Thursday, 15 January 2009

The New York Ripper (1982)

My bedroom during high school.

I don't know what Fulci has against ducks. If it were geese I can understand, they are evil waterfowl straight from Satan's lake of fire, but what could you possibly have against ducks? So far Fulci has made two duck-themed giallos, which is probably two more than any other director. The first is Don't Torture a Duckling (1972), where a Donald Duck doll figures into the identity of the killer (the film is also known under the totally awesome title Don't Torture Donald Duck). The New York Ripper was made ten years later, and here the killer likes to ring up his victims and taunt them using quacking noises.

The film starts as pretty much every murder-mystery starts. Some overly-enthusiastic guy throws a stick for his dog, but the stupid pooch returns with a severed appendage instead. We know it's a Fulci film, though, because the credits sequence is shown over a freeze-framed close-up of the grody rotten hand, complete with happy music.

Put in charge of the investigation is Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley), an old guy in a Columbo trenchcoat. When he's not on the clock he spends his time (and money) with a prostitute named Kitty (Daniela Dora from City of the Living Dead). He's a big spender too... from the looks of things he's paying for the full night. Meanwhile the body count starts to rack up. A clumsy cyclist in tiny red shorts in takes a trip on a ferry, but the killer catches her defacing some asshole's windshield with her lipstick (she got as far as "SHIT") and graphically guts her while making quacking noises.

Williams hooks up with an arrogant psychology professor named Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco from House by the Cemetery) who seems to spend all his time playing with a computerized chess board, which was probably totally boss back in 1982. He's not particularly helpful, he just spouts the standard psychobabble that we all knew anyway, but one point he picks up a male nudie mag from a newsstand (Blueboy, if you're interested, though he did consider Honcho, both for research purposes, no doubt), which in a giallo is a surefire sign that he's a crazed deviant, but nothing ever comes of it.

Meanwhile we are introduced to a few characters, one of whom may or may not be the killer. There's a Greek gigolo named Mickey with three fingers on one hand, who decides to take in a live sex show. You'd think he'd have seen enough of that kind of thing with his day job, but the marquee lists the show as "SEXtacular", "SEXsational" and "SEXciting", which is pretty impressive. Also in the audience is a hot woman in a hat and trenchcoat, who whips out a tape recorder and starts fondling it while masturbating, just like I do when I watch Steven Seagal films. She is Jane Forrester Lodge (Alexandra Delli Colli, last seen naked and painted with pretty flowers in Zombie Holocaust) a rich married woman with a penchant for freaky sex. Anyway, when the sex performer goes backstage after the show, she gets a broken bottle to the genitals by our quacking killer.

Later a young woman named Fay Majors has an encounter with the Greek dude on the subway, but when she escapes onto the street she is attacked by the duck-obsessed killer. Luckily she escapes with only a leg injury, but while unconscious she had a dream that it was her boyfriend Peter that attacked her, so maybe he is the killer. Or maybe he isn't. Or maybe he is. Apparently she an Olympic hopeful, but they don't say what event. Hopefully it's not track and field, because she put in a pretty poor effort running from the killer.

Typical of the genre, all of these different characters manage to interact with each other in various extremely coincidental and convenient ways considering they are in a city of 7 million people. Mrs. Lodge has a sexual encounter with Mickey which ends with her getting knifed in the hallway. Mickey breaks into Fay's house while she's recuperating from her injury but she's rescued by Peter before he can finish the job. Eventually the cast is whittled down to a small enough size that Lt. Williams can make a pretty good (but wrong) guess. They bust into the supposed killer's abandoned apartment, which is filled with nudie mags (and large framed photos of himself naked), so I guess the professor was onto something.

Although all the murders are graphic and bloody, the most graphic one is when the killer fools the cops with a walkie-talkie and a pay phone and slices up Kitty the prostitute with a razor blade. There's a closeup of him slicing up her nipple and eyeball. It's a Fulci film, they've got to put some ocular trauma in there somewhere. I think it's in his contract.

You might have noticed that there's a lot of nudity and sleazy sex in this film. Hell, at one point Mrs Lodge goes to a dive bar frequented by hoods in frighteningly tight pants and gets masturbated under the table by some dude's smelly feet (gross!). Weirdly, all this sex doesn't tie into the plot or the killer's motive at all. The motive is pretty boring actually, and yeah, it involves a toy duck this time as well. Typically in giallos there's some sort of psycho-sexual aspect to the killings, but here there's no thematic elements to tie it to. Why, you might even say Fulci was being a little gratuitous (heavens, no!).

This movie was banned in quite a few places upon it's release. It's not any more gory than his horror films (probably less actually), but it's not dreamy and fantastic, it's got a gritty, realistic edge to it. I guess you could compare it to Maniac. Like that film, there's some pretty sweet shots of 42nd street and I had fun spotting all the films on the cinema marquees. Other than that it's bad acting, bad dubbing, bad dialog, but's it a pretty good showcase for gory setpieces. If you only have to see one Donald Duck related slasher this year, see Don't Torture a Duckling, but if you want to see two then this one should fit the bill. Get it, duck, bill? Ah, forget it.

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