Saturday, 20 September 2008

The New York Ripper

Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Gianfranco Clerici and Lucio Fulci
Italy 1982

Not strictly a Video Nasty this one, as it was banned prior to the 1984 Video Recordings Act and doesn't appear on the list. Nevertheless it’s a banned horror movie from the same era: a gory crime thriller in the Italian giallo tradition, with a dubious line in misogyny which somehow manages to stay just the right side of hateful.

The film tracks a Manhattan serial killer, following the movements of his victims and the police before revealing his identity in classic whodunit fashion. The serial killer's shtick is to quack and talk like a duck - actually pretty effective - the reasons for which are hurriedly and confusedly explained at the end of the film.

His victims are women and the murders sexualised, a stripper getting bottled in the vagina being one memorable scene. An extensive sub-plot follows a married woman’s risky sexual escapades and is quite well treated in the context of erotic cinema of the time, her inevitable comeuppance slightly off-key and ambiguous. The film’s best scene is a drawn-out erotic encounter she has in a seedy bar where she battles her lust and propriety at one and the same time, pulled between the two, neither winning.

The location work in “The New York Ripper” made the film for me. Fulci uses the old, grimy New York of the early 1980s to great effect, shooting on the Staten Island Ferry and in rotting tenement blocks; Puerto Rican bars and the mean streets of Lower Manhattan; and best of all, in the live sex shows and grindhouse cinemas of 42nd Street - a fine piece of self-reference that must have made the film a joy to see in those self-same theatres. Like a lot of these old horror films, it left me nostalgic for a time I never knew.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Should psychotics be allowed to watch horror films?

According to the Guardian a dangerous man in psychiatric care built up a collection of horror films while in hospital, and was accompanied to the cinema to watch horror films, before going on to rape a fourteen year-old girl - something that has played a significant part in his trial and upset relatives of the victim.

One does wonder what the hospital’s policy was. That he was also allowed to build up a collection of pornography is perhaps more perplexing. However, in the absence of any evidence that links horror films to actual violence, a hospital policy that refused access to horror films would have its basis in something other than medical science, and could possibly be an infringement of a patient’s rights.

It’s a difficult issue. Should psychiatric hospitals err on the side of caution despite the evidence, or do psychiatric patients have a right to access the same media as the rest of us? Of course, as the man in question had killed before and had a history of violence, his access to horror films may have no relevance at all.