During the global pandemic year of 2020, I availed myself of the opportunity to be “Alone with Vermeer” and see his “Gezicht op Delft” at the Mauritshuis art museum in Den Haag. I prepared myself by reading Brian Howell’s “The Dance of Geometry.“
One consequence of the COVID-19 appointment-only policy of the museum was that there were not many people in the museum.
The scarcity of people wandering the building even permitted me to be completely alone in the room with Vermeer’s “Meisje met de Parel” for an extended period of time.
Researching locations in Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper remains an irresistible draw. Love or hate the movie, Jane’s encounter and humiliation with the well-endowed pool players in the club is hard to erase from one’s memory and has propelled the movie high on the sleaze ladder.
Identifying the location of this club (or pool hall), and the prominently featured subway stop, has been a non-trivial challenge.
The fourth track on Francesco de Masi’s seminal movie soundtrack is named “Puertorico Club” but this hardly constitutes a specific indication where this club might be (provided we can take the title literally).
In his excellent audio commentary for Blue Underground’s 4K restoration of The New York Ripper, Troy Howarth identifies the scene as set in “Spanish Harlem.” This impression might have been intended by the script writers but, to my knowledge, Harlem never had an above-ground subway line like this, unlike some areas in Brooklyn and Queens. The subway station in the movie scene is highly characteristic and, one would think, offers some definitive clues. Unfortunately, the signs on the subway are not featured prominently enough to nail down one specific station. For a considerable period I was reasonably convinced that this subway station was in Astoria, Queens and even visited some, only to come back disappointed. I was confident that a true New York City subway fanatic could solve this riddle and entertained contacting one online.
What finally enabled me to crack the case was a very close study of my set of Dutch lobby cards. As can be seen in the image below, a business name and address in the Bronx can be seen on one of the cards: 869 Longwood Avenue. This street happens to be in the South Bronx near the Prospect Avenue subway stop.
High on anticipation, but not in possession of a Porsche, I took the New York City subway. Upon exiting the Prospect Avenue station it became evident that the area around the subway entry on Westchester Avenue was the location of The New York Ripper’s “Puertorico Club” scene.
There is no club or pool hall at this location today. A close view of the exterior windows in the movie indicates that this scene might have been shot on-site and not in Italy, which is an intriguing premise.
An unexpected surprise of this discovery was that this location was not only the setting for Jane’s club scene, but was also around the corner from the historical Prospect Theater, where Fay was attacked by the killer and to which Fay returns again later in the movie.
The location of the Prospect Theater has also been a subject of speculation and people have suggested addresses ranging from Main Street, Flushing to Brooklyn. The actual location is at 851 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx. This theater has a long and fascinating history and opened on November 12, 1910. It was restored in 2000 and re-named the Olympic Theater for live performances. It was later closed and its interior gutted in 2006 and sadly looks like this today (2019).
Lucio Fulci’s bleak New York City-based 1982 giallo does not have the fan following, of say, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead or the Star Wars series and the number of memorabilia or new merchandise associated with the movie is rather limited.
There are known to be three Western European sets of lobby cards: German, French, and Italian. There are 16 French lobby cards and 6 Italian photobustas. The German set of lobby cards is the most sought-after as this set consists of 24 lobby cards. Owning the most complete set, however, does not make the others redundant because each features images that are not included in the German set. The Italian photobustas also have a different design and show two images on each lobby card.
Unbeknownst to most giallo and Fulci fanatics, there exists a set of 30 (!) Dutch lobby cards. The Dutch lobby cards are authentic and were made available by the now-bankrupt Dutch film distribution company Concorde Film from Den Haag for the release of the movie.
What is interesting about the New York Ripper lobby cards is that many of them show much wider shots or different angles than seen in the movie. Even more intriguing are the lobby cards that feature set photos, or even takes that were not used in the movie, such as Faye walking around the Prospect Theater area, or Jane wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbows while conversing with her husband. The lobby cards also feature subtle clues about New York locations that are hard to infer from watching the movie.