Tuesday, May 18, 2010


An otherwise slow week for new stuff was salvaged by an awesome sidewalk sale at I Luv Video. I walked away with a milk crate of odd-ball finds for a pretty decent price and had a surprisingly good time sifting through tapes with strangers. Considering my hatred for most people, that's unique.

Almost two decade after most mom and pop video shops were either absorbed or assassinated by corporate video chains, both Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are being nudged into the ether by the Red Box phenomenon. Most of my collection has been gleaned from underhanded managers at big chain stores who pocket only pennies by sliding me crates of rare and out of print VHS. Each of them always with a condescending smirk. “Wow,” I can read in their smug expressions, “what kind of moron pays that kind of money for this garbage?” They shake their head like they just sold me a bridge to Manhattan as I literally cart thousands of dollars in tapes out the door for only a fraction of what they were really worth.

While there is a horde of raining neck beards who eBay rare and out-of-print VHS tapes from their mother’s basements at prices that could probably put the children they’ll never have through college, I don’t do this for the profit. Sure, I might flip a 50 cent tape for a Ben Franklin when I can, but it always goes right back into VHS. For me, there is a sense that I am preventing some things from being completely forgotten. I’m saving orphans. The entertainment industry encourages and banks on the ignorance of general audiences so they can keep repackaging the same shit repeatedly, but I’m trying not to forget.

Scores of titles are lost with every generational format shift. I’d say 40% of the two-thousand tapes I own never made it to DVD, and the likelihood of most of them leap-frogging onto BluRay is next to nil. Some titles that do make the transition may experience slight changes that compromise the actual art, though. For instance, a popular song on the original soundtrack may be replaced with something generic or more current because someone doesn’t want to pay to retain the original soundtrack selection. And then there are all the goodies before and sometimes after the features, including bizarre gonzo trailers:

Or hilarious anti-drug PSAs:

These tapes, for me, are about a complete experience. The fact that a lot of this stuff just ends up in a dumpster after some Blockbuster goes out of business is excruciating.

If your town is fortunate enough to have an equivalent of I Luv Video, I urge you to support it. These places are like endangered species reserves. A little digging in the aisles is often more rewarding and a hell of a lot cheaper than going to some bullshit multiplex.

Anyway, here are some of the titles I found this week.

Yet another piece of Bruceploitation flotsam, "Bruce, The Super Hero" stars one of the worst of the clones, Bruce Le. The only thing I can say about this guy is, at least he’s not Dragon Lee. In “Bruce, The Super Hero” a band of martial artists race against Bolo Yeung for lost gold. I now have two copies of this. Don’t ask why. I sometimes dream of applying for a grant so I can research a Bruceploitation encyclopedia. I can't believe no one's written one yet.

I am probably the only person in the history of humanity who wasn’t six years old or retarded who has excitedly screamed “Holy shit! 'Mac And Me'!” This beyond-American McDonalds' production of "E.T." is so mind-bendingly awful that it can have a permanent psychoactive effect on the viewer. In fact, this may qualify as lobotomy-by-cinema. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "cinebotomy!"

Via Something Weird, “The Child” looks like my kind of flick. A little girl with telekinetic abilities hangs out at a nearby cemetery after dark and uses her powers to animate and play with the corpses. At least on a conceptual level this sounds badass.

Most flippantly discard "Return to Horror High" as another throw-away late-wave slasher piece, but I've always thought it had a more unique take, mainly due to the fact that it's parodic. Its humor and the film within a film gimmick make this one stand out for me. Oh, New World Pictures, how I miss thee.

Produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, "Side Show" tells the story of a teenager, played by "After School Specials" notable Lance Kerwin, who runs away from home to join the circus and soon finds himself caught up in big top intrigue after witnessing a murder. Shot for television in 1979, this has the potential to be pretty good, especially considering how most made-for-tv horror from the seventies were sometimes better than what you'd find in theaters then AND now.

The online reviews for “Don’t Mess With My Sister” are pretty brutal, but the common point of contention seems to be the lack of rape. “Not enough rape, two thumbs down.” Meir Zachi really set the bar for himself with his explosive debut "I Spit On Your Grave.” Perhaps this is a bad film, but so far the only thing he appears to be guilty of is not squirting out a retread of his first film. Looking forward to this one.

Score of the week cost me a whopping 3 dollars for ten Hammer films, including "Horror of Dracula," "Brides of Dracula," "Dracula: Prince of Darkness," "Dracula has Risen From His Grave," "Taste the Blood of Dracula," "Scars of Dracula," "Dracula A.D. 1972," "The Satanic Rites of Dracula." Thrown in for good measure were "Kiss the the Vampire," and the Shaw Brothers/Hammer Horror crossover, "Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires."

Again, in spite of the fact that Hammer churned out back-to-back quickies most of the time, the production value of these films is pleasantly deceptive. Here’s a trailer from my favorite of the Hammer Dracula series, "Taste the Blood of Dracula," starring Ralph Bates and Christopher Lee.

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