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The New York Ripper 4K UHD Blu-ray Review (Blue Underground)

How is this gritty film looking so beautiful?

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4.7

Note: accompanying screenshots are from standard Blu-ray edition. We will update when we can get 4K UHD screenshots.

The New York Ripper may be one of Lucio Fulci’s most infamous films. It’s a gritty giallo, a horror film with a darkness to it that occasionally permeates into slashers but is mostly overridden by ridiculous setups. It has also had multiple accusations of misogyny, a partial symptom of Fulci’s real-world problems that have crept into the context of the movie despite specific examples of the film not siding with its killer. There’s no denying that The New York Ripper is brutal towards the fairer sex, but it also offers a look at the – ahem – seedier side of New York during this era that certainly highlights a larger societal turn towards voyeurism, fetish, and more open sexuality; in doing so, it criticizes what that means for the 42nd Street crowd and, likewise, the film’s viewers too. Clearly we’ve sought out a dirty little film, and we’re meant to be punished too.

Fulci and his writing staff – including Gianfranco Clerici, Vincenzo Mannino, and Dardano Sacchetti – set the stage with an opening vicious murder; the unseen killer, with us in his POV, is a quacking quasi-genius who targets lovely young ladies and prostitutes by ripping them up savagely mostly with sexual violence. He also toys with our aging, inept detective Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) in a cat-and-mouse game that shows how profoundly bad Williams is at his job. Also at play is Fay (Almanta Suska), who narrowly escapes the killer’s knife albeit with a nasty thigh cut. Towards the end, all is revealed in a downbeat ending with a psychological profile of the killer espoused by Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco), who also shows how terrible of a profiler he is.

The New York Ripper is a giallo and, like most, has a fairly long lead-up. While I can’t say it’s particularly boring, the film certainly has a slower pace that might throw off some viewers – especially those looking for the famed grit and violence. The pacing, though, is somewhat required due to the various plotlines happening in the film. Fulci presents Alexandra Delli Colli as a sexy exhibitionist into humiliation and BDSM play as a sort of main character stand-in through much of the film, only to surprise audiences with her brutal demise later on to allow Fay to take center stage. At the same time, Fulci spends quite a few scenes documenting the morality of Detective Williams, who is not only a bad cop but an overall poor person who judges people for their bedroom antics. For the most part, no one looks good here besides perhaps Fay – and that’s entirely the point.

Critics – including our own Basie in a previous Cult Throwback review of the film – have often decried The New York Ripper as a morally inept movie. It has a lot of gratuitous violence against women, making most into an artistic statement in Argento-esque fashion. It seems to shun sex workers and promiscuity, and it has a cringe-inducing statement about gay people when it randomly shows Dr. Davis buying a gay porno mag as though this is meant as some sort of red herring. All of these things are problematic, some more than others, but ultimately Fulci’s finale does not side with his killer. The duck quacking and clearly demented nature of our murderer indicates that Fulci does not want the audience to find any sympathy in what he’s doing, and more so the final tragic shot is a critical indictment of the killer’s motivations – instead of being with his daughter in her final moments, he’s out murdering women in her honor. Sure, The New York Ripper has misogyny – but it’s from the killer’s perspective, with the audience meant to see the error of those ways even in its graphic depiction.

The New York Ripper may be one of Fulci’s best films, a garish display of grimy NYC reality in the ’80s spiced with a memorable killer and some excellent cinematic set pieces. It doesn’t devolve into inanity like some of his others (Manhattan Baby, The House by the Cemetery), and in its own way manages a good psychological profile of its serial slasher. Look past some of the contextual criticisms and you just might find a diamond in all of its roughness.

4K UHD Blu-ray

Previously, we reviewed The New York Ripper with Blue Underground’s Blu-ray featuring a new 4k scan of the original 35mm camera negative, and we found that that was an excellent release with stellar picture quality. Now, Blue Underground has been able to provide the full visual merits of their 4K 16-bit scan presented with Dolby Vision HDR. The results, as expected, are absolutely phenomenal.

The previous Blu-ray already had a great range of color and depth, but everything on this 4K UHD disc is maximized to its full potential. The color presentation is astounding, with excellent teal, magenta, and purple hues making their way to the forefront of the presentation. Even Fay’s eyes in Fulci’s close-up shots show the magnitude of the Dolby Vision HDR – everything is damn impressive.

As stated previously, the previous Blu-ray had excellent detail, but this 4K UHD also cranks that up a notch. You’ll notice more background definition, better resolution of clothing textures like striped shirts; close-ups reveal every pore and hair follicle, all while still retaining the grain field.

While those who don’t currently have the technology to enjoy this 4K UHD should feel satisfied with Blue Underground’s previous release, anyone looking to upgrade should absolutely do so – this is a top notch release.

Like the previous Blu-ray, Blue Underground gives viewers a variety of choices for their audio options. Replacing the 7.1 offering on that is a Dolby Atmos track for this 4K UHD; unfortunately, I have not upgraded to be able to take advantage of this new technology. Also included are a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track and both English and Italian 1.0 DTS-HD MA tracks – all sound good, and ultimately the dubbing is good enough on the English to skip the Italian entirely. Also available are lossy French and Spanish tracks. Subtitles include English for both the English and Italian tracks, French, and Spanish. While it is nice to have Dolby Atmos and 5.1 tracks for this film, it almost seems a bit unnecessary – The New York Ripper doesn’t really take advantage of surround much.

This 4K UHD also includes all of the extras that were previously on the prior Blu-ray, save for the CD soundtrack and essay booklet. There’s a nicely embossed slipcover, and the package comes with two discs – one with the 4K UHD along with a theatrical trailer, and the other with the bulk of the extras and the film on a standard Blu-ray.

On both discs we get the new audio commentary with critic Troy Howarth – on his game as ever. Then, on the standard Blu-ray disc, a number of interviews are featured. Dardano Sacchetti talks about the rewrite process (basically inserting some of his more violent scenes into the already written draft or changing things they couldn’t shoot), and he discusses his turbulent relationship with Fulci. Howard Ross describes his prosthetics and getting turned on in his peep show scenes. Cinzia de Ponti discusses filming in New York, her morgue scene, and more. Zora Kerova has one new interview and also the previous interview from the other Blu-ray release; both are relatively similar and she talks about shooting her live sex scene and its awkwardness. Stephen Thrower gives a critical and contextual overview of Fulci’s film and praises its overall theme. Enzo Sciotti, responsible for original poster artwork and the new art for this release, discusses his past works and how he creates his posters.

Finally, the older feature NYC Locations Then and Now looks at how NYC has changed since The New York Ripper was filmed. A theatrical trailer is also included, as well as poster and still art galleries.

Extra Features

Disc 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray) 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

Verdict

Do yourself a favor and pick this up now if you have the tech.

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