Abel Ferrara: King of New York

Abel Ferrara is a director who divides opinions. First breaking into film direction with  pseudonymous pornographic films he then made the notorious video nasty The Driller Killer, followed by the well-received Ms .45, starring one of his regular collaborators, the late Zoë Tamerlis/Lund.

Ferrara has continued to work largely outside the mainstream, benefiting from a talented screenwriting partner in Nicholas St John, along with his knack for attracting toptalent for his films. With this mini-season we celebrate the films of this King of New York.

The Driller Killer

Abel Ferrara | US | 1979 | 96 minutes

Described by critic Kim Newman as the only video nasty to qualify as art, Ferrara’s official debut, in which he also plays the lead role, was a victim of the UK advertising campaign used by distributors Vipco. By choosing one of the goriest images from the film for their box cover and hyping it up they were able to make a short-term profit, only to suffer in the longer term when the film, like a number of others they distributed, were outlawed.

Ms. 45 AKA Angel of Vengeance

Abel Ferrara | US | 1981 | 91 minutes

A mute young woman, Thana (Zoe Lund) is raped twice in one day. Managing to kill her second assailant she takes his .45 pistol and starts stalking the streets looking for male chauvinists to kill. Needless to say there are an ample supply of them in New York city.

King of New York

Abel Ferrara | US | 1990 | 103 minutes

Ferrara’s characteristically idiosyncratic take on the gangster film benefits from a strong cast, headed by Christopher Walken as the titular gang boss, but also featuring early roles for Wesley Snipes, Larry Fishburne, and David Caruso, and a nice line in moral ambiguity with Walken’s character intent on becoming a Robin Hood type figure and the cops not being adverse to resorting to the same underhand methods as the gangsters.

Bad Lieutenant

Abel Ferrara | US | 1992 | 96 minutes

Harvey Keitel delivers a fearless performance as the titular cop, on drugs and in debt, who is offered the possibility of salvation when a nun (played by Lund/Tamerlis) is raped.

Body Snatchers

Abel Ferrara | US | 1993 | 87 minutes

This third adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel locates the alien invasion on a US army base, where the military mindset makes it more difficult to tell who is a pod person and who is not.

The Funeral

Abel Ferrara | US | 1996 | 96 minutes

In 1930s New York three brothers from a powerful crime family find themselves caught in the middle between capital and labour, with lethal results. The impressive ensemble cast includes Sciorra, Walken, Chris Penn, Vincent Gallo, and Benecio Del Toro.