Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers, April 23, 2019. Bill Lustig in attendance.
The old World Trade Center is a staple in many 1970s and 1980s grindhouse classics such as “I Spit on Your Grave”, “Zombie”, “The House on the Edge of the Park”, and “Cannibal Holocaust.” A close viewing of Lucio Fulci’s “The New York Ripper” reveals four distinct scenes in which the Twin Tower are seen.
In the Brooklyn opening scene of the movie the Twin Towers are briefly visible when the camera pans to show Manhattan.
The second time we see the Twin Towers is during the scene where the young woman boards the Staten Island Ferry. What is intriguing about this scene is that the towers cannot only be seen just after the departure of the ferry, but there is also a quick cut to the towers during the murder scene in the car.
The Twin Towers can also be seen in this German New York Ripper lobby card below but, to my knowledge, this shot is not an actual shot from the movie and must be a production photo or unused footage.
The next time we see the World Trade Center is when the NYC police deploys a helicopter to assist in tracking down the location of the murderer’s phone calls.
Not long after this scene, the World Trade Center is visible on several occasions when Lieutenant Williams arrives at the location where the calls were made but….
In Belgium, Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper was released as “De Doder van New York” as evidenced by the cover of the VHS tape below (a promotional poster also exists). Multiple sources state that the movie was released in the Netherlands as “De Slachter van New York” but so far I have not seen any evidence of this online; no videocassette covers, no poster or other promotional materials, and a web search produces only a handful of items that do not reveal any more information.
This short review (or more aptly, a description) of the New York Ripper in the Dutch newspaper Leidsch Dagblad of December 16, 1983 does use the name “De Slachter van New York” but whether the author refers to the title of the Dutch release is ambiguous.
Further complicating matters is this rare, poorly designed, bilingual, poster from Belgium that features “De Ripper van New York” as the title.
The atmospheric opening scene in Lucio Fulci’s nihilistic giallo masterpiece “The New York Ripper” (1982) starts with pan shots of the Manhattan skyline, the East river, and riverside Brooklyn with the urban sounds of traffic and police sirens setting the scene. An old man is walking his dog along the East River near Manhattan Bridge and starts playing fetch.
In 1976 Herbert Lieberman wrote a gritty forensic detective novel named “City of the Dead,” which is set in the same era’s seedy New York City. It is possible that the opening scene in the New York Ripper was inspired by this book. In chapter 10 of “City of the Dead”, Herbert Lieberman writes:
“The guy’s out walkin’ his dog, see? Right along the river. ‘Bout six A.M. The dog’s runnin’ around off the leash, see? And the guy’s just suckin’ up the breeze. Enjoyin’ the sunrise-”
“Skip the poetry, will you, Flynn? Just get on with the details.”
Flynn seems momentarily injured by the Chief’s impatience, but he continues. “Anyway, the guy whistles for Rover. The dog starts runnin’ toward him, see? Tail waggin’. All full of piss and vinegar. Only he’s got a goddamn hand in his mouth.”
“Yeah – a human hand.”
The cover design, ghoulish female face, and font type of the 1977 paperback edition of “City of the Dead” anticipate another horror movie; George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). But unlike George Romero’s zombie movie, Lieberman’s book deals with a grotesque murder and the psychological disintegration of New York’s Chief Medical Examiner of New York. This paperback copy was tracked down in Kuala Lumpur’s “Junk Bookstore” in July, 2015.