Jul 22, 2023

The Return Of The Triple Ripper

The AGFA Triple Ripper II
Haunted TalesRed Spell Spells Red / Devil Fetus / The Magic BMX
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
The inaugural Triple Ripper last August at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater was one of my favorite nights of the season.  The event was brought back last night with three more oddities from the AGFA vault, all of which were shown from 35mm prints.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

Triple Ripper last year was a triple feature of three obscure action and horror flicks.  The movies this year were equally bizarre and obscure, but the theme of the night was Asian subtitled films from the 1980's.  AGFA also upped the ante by making it a quadruple feature, or at least a triple-and-a-half feature, but I have to talk about the trailers for a bit before we even get to the movies.

The Mahoning always shows original trailers from vintage films before their features, but the ones that are shown during the Triple Ripper are a very different experience.  They're so bizarre that they're worth the price of admission all by themselves.  The ones shown this year included Erotic Nightmare, Sex Beyond The Grave, Dial D For Demons, Return Of The Demon, Bewitched, The Fatal Flying Guillotine, Mission Thunderbolt, and Robotrix.  There were at least ten others that I'm forgetting, but there are a few things that deserve a moment of special attention.

There were several 35mm clips of old commercials that were shown.  One of them was a 7 Up ad that was so aggressively seventies that I had to look it up online just to prove to myself that my popcorn wasn't dusted with a hallucinogen.  Click play above, and try to imagine seeing this pop up on a massive screen at a drive-in theater at midnight on a day when you had to wake up for work at 6:00 am.   

There was also a fun short film from 1985 about a movie theater snack bar.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video, or even a reference to this anywhere online, but I know it was real because I snapped a picture of the screen at the end of the credits.  It was called Snacks, and it was produced, written, and directed by Chuck Martinez and Paul Harris.  There's a logo at the end that suggests that you check out their upcoming film, Nice Girls Don't Explode.  It's about a young woman who suffers from spontaneous combustion when she gets turned on, and according to Box Office Mojo, it grossed $65 thousand dollars worldwide when it was released to theaters in 1987.  I haven't heard of it before last night, but I've got to see this.  It's available to stream for free on Tubi, so I'm definitely going to have to check it out.

I was hoping that they'd show the same remixed Jaws 2 trailer that played during last year's Triple Ripper.  They did, and I'm very glad because I have no words to describe it.  You're just going to have to see it for yourself.  Apparently, a rogue projectionist got their hands on a Jaws 2 trailer at some point and they spliced and edited it to create a bizarre, one-of-a-kind piece of film.  Enjoy.

Speaking of Jaws, the last trailer I want to talk about was for an adult film from 1976 called Gums, which was apparently a parody that was released just one year after the Spielberg classic.  I'm not going to link to it on here, but you can find it for free pretty easily on Google.  I didn't watch any of them and I can't vouch for their security, so stream at your own risk.  I didn't even know that adult films had trailers, but I've got to admit that this one was pretty damn funny.  The trailer was mostly a guy standing outside of a theater interviewing people on the street who had seen the film, including King Kong, with a few clips from the movie in between each person who talked about it.

The first film to hit the screen was one half of the Shaw Brothers 1980 movie Haunted Tales.  The movie that this story was taken from is described as an anthology film, so I was expecting a relatively short story like the segments in Creepshow or Twilight Zone: The Movie, however that isn't the case.  It'd be more accurate to call Haunted Tales a double feature of short films because it's made up of two separate, unnamed stories.  The first of these two stories was screened for us, and its 55 minute runtime made it only about a half hour shorter than the shortest full-length feature of the night.

The story that we saw was about a newlywed couple who were moving in to their new home which felt like it was a blend of modern art, futuristic, alien and 70's style.  It reminded me a bit of some of the interior shots that you see in A Clockwork Orange.  The wife begins to notice strange things going on, including neighbors who seem to behave as though it's daytime at night (and vice versa), and ghostly children.  These strange occurrences continue to ramp up until it becomes undeniable that her world isn't what it seems.

It's pretty good, but it's a difficult movie to describe.  You can watch the entire movie on YouTube, and if you enjoy horror mysteries and aren't turned off by subtitles, I'd recommend it (though I can't vouch for the second story which I have not seen yet).

This first full movie of Triple Ripper II was a 1983 film from Hong Kong called Red Spell Spells Red.  The version of the film we got to see was edited to remove the scenes that include cruelty to animals.  I wouldn't have bought a ticket to this event at all if this wasn't the case, which is why I didn't go to see the Mahoning screening of Cannibal Holocaust or Make Them Die Slowly earlier this year.  I'm sorry, if you can't tell your story without hurting animals, you're not an artist or a filmmaker.  You're a hack, and even that is giving them far more credit than they deserve.

