Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: New York Ripper (1982)

Am I an enabler? I mean, I’m gay. I’m a feminist. I’m liberal. But I love 70s and 80s slasher movies. And in these movies, we often see malevolent male killers graphically kill … well … mostly ladies...

Were 70s/80s slasher movies part of the backlash against Feminism or were they a comment on the backlash on Feminism? Does the realm of “low art” simply reflect the attitude of the times and does that hold any value or is it simply exploitation?

Usually these questions don’t bother me any more. Since the 90s, slasher movies have become a bit more gender neutral. Sure it’s almost always a male killer, but the victims are pretty evenly distributed. We are less likely to see the boobs of the female victims and more likely to see the ass of the male victim. And most of the final girls in the post-80s movies know how to throw a punch. All of these are welcome developments.

So what, then, to make on the Fulci’s New York Ripper? I mean it has so many things that should give me a movie boner for it...

1) A killer that quacks like a Donald Duck on the phone:

2) Two awesome 70s beards (you're welcome, Jinx):

3) Headphones guy:

4) Green-screen terminal computer guy.

5) Hot Italian men in sweaters and leather jackets:
6) Hot Italian men without sweaters and leather jackets:

7) Lots of fake 80s high tech wizardry including this close-up. can you read the subliminal message? Can you?

All of that plus:
- "Sometimes I wonder how a girl like you with an IQ of 182 can be such a dummy."
- Sleazy sex scenes, like one where a high-society lady gets a foot job from two Puerto Rican strangers in a restaurant.
- Italian horror staples, like weird jazzy disco music at completely inappropriate times and long boring expository scenes.

Yes, the New York Ripper is weird and awful, which are usually a recipe for a mega-win for me in terms of movie finds. And this movie is so ridiculously weird and incredibly awful in every conceivable way that to be offended by it feels like a defeat. I demand my ironic distance! I will not be defeated by the likes of New York Ripper! You will not offend me!

But offended, I was. It reminded me of my feelings towards Showgirls.

I always get lots-o-laughs from the "I ate Doggie chow" scene. I pee a little when I see the "fish-flop" sex scene, the horrible dance numbers, and Elizabeth Berkeley doing whatever Verhoeven asked of her, hoping this piece of shit was going to make her the next Sharon Stone. And then ....

There's that rape scene. The misogynistic fly in the bad movie ointment. It rips away my precious ironic distance and makes me aware of the sleazy minds behind the trash I am mocking. And I hate myself just a little for watching it.

To put it in Showgirls terms, New York Ripper is 95% rape scene and 5% fish-flop sex scene. The lady-hatin' is just way too much. For those in the know, the misogynist piece-de-resitance is the scene of a seemingly passive bound woman getting her eye and breast sliced open. The actress is completely unable to convey her terror and the special effects are laughable. These are good things. You can get through the scene knowing it's all make believe, but then you think to yourself ... WTF Fulci?

And there is more. Like when one of our Beards buys a Blueboy magazine on the street. To a modern mind, it seems like a strange scene. He bought some gay porn. So what? It took me about 20 minutes to realize that, in Fulci’s world, buying gay porn makes you a murder suspect. Not just normal murder, but girl-hating murder. Motive? Because … wait for it … he was jealous of girls having a vageen. Something he wanted oh so bad.

New York Ripper kicks it very old school, but in the homophobic, misogynistic way, not in the fun "the two Coreys" kind of way.

Sure I laughed at the Donald Duck voice, the terrible acting, and the cheesy special effects. Sure, the 80s New York sleaze filtered through a Catholic damaged Italian horror filmmaker is perversely fascinating.

But by the time the credits roll, I felt depressed, trapped in Fulci’s Madonna-Whore complex, and thinking about all of the more enjoyable and rewarding things I could have done with my time … like counting my nose hairs, bedazzling my socks, or rubbing a cheese grater against my face.


  1. Very good post. Am with you 100% re Show Girls. The rape scene is at once wholly disturbing and completely unnecessary and in exposing the mindlessly crass sensationalist nature of those involved in the making of this film, it shows either a distinct lack of awareness or at worst, a dangerous misogyny.

    I think I'll give the New York Ripper a miss... ;)

    Sam x

  2. Brilliant post! Can't believe I missed it earlier. And you know I love those beards. I completely appreciate your take on this. I find this with a lot of films, the elements are all there that I should love, but somehow I wind up hating the the whole or being mortally offended by it. I haven't seen this for a long time, and while I don't recall being utterly appalled by it I don't remember particularly enjoying it either. In light of your post I'd be interested to see how I react to now as an older more self-aware woman. Or maybe I'll just check out some beards. Great stuff, Tim!