Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Jack Hedley, Almant Suska
It’s kind of shocking that outside the diehard genre fandom that The New York Ripper isn’t recognized as one of the most disturbing films of all time, because it is. Now, the packaging for the new 4k release from Blue Underground, and most other previous marketing for the film does in fact declare it to be “the most controversial horror film ever made” but unlike Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes the mainstream doesn’t know The New York Ripper. The director’s film Zombie is a much more known entity to the world at large.
The New York Ripper, made in 1982, does a lot of thing all at once, and that can be difficult for many people to stomach. On the surface the film is a standard serial killer procedural: a killer is roaming around NYC killing beautiful women and a job hardened detective is on the case. What the film does differently is it brings a sense of levity to the proceedings that actually makes the film all the more disturbing. While watching the film you find yourself asking, “should I be laughing or smirking at this”? How can something with moments of humor also feature such extreme gore and incredibly overt sexuality? Few films are able to bring these elements together in an effective way. Typically, when I see this kind of mash up I cringe. Last House on the Left is one of my all-time favorite horror films but when the kazoo and bumbling cops kick in I do have to roll my eyes because those scenes are so tonally out of place with the rest of the film. The “humor” in the New York Ripper is placed a bit more evenly and is a part of the overall story.
Along with the humor an excessive violence the sexuality in the film is played to the hilt, so much so that it doesn’t feel titillating. The film looks back at its grindhouse roots while looking forward at more complex storytelling and sending up the gialllo subgenre. The New York Ripper is stylized, complex in tone, and absolutely disturbing. The film lives up to the hype and isn’t for your pedestrian horror fan. So maybe the fact that the film isn’t so well known is a good thing.
Blue Underground has proven to be one of the best studios out there at crafting premium 4k transfers. The love they have for these films is apparent in the quality of the presentation. The New York Ripper already had a great blu-ray transfer. This new 4k version clicks everything up a notch with greater detail and more dynamic color. This is a giallo style film so you have to expect push ins on faces and when this happens the skin tone and detail is beautiful. Props, set designs and wardrobe display incredible detail in textures, grime, and gore. This is a dark film and for the most part the blacks are inky with detail enough remaining to follow the killer into the shadows. Grain structure, since the source material is an actual film print, is solid and not overbearing, offering that real cinematic feeling to the film. If you have the previous release the upgrade in detail levels is noticeable but the upgrade really shines in a much more dynamic color grade. This presentation is right up there with the stellar presentation for Fulci’s Zombie.
So as is typical of Blue Underground’s premium releases there are a bevy of audio options here from original mono mixes to standard 5.1 and most notably a new atmos mix. All of the mixes are strong but if you have the gear the atmos mix is the way to go. The movie is strongly placed in the center and front left and right channels with all of the other speakers subtly working to immerse you in the world of the film. Movement across the soundstage is organic and purposeful and never feels gimmicky. It all works with the beautiful image to take us to the world of the killer. I’d have loved a little more subwoofer love but that’s a pretty minor complaint, especially for a film that’s almost 40 years old.
The Packaging, Bonus Features, & Collectability
The two-disc set features a blu-ray with the 2019 special edition of the film and all of the previous extras that were included with that release. Sadly, there are no new extras for this release but it would be hard to think of what else to add to everything that Blue Underground has already crafted for the previous iterations.
There’s a fascinating commentary covering the film, the shooting locations, and offering an overview of the director’s career. There are a plethora of cast and crew interviews from main cast and some victims. There’s a location tour that was shot for the 2009 release and a still and poster gallery. All together you will have around four hours of extras to dig into.
The packaging here is standard 4k stuff with a matte slipcover and black amaray case. The art on the slip and the case is sadly the same with no reversible option. Reversible art would have really helped make the film feel a bit more premium. The art we get is great though and it’s a play off the original art we have always seen from Blue Underground. We do get disc art on both discs. This isn’t a limited edition, but it is a must have for fans of Fulci, fans of 80’s horror, and fans of Italian giallo. The video quality, audio quality, and extensive bonus features truly make this release a library must.
The New York Ripper is one of Fulci’s top three films. This is the best the film has ever looked and sounded. Need I say more?