?).
Luckily, the film is peppered with enough little moments to keep it worth watching. There’s a lengthy establishing shot (sequence, really) of 42nd street where we can see movies like Final Exam and The Unseen playing, the first real line of the movie is an old man complaining about his obviously aching balls, and the movie stops cold for an extended scene of one of the would-be victims getting a “toe job” from a thug in the middle of a bar (“Chico has silver toes!”). I also liked that the coroner refers to a women’s privates as her “joy trail”. Nice.
And of course, the one thing anyone remembers from this movie – the killer quacks like a duck during his phone calls and some of the murder scenes. It’s actually explained at the very end, which is a shame - I would have preferred that it was just some random nonsense that got thrown into the movie for reasons only Fulci can explain (as I mentioned on twitter – coherency is boring). I also wish he actually talked like a duck the entire time - since he sounds like Donald, it would be mind-blowing to hear him say his wacky nonsense with a Disney-fied tenor. Oh well.
Ultimately, I’d recommend it more to Giallo fans than Fulci fans. It’s got some of his gore (and a cameo!) but it lacks the hallucinatory batshittedness of his best films (well, of the ones I’ve seen). However, it hits all the marks of a Giallo, albeit not a very good one. Your call.
What say you?