Monday, January 26, 2015

Lo squartatore di New York (1982)

... aka: Blodig voldtaegt (Bloody Rape)
... aka: Manhattan Ripper
... aka: New York Ripper, The
... aka: Psycho Ripper
... aka: Ripper, The

Directed by:
Lucio Fulci

A harmless game of fetch with Bessie the Golden Retriever results in the pooch returning from the weeds underneath the Brooklyn Bridge chomping down on the rotten severed hand of a murder victim. Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) is immediately put on the case and soon discovers that, while the former owner of that hand may be the first, she's certainly not going to be the last victim of a psycho ripper prowling around New York City. Bicyclist Rosie (Cinzia de Ponti) is the next unfortunate to run into trouble. As she's taking a ferry ride across the harbor (and vandalizing someone's car by writing "Shit" on their windshield in lipstick) she becomes trapped inside one of the vehicles with the ripper,' who promptly mutilates her breasts and then disembowels her with a switchblade. Or as the compassionate coroner later tells our investigating officer, "He stuck it up her joy tail and slit her wide open." The coroner connects Rosie's murder to the murder of the first victim, a model named Anne Lynn, and notes that the killer is "a lefty with a yen for slashing up young ladies." At the risk of falling into the trap of being just another boring serial killer, the nut in this one has decided to distinguish himself by imitating Donald Duck. Yes, Donald Duck.

Before you can say Don't Torture a Duckling, Lt. Williams is off at a local university enlisting the aid of psychologist Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco); a self-proclaimed "genius" in his field who, over the course of the next 90 minutes, ends up not really contributing anything worthwhile to the case. A profile is quickly established; the killer is an intelligent, egotistical and voyeuristic male between the ages of 28 and 30 who has lived in New York City his entire life. Well, that certainly narrows it down. Elsewhere, at a porno theater. a live sex show performer (Zora Kerova) is murdered after her act when the psycho "does it to her" by grinding a broken bottle into her crotch. Not just content with his brutal sex slayings, the nut also enjoys taunting Lt. Williams with ducky phone calls ("It happened again! It happened again tonight! Quack quack quack!") delivered to both the police station Fred works at and to the apartment of a young prostitute named Kitty (Daniela Doria) that the good lieutenant frequently, um, "visits."

We soon meet a host of weirdos and kinky oddballs that comprise out list of possible suspects. The first is rich nympho Jane Forrester Lodge (Alexandra Delli Colli), who's first seen making an audio recording at the sex show the same night of the murder. Jane and her husband, Dr. Lodge ("Laurence Welles" / Cosimo Cinieri), have an odd relationship: She brings home cassette tapes of her little 42nd Street sex adventures and he promptly tells her to get lost. Jane gets herself into numerous sticky situations, including letting a Puerto Rican hood masturbate her with his foot in front of a bunch of his friends (!) and letting 8-fingered junkie / gigolo / perv Mickey Scellenda (Howard Ross) tie her up and then beat her black-and-blue during sex. Mickey, who was also in the sex show audience prior to the murder, is something of a sex predator himself. He tries to assault a young woman; Faye (Almanta "Keller" / Suska), on a subway, but she manages to run away, has a run-in with the killer in an alley, gets stabbed in the leg, hallucinates that her boyfriend Peter ("Andrew Painter" / Andrea Occhipinti) kills her in a movie theater and then wakes up in a hospital bed the next day. The police continue to investigate, the majority of the suspects are killed and finally the psycho is revealed in the last few minutes.

New York Ripper, which was basically Fulci's contribution to the early 80s hack-n-slash craze, is one of the director's most notorious titles. It was banned in several countries for years (most notably in the UK) and heavily-censored in others. The major scene that got this film in trouble is a sequence where the killer ties a nude female to her bed and proceeds to slice through her nipple and eyeball with a razor blade in loving close-up. I think it was more the mash-up of sexuality and gore that was deemed 'censor-worthy' as opposed to what is actually shown (the dummy head isn't all that convincing). This sequence also appears to have been trimmed down even in the uncut versions as stills have surfaced showing the victim being even further mutilated than what's actually seen in the movie.

Fulci, Dardano Sacchetti and the other two writers also deserve a slap on the wrist for the way they completely rip-off Brian De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL (1980). While the two films don't seem all that comparable at the outset, the whole 'Jane' subplot - a major part of the movie - came straight from De Palma's film with only the slightest of alterations made in an attempt to cover it up.

New York Ripper:
Jane is a rich, sexually neglected. middle-aged housewife who ends up in bed with a sleazebag she recently met at a sex show during a long sequence with no dialogue, just lots of glances. After they have sex and he's asleep, she receives a shock (hearing the radio broadcast her lover is the suspected killer) and quietly sneaks out trying not to wake up the guy. She walks down the hallway, finds it is a dead end, then - to her horror - has to return to the front door of the apartment a second time. As she goes back to the end of the hallway, a gloved hand suddenly thrusts a knife at her repeatedly as she's stabbed to death.

Dressed to Kill:
Kate (Angie Dickinson) is a rich, sexually neglected, middle-aged housewife who ends up in bed with a sleazebag she recently met at a museum during a long sequence with no dialogue, just a lot of glances. After they have sex and he's asleep, she receives a sudden shock (finding his medical records) and quietly sneaks out trying not to wake up the guy. She walks down the hallway, enters the elevator, then - to her horror -realizes she has to go back to apartment a second time. As the elevator doors open, a gloved hand suddenly swings a razor at her repeatedly as she's slashed to death.

But when you strip away the nudity, gore, sexual violence and sleaze, the film underneath is basically a routine police / crime drama. It's actually quite dull when blood isn't being spilled and it's focusing on the police investigation. Pretty much every single character, from the suspects to our heroes (not only is the main cop banging a hooker but the fine, upstanding college professor is seen tucking the gay porn mag "Blueboy" into his newspaper), is shown in the sleaziest light possible. Some truly terrible dialogue, frequently making light of what's going on, cheapens the film even further. Of course, much of the above will just be added bonuses for those who like their films as unpleasant and trashy as possible. There's some palpably gritty NYC atmosphere in here, too, including lots of great shots of 42nd Street fleapits and Times Square movie marquees showing a lot of what was playing there in 1981, including An American Werewolf in London, Final Exam, The FunhouseRevenge of the Bushido Blade, 60 Second Assassin and others.

Depending on the source you consult, Ripper was either never released theatrically in the U.S. or received a very limited (we're talking just a few screens here) release through 21st Century Film Corporation. Either way, most never saw it until in turned up on video in 1987. While distributor Vidmark trimmed the film slightly to reduce nudity, most of the gore remained intact in this unrated 88-minute version. The version I watched ran a minute longer and, since it includes full frontal nudity and gore galore, I will assume this is the full version, though (the unreliable) IMDb states there's also a 91 minute version, as well.


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