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Fear City (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

A psychotic killer is targeting strippers in early eighties Manhattan and their talent agents, a troubled ex-boxer in love with one of the strippers and his friends, try to hunt him down.

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

Fear City, an Abel Ferrara journey through the gritty underbelly of New York City, deals with the low lives and outcasts of Manhattan in the early eighties. An exploitation flick that flirts with neo-noir and slasher genres as well, it follows Matt (Tom Berenger) and Nick (Jack Scalia) who run a topless bar/booking agency in competition with Goldstein (Jan Murray). Matt is in love with one of his dancers, ex-girlfriend Loretta (Melanie Griffith), but she has moved on to a relationship with fellow dancer Leila (Rae Dawn Chong). Meanwhile, someone begins killing the women at Matt and Nick’s agency in gruesome ways. Matt begins to suspect rival Goldstein is responsible and when her girlfriend Leila becomes one of the victims, it sends Loretta into a tailspin, slipping back into her problems with drugs.

Fear City is too haphazard to escape its exploitation genre. It first begins with twenty-minutes straight of scenes set in the topless bars with superfluous – though certainly appreciated – nudity. Then we are presented with a killer, obviously unhinged, who is given very little motivation. Some women are killed for what seems no reason. The mood shifts in the film are not well balanced either, between a slasher horror, sexploitation grindhouse, and neo-noir.

What keeps this film clinging together at its weak seems is the highly stylized direction from Ferrara who makes you want to keep your eyes glued to the screen with beautiful set pieces of erotic dance sequences from Melanie Griffith and Rae Dawn Chong or nighttime rides through Times Square.

Amazingly, for this film, the cast is superb, not the sort of cast one would expect for such a genre film. Billy Dee Williams and the aforementioned actors, plus Ola Ray of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” fame all appear and do bang-up jobs in their roles.

Purchase Fear City (Limited Edition) Blu-ray on Amazon UK

  • Melanie Griffith in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Melanie Griffith in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Michael V. Gazzo in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Ola Ray in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Melanie Griffith in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Ola Ray in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Jack Scalia in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Melanie Griffith in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Melanie Griffith in Fear City (1984) -- Screenshot.
  • Melanie Griffith in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Melanie Griffith in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Michael V. Gazzo in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Tom Berenger in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Billy Dee Williams in Fear City (1984). Screenshot 2023-07-14 at 12.12.23
  • Fear City Limited Edition Blu-ray (101 Films)
  • Fear City Limited Edition Blu-ray (101 Films)
  • Fear City Limited Edition Blu-ray (101 Films)
  • Fear City Limited Edition Blu-ray (101 Films)
  • Fear City Limited Edition Blu-ray (101 Films)
  • Fear City Limited Edition Blu-ray (101 Films)

The Video

Fear City is presented on Blu-ray from 101 Films in a 1.78:1 AVC 1080p encodement. This does not look at all like a new restoration in any way and there is no information regarding that. The image does show some source damage in places and the grain layered over the image verges on harshness and noise. That said, the film is still watchable and some of the scenes of early eighties NYC at night look very appealing with the neon signage and adult theater marquees.

The Audio

The original mono mix for Fear City is included in LPCM 2.0. The sound is clear and dialogue is intelligible. The soundtrack has a good low-end and punchy midrange, which helps with the various strip club scenes.

The Supplements

101 includes the uncut version of the film and a very listenable audio commentary from Kevin Lyons who reveals, among other things, that Abel Ferrara’s directorial debut was actual a porn film.

  • Uncut version of Fear City with SD inserts (97 Minutes) — This version is not much different from the theatrical version. It adds a few more scenes that lean into the lesbian relationship in typical exploitation cinema fashion.
  • Commentary with film critic Kevin Lyons
  • Extended trailer (1080p; 00:02:41)
  • Limited edition booklet: Includes essays on the film ‘Seeing Red: A Neo-Noir Guide’ by Rich Johnson and ‘Returning to Fear City’ by Brad Stevens

The Final Assessment

A gritty and visually stunning neo-noir exploitation film from Abel Ferarra that is a precursor of the films to come this director. While this is not close to Ferarra’s best work, it is still one that has a lot to enjoy for genre fans.


Fear City (Limited Edition) is out on Blu-ray in the UK March 4, 2024 from 101 Films

Purchase Fear City (Limited Edition) Blu-ray on Amazon UK


  • Rating Certificate: UK: 18
  • Studios & Distributors: Twentieth Century Fox | Zupnik-Curtis Enterprises | Rebecca Productions | 101 Films
  • Director: Abel Ferrara
  • Written By: Nicholas St. John
  • Run Time: 95 Mins.
  • Street Date: 4 March 2024
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: English SDH
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A psychotic killer is targeting strippers in early eighties Manhattan and their talent agents, a troubled ex-boxer in love with one of the strippers and his friends, try to hunt him down. Fear City (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray Review)