So most biographies have declared, Lucio Fulci hit rock bottom with his very late-in-the-game take on the New-York-as-Hell genre of the Carter-unto-Reagan era, which had basically run its course by the time William Lustig’s fantastically grimy Maniac finished slurping off any remaining slime from the core of the rotten Big Apple, and certainly by the time Zoë Tamerlis served as a pissed-off avenging angel cleaning up the streets of degeneracy (read: men). All Fulci could bring to the table was fumbling brutality and halfhearted nihilism that’s more disturbing for being more reflexive—almost bored—than fully committed a la William Friedkin with Cruising. Whereas all the aforementioned films at the very least coast on an authentic feel for their location (hell, even the otherwise transcendently playful Dressed to Kill nails the crucial details, like Nancy Allen jumping the turnstiles), The New York Ripper reeks of grindhouse tourism. (It would surprise no one to learn that most of the movie was filmed away from the five boroughs.)
Fulci’s New York is a lazily pornographic fantasia of live sex performances where audiences politely applaud from their dry velvet seats and the women blithely walk around barefoot backstage, where crusty old men with fried linguini for eyebrows walk their dogs along the Hudson River banks and groan “Oh, my balls” before their faithful pets fetch them decomposing hands, where a woman who makes mere eye contact with a Puerto Rican has to know it will lead to the whole crew ganging up on her while one of them jams his toe up her snizz (ah, the innocence of those pre-condom days), where psychology professors are young, handsome, always win at computer chess, and discreetly tuck their gay-moustache porn inside their copies of the New York Post, and where serial killers quack like ducks and know how to improvise when both naked snatch and jagged wine bottles share the same room. Sour and pointless, New York Ripper utilizes all the necessary ingredients but fails to summon from them the magisterial dignity one expects from the finer NYC vomitoriums.