L to R: Wild Beasts, The Astrologer, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter. (Screenshots: YouTube)

For a couple of years now, we’ve been teaming up with our friends (and, full disclosure, former video-store colleagues) at The Front Row to give away tickets to midnight screenings of such high-quality cinematic ephemera as House, Boarding House, Streets Of Fire, and even a couple of movies without obvious geographic references in their names. This year, however, we’re taking things up a notch, partnering with The Front Row, the American Genre Film Archive, and Daily Grindhouse to present a triple feature of exploitation classics from around the globe.

The series begins next Friday and Saturday night at Chicago’s own Music Box Theatre with a screening of Wild Beasts, Franco Prosperi’s 1984 film in which a bunch of wild animals break out of a German zoo and terrorize the populace after PCP leaks into their drinking water. Opening with a made-up quote about the bestial nature of humanity and climaxing with a class full of elementary school-aged children being menaced by a polar bear, Wild Beasts has the same sleazy disregard for animal and human life that characterizes many Italian exploitation classics. Recommended for fans of Italo-disco, mustaches, and screaming extras slathered in ketchup, and definitely not recommended for vegans.

The following weekend, the Music Box plays host to the first-ever Chicago screening of The Astrologer (1975), an exceedingly rare film that’s only screened publicly a handful of times. The Astrologer was a passion project for real-life astrologer/director/star Craig Denny, who was egotistical enough to characterize himself as the world’s best horoscope-maker in the film, but not too full of himself to include the line, “you’re not an astrologer, you’re an asshole.” Much like self-funded one-man shows Get Even and The Room, The Astrologer is a fascinating glimpse inside one highly motivated weirdo’s deepest fears and desires—just with a lot more wood paneling. Before the show, we’ll also have tarot reader Vina LaVay on hand telling fortunes in the lounge, just to complete the carnival atmosphere.

Finally, on February 9 and 10 we’ll be presenting the psychedelic girl-gang action of Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970), starring future Lady Snowblood Meiko Kaji as the stone-cold leader of a gang of groovily attired teenage girls who specialize in knife fights by flashlight and shaking down creeps for money on the streets of Tokyo. Part of the Stray Cat Rock series of juvenile-delinquent movies that was wildly popular in Japan in the early ‘70s, Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter features a swinging jazz-rock soundtrack, badass female leads, a progressive-for-the-time message of racial tolerance, and a cathartic action sequence where a party full of would-be rapists is firebombed with Molotov cocktails.

For more information on Wild Beasts (January 26 and 27), The Astrologer (February 2 and 3), and Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (February 9 and 10), presented by The A.V. Club. Daily Grindhouse, and The Front Row, please check out the Music Box website or the Facebook events for each film linked above. We’ll be running a ticket giveaway for all three films later this week, and will be giving away buttons and other fun swag at each screening, so stay tuned, Chicago.