Cult Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci revisits the giallo genre in his scuzzy 1982 film The New York Ripper. World-weary detective Williams (Jack Hedley) and psychoanalyst Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Marco) investigate a series of vicious murders committed by a maniacal slasher who speaks like a duck. A relentless descent into NYC sleaze, The New York Ripper starts as it means to go on. In a brief precredit sequence, a dog runs out of the bushes carrying a severed and decaying hand. Fulci, the wag, freeze frames on a close-up of the pooch carrying his mouldering treat and runs his titles over the image.

The plot is fairly straightforward, bordering on the banal. Scenes of Lt. Williams following leads alternate with moments of city sleaze punctuated with gory slaughter. The movie shows little of the sporadic style and imagination that Fulci brought to previous efforts like Zombie (1979). However, The New York Ripper is not without its interesting elements. The dialogue scenes between Williams and Davis as they track the maniac are lively and, surprisingly, don’t feel like filler, in spite of the fact that the Williams character is a duplicitous, abrasive jerk. Hypocrisy and/or secret lives is an evident thread. Williams evinces a somewhat puritanical strain, yet has regular sex with a prostitute. In one scene Dr. Davis is seen buying a gay porno magazine with his newspaper. Married couple Jane Forrester Lodge (Alexandra Delli Colli) and Dr. Lodge (Cosimo Cinieri) have an arrangement whereby the doctor allows Jane to go out on sexual adventures in return for which she records audio of the encounters for him to listen to. Even the killer, when revealed, has a two-sided nature, which in the great tradition of these types of films is given a ludicrous token psychobabble explanation at the climax of the story.

The look in Peter Bunch’s eyes in not the look of love.

Fulci positively wallows in baseness, merrily stomping around in it like a fly across a cowpat. NYC is portrayed as a cesspool of moral corruption, sexual exploitation, and dirty secrets. The slaughter scenes are some of the most unpleasant murders ever shot with all the female victims of the ripper dying in painfully sadistic ways. One of the nastiest is a broken bottle ground into a woman’s crotch. Probably the most over-the-top moment is a shot looking out from the slash of a butchered throat. What has troubled many viewers about the movie (and in particular the British censors, who lambasted it) is that the female victims appear to be punished sadistically for their sexuality. Unlike many slasher films, where at least the Final Girl fights back, the women in The New York Ripper seemingly exist to be passively assaulted and/or horribly slaughtered. “Your wife was free to live, and free to die,” says Williams to Dr. Lodge after his spouse has been filleted by the Ripper’s knife. It’s an utterly hypocritical and appallingly insensitive line. When a film is this sadistic and unsympathetic towards the majority of its female cast, it’s a bit of an uphill struggle to defend it against charges of misogyny.

However, on the other side of the ledger are some sharply-drawn moments of humanism. One is the sequence with Jane escaping from imprisonment and potential murder. The film clearly sympathizes with her plight, helped by Alexandra Delli Colli’s vulnerable performance, and generates considerable suspense as we root for her as she tries to flee from danger. The story’s heroine, Fay Majors (Almanta Suska), arrives comparatively late in the game at about a third of the way through. She’s a survivor of one of the Ripper’s attacks, and is menaced again after she recovers from her injuries in a hospital. Though the role of Fay is so slightly written that it threatens to float away from the screen, Suska nevertheless somehow manages to make her the most likeable character (an admittedly low bar to clear).

Fulci again uses the widescreen frame to full effect and frequently applies great depth in a shot, moving from foreground to background elements and back. There is also a notable use of city locations, showing the grimy, grindhouse side of New York. The photography by Luigi Kuveiller is beautifully done, with many of the shots vividly lit with lucid primary colour. It’s a nasty piece of business, but The New York Ripper has an undoubted visual flourish.

Though the film is as grimy as a dead rat dragged backwards through a cesspit, the 4K transfer on Blue Underground’s disc is one of the most cinematically alive and gorgeous transfers I’ve seen. The colours are deep and vibrant, the picture richly detailed with a warmly organic texture. It’s as gorgeous as the movie is gritty. I can’t imagine that the 35mm prints that played in theatres on the films original release looked as good as this disc.

There’s one audio commentary, by Troy Howarth, who wrote a book on Fulci and his films. As with Howarth’s track for Blue Underground’s House by the Cemetery, it’s an energetic and richly informative commentary.

There are eight featurettes on various aspects of the production, including interviews with the co-writer, four of the actors, and even the poster artist. The longest of the interviews is a half hour talk with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti. In addition to New York Ripper, Sacchetti covers several of the films he wrote for Fulci, including Manhattan Baby. The wide-ranging scope of the interview makes it a must watch.

The complete list of special features:

Disc 1 (4K UHD) Feature Film + Extras —

• Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
• Theatrical Trailer

Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras —

• Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films

The Art Of Killing – Interview with Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti

Three Fingers Of Violence – Interview with Star Howard Ross

The Second Victim – Interview with Co-Star Cinzia de Ponti

The Broken Bottle Murder – Interview with Co-Star Zora Kerova

• “I’m an Actress!” – 2009 Interview with Co-Star Zora Kerova

The Beauty Killer – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci

Paint Me Blood Red – Interview with Poster Artist Enzo Sciotti

• NYC Locations Then and Now

• Theatrical Trailer

• Poster & Still Gallery