Aug 28, 2022

Eight Movies In Three Days

Patreon Screening: August 2022
ActionFest Night OneThe Warriors / Hard Times / The Driver
ActionFest Night TwoCommando / Ninja III: The Domination / Kickboxer
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA

Over the past three nights, we got to see a total of eight movies that were made across a span of four decades at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.    The first two movies were a double feature that was shown on Thursday night at the screening for Patreon members.  The only thing I'm going to say about these films is that one was from the 1950's, the other was from the 1960's, and we enjoyed them both.  I promise that I'm not trying to be a jerk about it, but the folks who run this place bend over backwards to give incredible experiences, so the least I can do is honor their wishes that the titles of their secret features remain a secret.  However, I definitely want to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible dessert that Val made for us.

The Karloff Krumble was a hot dessert made from peaches, pistachios, ginger and cardamom which was served hot and topped with whipped cream, and it was outstanding!  Even when I do go back on my diet, I'm going to have to make an exception for Val's desserts at the Patreon screenings.

Thursday night's double feature also marked the end of the road for my trusty drive-in chair.  I had been hoping that it would hold together until the end of the season and had patched it up with a few cheap fixes to keep it functional over the past month, but one of the metal rods snapped during the second movie and that was all she wrote.  I've got a new chair on order, but until it arrives, my nights at the Mahoning will be spent on a big beanbag chair and a pile of blankets.

Friday was the start of Action Fest, which is something that I really hope becomes an annual event at the Mahoning.  It seemed to sell pretty well, but I can't say for sure because I didn't do a whole lot of walking around or socializing at this event.  I woke up on Friday morning with what I think is a head cold, but you can never be too sure these days, so I thought it best to stay by the car and keep my distance from other people.

The first night of ActionFest at the Mahoning is a triple feature of the first three films to have been written and directed by Walter Hill.  The night began with his third film, The Warriors (1979), which went on to become a cult classic and is one of my favorite movies of all time.  This was followed by Hill's directorial debut, Hard Times (1975) and his second film, The Driver (1978).

There were two cast members from The Warriors on the lot to meet fans, sign autographs and take photos: David Harris, who played Cochise, and Terry Michos, who played Vermin.  I didn't have a chance to meet them (just in case this is something other than a head cold), but they gave an awesome introduction to their movie and it's pretty awesome to be able to watch The Warriors along with two of the actual Warriors on the lot.

There's something special about The Warriors that I have a hard time describing.  It gives me the same feelings that I get from a post-apocalyptic story, like Children Of Men.  I've found myself imagining that it takes place in New York City in the early days of the infertility crisis from that movie.  The timelines don't match up (The Warriors is set in the late 70's and the last recorded birth in Children Of Men was in 2009), but both movies give me the same feeling that everyone in the story knows that they're standing on the brink of a complete collapse, and although they haven't given up trying to carve out a piece of happiness, they know that their lives probably aren't going to have a happy ending.

This was my first time seeing Hard Times, and it absolutely blew me away.  The story takes place during the Great Depression and stars Charles Bronson as a middle-aged man named Chaney who finds that he can make money in street fights that are organized by gamblers.  He hooks up with a shady two-bit hustler named Speed, brilliantly played by James Coburn, who acts as Cheney's manager and sets up opportunities for him to fight.

This movie is right up there with The Night Of The Hunter and Blow Out as one of my favorite movies that I saw for the first time at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  It's not a complicated story and there's no big plot twist or deeper meaning that I'm aware of, but it tells its story in a way that draws you into this world.  I highly recommend it.

The last movie of a triple feature on a Friday night at the Mahoning can be a challenge.  I woke up at 5:30 am for work on Friday, and I only had about five hours sleep after coming home from Thursday night's Patreon screening.  The start time for The Driver was just a couple of minutes before 1:00 am, so I had been awake for 19 and a half hours when this movie began.  On top of that, I'm not feeling well, so it's a miracle that I managed to stay awake throughout the entire film.

I've gotten better at adapting my sleep schedule on the weekends to the Mahoning, but there are still occasions that I'll drift off to sleep.  If it was a cold or rainy night and we had to stay in the car, I probably would have dozed off, but I had enough caffeine in my system to carry me over to catch my second wind.  However, I can't pretend that I'm as attentive for the third feature as I am for the first, and that's what happened here.  I'm going to have to give this one a second watch because I enjoyed The Driver and I definitely want to experience everything that this movie has to offer, but I know that my neurons weren't firing well enough to properly follow the plot.  I can tell you that it's about a getaway driver and a shady police detective who is trying to set up a sting operation to capture him, and it has some incredible chase scenes, but I'm going to have to see it again before I'll be able to say too much more than that.

