SITA: Bobby DeMarchi, Ripper and How It Used To Be

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

SITA: Bobby DeMarchi, Ripper and How It Used To Be

Although there will be no explicit images, be warned that I will be making references to pornography in this article so if you don’t want to be offended by maybe five words in a single sentence then please this is the time to overt your gaze.  I may also meander a bit since I’m writing stream of conscience like.

When I was in High School, in the mid-1980s, there was this guy I knew named Robert DeMarchi, Jr. but everyone just called him Bobby D.  As I have stated before I have been into horror and sci-fi movies for as long as I remember but while I was watching the Universal classics and B-Movies, Bobby was hardcore into slashers and gore.  He knew of and watched movies I had never heard of or even knew existed.  Bobby would be the one to introduce me to “Silent Night, Deadly Night”, “Faces of Death” and “Basketcase.”  He exposed me to films outside of my comfort zone and even though I lost my taste for slashers in my thirties, which may be my maturing tastes or just the lack of what the studios were passing off as horror, I still see the indelible mark Bobby D. left on my choices for movies, I started to enjoy and seek out the weird ones.

One movie he subjected me to was “The Ripper”.  According to IMDB, since I haven’t seen this film in like thirty years, the plot of this 1985 gem is:

An old antique ring turns a college professor into a homicidal maniac when he puts it on.  The ring originally belonged to Jack the Ripper, and the Ripper's spirit possesses whoever wears it.

Starring Tom Savini this movie was amazingly gory to my fifteen year old sensibilities, but as a side note it did make me borrow every special effects book my local libraries could get their hands on.  When I asked where he found it he told me he had ordered it from an ad in the back of Fangoria Magazine.  We now get to the actually point of tonight’s ravings. 

At this moment if you wanted to watch a movie you could rent one from any of the thousands of Redbox kiosks scattered around your town.  Don’t feel like leaving the house?  Then hit the OK button for the Video On Demand from your cable company.  I’m not even going to mention the variety available on Netflix, Amazon, HBO Go or any of the other subscription services available let alone the last riches available from pirates.  Movies being released straight to video and VOD isn’t that big a deal anymore, even our local Blockbusters had great selections before they all went belly up.  But that isn’t how it has always been.

Gather around the campfire kids for I’m about to spin a scary yarn.  In 1985 back before the Internet and DVDs if you wanted to watch a movie at home your options were:

  1. Spend $100 to buy it, yes really $100 for a video tape.
  2. Wait for it to appear on HBO or ShowTime or Prism if you lived in the Philadelphia area.
  3. Rent it from the Mom and Pop video store if you even had one in your town. 

There were no national video chains yet and everything was on VHS.  If you went with option #3 you also knew that if it didn’t see a theater release it wasn’t going to see a VHS release either.  Only major motion pictures got released on VHS and most of the time it was up to a year after that movie left the theater, sometimes even longer.  Now comes the part where I make references to pornography.  Unless they had the space most of the Mom and Pop video stores did not have an “Adult Section” so to get in on the new home video market “Mature Video Companies” would buy ads in adult magazines that ran in the back of them to purchase films.  The prices for these VHS tapes weren’t much better but the film companies knew who their market was and if your choices are watch at home or in an adult theater guess which one was a better deal.

Now what most people don’t know is that the horror magazines had the same type of ads in them, different type of movies of course but the same type of marketing.  Now even though “Jaws” and “Halloween” made a boatload of money both in theaters and on home video there was still a stigma attached to overtly gory films being released to mass market home video.  If you lived in NYC or LA you might have seen “Basketcase” in a theater for the week it ran there but middle American never got that film for the big screen.  But they could buy it for $24.95 +tax from an ad in the back of Famous Monsters, that also just so happens to have reviewed it in the same issue.  I learned of foreign horror movies this way, need I remind you all of my youth in a medium sized town in Southern New Jersey, because in addition to being for purchase they provided all the information I needed to research titles, companies and actors.

In general, Bobby DeMarchi warped what I look for in a horror or sci-fi movie more than he probably knows.  All because he wanted to share what he found in the back of a 1985 Fangoria magazine.


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