The New York Ripper's "Missing" Scene

Sunday, 8 October 2017

In some copies of The New York Ripper (primarily the old Anchor Bay release as well as the French release) there's an interesting scene near the end of the film in which psychiatrist Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco) is shown standing on a New York street. Davis wears an expression that's almost a smirk which turns to a troubled look before he turns and walks down the street. As Dr Davis turns to walk away, there's a freeze frame lasting roughly 10 seconds before the film cuts to a scene of Peter's daughter crying all alone in her hospital bed. In this version of the film, Davis is the last character we see bar Peter's daughter suggesting there's some significance to the scene's inclusion and Davis' appearance at this point in the film.

However, Davis' costuming is at odds with his outfit in the scene immediately before it and the sequence certainly doesn't play out like a flashback scene. The scene's location is the same as an earlier sequence making it clear that this was filmed at the same time as the aforementioned scene in which Lieutenant Fred Williams and Dr Davies discuss the NY Ripper before Williams gets into a police car and drives off. It's evident that the scene of Davis' with freeze-frame was supposed to have happened at the point Williams drives off leaving Davis standing alone on the street but the reasons for its insertion at the end point in the film is one that has left genre fans baffled.

One could conclude that by inserting the scene at the end of the film, it would cast doubt in the mind of the viewer over the identity of the real culprit. However, the film wraps up its story fairly well and there's no need to cast aspersions over Davis character as the film's story concluded effectively. There would be no real point in including Peter's daughter at the end of the film if Davis was the true culprit. The scene is obviously not supposed to be in this part of the film and I wonder if whoever inserted the scene here did so in order to give the film an ambiguous ending as horror fans love an ending with a bit of a question mark. This is pure speculation on my part but I can't think of another reason as to why the scene would have been muddled up when it's so blatantly in the wrong place in the film's narrative.

The Freeze-frame

It's interesting that the scene was omitted from the film altogether in some releases of The New York Ripper as it alludes to Dr Davis' being involved in the killings. The Another World Entertainment and Blue Underground Blu-Ray releases contains this scene but inserted where it presumably was supposed to be - at the end of the scene in which Williams and Davis discuss the case on a New York street. Examining the scene in its correct place, it does hint at Davis' involvement in the killings and it certainly would help the viewer to draw their own conclusions especially in conjunction with some of Davis' other behaviour i.e. the gay porn magazine scene. To further confuse matters, there's speculation that the freeze-frame was never intended to be in the film and is in fact, a relic of when Italian films were shown in cinemas with a break for intermission - typically a film frame would freeze and fade to black before the lights went up. If you believe this is the reason behind the freeze-frame it makes the supposed red herring of Davis' guilt somewhat irrelevant as his expressions alone would make for a tenuous link to his role as killer. Never the less, it's always fun to speculate on seemingly innocuous scenes. If this scene was never muddled up in the first place I guess genre fans wouldn't have been discussing it so many years after the film's release.

I thought it would also be of interest to discuss another, rather bizarre scene at the film's end which takes place in the back of a police car. The scene is a tight mid shot of Fay Majors in the middle of the back seat of a police car with Dr. Davis and Lt. Williams crammed either side of her. What's always struck me about the scene is the strange behaviour expressed by Lieutenant Williams. His facial expression is one of distain as he glowers at victim, Fay. Williams continuously looks Fay up and down in much the same way one would look at someone they despise/are repulsed by. One could argue that this is down to Hedley's portrayal of a hard boiled New York lieutenant with a jaded attitude to the horrors of his work but in my eyes, the lack of empathy expressed by Williams towards Fay is very telling and feels emblematic of The New York Ripper's themes as whole, demonstrating the lack of compassion felt by its characters. In conjunction with the film's final scenes of Peter's daughter crying out alone followed by a shot of cars driving down a bleak and barren New York road punctuated by skyscrapers in the distance, it gives the film an incredibly nihilistic and bleak film almost comically enhanced by the punchy slap bass driven soundtrack that plays as the credits roll over the scene.

As I've touched upon in my previous piece on the film, Lieutenant Williams is far from your traditional cop. Typically, a character like Williams would be your archetypal hero - saving a victim heroically from the killer in the knick of time however, Williams reluctance earlier on in the film to save the prostitute tells us plenty about his character. I'd describe Williams as someone who is fairly self serving and masquerades somewhat under the veneer of his title as a lieutenant. Yes, Williams wants to catch the killer but does he really care about the killer's victims and saving Fay? Is Williams more concerned with his own ego than that of his victim's wellbeing? It's certainly debatable. Although the New York Ripper doesn't offer the most nuanced look at gender politics, I find it interesting that Williams seems to express such a distain for women. The ending scene with Williams certainly suggests that he feels anything but sympathy for Fay's ordeal which makes for a rather bleak ending. Despite the killer's intentions being revealed as something non sexual altogether, the film exposes the sexual deviancies and questionable behaviour of its characters in such a way that it's hard to feel any great sense of empathy towards any of them and this is perhaps what is most effective about the film - New York is very much a cesspit for the morally corrupt, there is no happy ending to the film.

I'm sure other fans of the film will have their own interpretations of the scene and I'm sure some will say it's Hedley's character's hardened attitude and no indication of ill will towards the character of Fay. Regardless, I certainly think it's a powerful ending and Davis' compassionate attitude towards Fay with comforting gestures certainly makes for a great contrast against Williams despondent behaviour. Let me know your own thoughts about the scene down in the comment box below.

Thanks to Michael MacKenzie for providing me with the scene in question and for sourcing information about the missing scene for me - very much appreciated!

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