Night Two of ActionFest wasn't as challenging to get through.  For one thing, I don't work on Saturday, so I was able to sleep in and get a full 8 hours, though I think it ended up being closer to 10 hours.  I took some NyQuil when we got home from Night One and it did a pretty good job of knocking me out.  We managed to get almost the exact same spot in the front row that we had on Friday night, so I set up my blankets and beanbag chair up against the front of the car.  I was still feeling pretty crappy from whatever illness this is, so I stayed at the car to keep from getting anyone else sick, but I had plenty of beverages and snacks on hand to keep me nourished, hydrated and caffeinated throughout the night.  

The first movie of Night Two was the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster, Commando.  When we got tickets for this triple feature, I thought that I hadn't seen this movie before, but I realized about 15 minutes into it that I have.  I didn't remember what happened, but as things played out in the movie, it began to unlock the filing cabinet of memories that's been pushed to the back of my brain and I found myself thinking "oh yeah, I remember that!".

If I had to guess, I'd say that I probably saw this movie for the first time when I was living on First Street in Hazleton in 1988.  My mother and I spent a lot of time at our next door neighbor's house, and they pretty much always had a movie playing when we were there.  This would have been three years after Commando was in theaters, so the timing is right to when this would have been available to rent at the Pantry Quik that was behind our house.

Commando is the very epitome of an 80's action flick, and it's a hell of a lot of fun.  Seriously, if you can watch Arnold Schwarzenegger tear through a bunch of bad guys while dropping one-liners on the way to rescuing his daughter and not find yourself smiling from ear to ear the entire time, I can only suggest that you find a way to let off some steam. 😉

As always, they showed vintage trailers before each movie throughout both nights of ActionFest.  The only time that didn't happen was before the second movie of Night Two because they showed an original 35mm print of the 1948 cartoon: Popeye Meets Hercules.  I am always very happy to see these classic cartoons in between the features at the Mahoning.  This might have been the first time I've been to a screening that included a Popeye cartoon, but I hope it won't be the last.  If they ever surprise us with Popeye Meets Sinbad The Sailor, I'm going to cheer so damn loud that they're going to be able to hear me out at sea!

The second movie of Night Two was the 1984 Cannon Films cult classic, Ninja III: The Domination.  Words simply aren't going to be able to do justice to this bizarre plot, but I'll try.  It begins with a ninja going on a murderous rampage at a golf course before he is finally gunned down by the police.  Because "only a ninja can kill a ninja" he survives by possessing the body of a young woman who works as a telephone repair person by day and an aerobics instructor by night who just so happens to begin dating one of the officers who shot at the ninja at the start of the film.  As strange as that sounds, it doesn't even come close to painting the full picture.

It's important to note that this isn't one of those of those schlocky movies that are weird for the sake of being weird.  There is a sincere effort that was written, filmed and acted by people who give a damn about what they're doing.  It's a movie you just have to see for yourself, and I strongly recommend that you do.

The final movie of ActionFest was the 1989 Jean Claude Van Damme martial arts classic, Kickboxer.  It's a movie I've heard of for years but never got around to seeing.  In the days leading up to this, Mark Nelson and Austin Trunick spoke about it on the Mahoning Drive-In Podcast and my takeaway from their discussion was that the folks who love Bloodsport will love Kickboxer.  That was all I needed to know to get me hyped up for this.  Bloodsport has been one of my favorite martial arts films since I was a kid, and I was super excited to get to see it at the drive-in last summer.

I can definitely understand the comparison, but Kickboxer makes Bloodsport look like a family movie.  It's much darker than I expected it to be, but it's a hell of a good flick.  I understand that it's spawned a number of sequels, including a reboot series that features pro wrestler Dave Bautista, so I'll have to check them out.

There's an unofficial third night of ActionFest that's taking place at the Mahoning tonight with The Colossal Cannon Films Trailer Show.  They'll be screening nothing but trailers from the Cannon Films library for over two hours.  I went to a screening like this last year called Trailer Trauma II and it was a lot of fun.  It's tempting, but I'm not going to be worth a damn at work tomorrow if I don't get some rest.  Next week is Camp Blood.  I can't wait!