Red Spell Spells Red is the story of a documentary filmmaker named Steven and his girlfriend and show hostess, Stella, who travel to Malaysia to sneak into the crypt of the evil Red Dwarf Sorcerer and shoot footage of his remains.  Steven returns home afterward, but he sends Stella and the rest of the crew to Borneo to shoot footage of a longhouse tribe, and this is where chaos ensues.  It turns out that the film crew unleashed the spirit of the evil sorcerer when they broke into his crypt, which leads to the members of the crew dying in horrific ways one by one as the spirit of the sorcerer attempt to reincarnate on earth as the devil.  Additionally, by an astonishing coincidence, Stella just so happens to be the victim of a scorpion curse that was placed on her family by the sorcerer of the tribe in Borneo with whom she and the film crew are staying.

I'm not gonna lie, this really isn't my cup of tea.  I didn't absolutely hate it or anything because there are are some interesting plot devices used here, but I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it either.  The overall story is all over the place, and seems to exist only as a loose framework to hold together scenes that are mostly just shock for the sake of shock.  These kind of movies can sometimes be amusing for the sheer absurdity of it, but it fell flat for me.  It had such a Vince Russo feel to it that I half expected to see two of the characters break out into a fight over an object suspended from a pole over their heads.

The second full-length feature was another 1983 film from Hong Kong called Devil Fetus, but that is where the similarities to Red Spell Spells Red end.

Devil Fetus is an absolute banger from start to finish!  It starts off with a woman named Suk Jing whose husband has been away in Japan.  She overbid to purchase a jade vase at an antiques auction after she saw a little green demon clinging from its side.  She soon discovers that when she lays in bed with the vase on her belly, the little green demon becomes a very large green demon who has his way with her.  Unfortunately for everyone involved, her husband returns home and discovers her in bed with the green demon.  By the time he rushed into the room, the demon turned back into a vase... or maybe it was both at the same time... I'm not sure.  In either case, the husband smashed the green vase in a fit of anger.  The demon then infected his body, which caused his face to melt off and led to him jumping out of a window to his death.  Suk Jing is called by spirits to her death soon afterward, but it is clear that she has been impregnated by the demon.

The story gets a little confusing from here, but jist of it is that the couple have become floating ghosts because they died before their time.  They will commit evil acts for the next twelve years until they are able to reincarnate, but they can be kept under control by a charm that is placed on their memorial tablet.  As long as the charm is not moved for twelve years, this time will pass without incident and the couple will be free to move on to their next lives.  Well, it wouldn't be much of a movie if that happened, so after a number of years in which time Suk Jing's young nephews have grown up to become young men, the charm is accidentally moved, the demon possesses the body of the youngest nephew, and chaos ensues.

This film was absolutely wild and worth the price of admission by itself.  I wasn't able to find it on any streaming platforms, but you definitely should check it out if you're able to find it somewhere.

The night closed out with an extremely rare 35mm screening of a 1983 Taiwanese family film called The Magic BMX.  It was billed as an E.T. knockoff because it involves a young boy with a bicycle who meets a space alien, but the similarities between the two films end there.

The movie follows the life of a young boy whose name I have forgotten, so I'll be referring to him as "young boy".  His parents love him, but they're a bit overbearing and force him into hobbies that he has little to no interest in.  He wants to race on his bike, but he's not very good at it.  Luckily for him, he discovers an alien from other space who looks, and behaves, like a toddler with super powers.  The alien, who the young boy calls "Magic Brother", helps him to join a team of bike-racing children, but this alien is also very mischievous and gets him into trouble.  Unfortunately, this toddler space alien is also invincible to everyone except for the young boy, so most of the trouble is blamed on him.  The story that plays out pretty much like this:

Note the E.T. poster on the wall in the first screenshot.

The young boy's "Magic Brother" is eventually called back to the spaceship by his parents, and after a very long and drawn out farewell scene, the young boy is left alone to decide whether or not he is able to participate in the big race without the help of the alien.  Ultimately, he does decide to race, and he ends up being the hero who leads his team to victory.

The Magic BMX reminded me of the kind of made-for-tv films that were shown as afterschool specials in the 70's and 80's.  It was a stark contrast from the other films shown at Triple Ripper II, and a decent palate cleanser after the debauchery of Red Spell Spells Red and Devil Fetus.

And that's a wrap on Triple Ripper II.  If I'm being totally honest, I enjoyed the first Triple Ripper from 2022 a lot more, but that doesn't mean that I didn't have a good time at this year's edition.  I hope that it comes back next year, but I'm also hoping that the lineup in 2024 is a little closer to what it was in 2022.