Having delved into the early 80s Lucio Fulci scene last year with podcasts on City of the Living Dead, Black Cat, The Beyond, and The House by the Cemetery, casting the Italian auteur as the director whose films I most watched last year, I was eagerly anticipating sitting down to watch his next venture, The New York Ripper.
The afore-mentioned movies had made me a fan of Fulci’s work and as such I had grown to admire his blend of humour and gore.
Originally TNYR was given to Ruggero Deodato to direct before being passed across to Fulci. Deodato would eventually make the movie in his own steam under the title Phantom of Death in 1988.
The tale is set in the big apple, although the interior scenes would still be shot in Fulci’s homeland of Italy. These exterior shots of Americana though would stem away from the style and images that we would have become accustomed to in the work that had elevated Fulci into the limelight.
What we are left with is a stark, and oppressive look at the underbelly of the States, there is no glamour or shine, just straight up nastiness, where women are subjected to misogyny at the hands of the slasher scene.
The police investigation that initially lures us in as Lieutenant Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) is handed a murder case involving the severed hand of model Anne Lyne, is driven with care and precision. We’re hooked by Hedley’s performance of a downbeat cop, worn down by his years of service. This combined with the follow up murder of a young woman on the ferry, shot in typical pov that has become generic for slasher films, also gets us shifting to the edge of our seats, but from here on in, the film starts to come off the hinges, through a convoluted and messy plotline. The narrative becomes jagged and ripped apart, only to be stitched back together in a form that doesn’t quite connect in the right places, leading us to a conclusion and its explanation surrounding the motive, a weak attempt to wrap things up.
There are moments throughout the film that resoundly resonate with Fulci’s macabre mayhem on screen and ordinarily I have clicked with the scenes he has subjected his audience to in his previous films. In this instance, however, it feels like he has overstepped the mark of taste and placed us in an uncomfortable world. This world may suit some lovers of this sub-genre, but without the style, the substance becomes too forced and disconnected.
- Saul Muerte