Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Mail Order Madness! Return of the Horror Adverts!
Back in the day, if you were a horror, or trash film collector, the only way to get your hands on such cinematic grotesqueries as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, DERANGED, SALO, THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET, BARBED WIRE DOLLS and many other sickeningly sweet examples of grue sinema was by mail order video outlets. Video Mania was showcased last time, and for this follow up post, it's the very first mail order catalog I ever got. This one being Donald Farmer's Mondo Video. Double click a pic to read all the gory details and check out some of the still obscure titles!
I first spied Mondo Video around 1988 inside the late, great Chas. Balun's splatastic terror tome of biblical proportions, 'The Deep Red Horror Handbook'. This was the company where I picked up my first VHS of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST with Spanish subs running across the bottom. Prior to the film starting was some totally bizarre, but disgustingly bewildering mondo flick that translated to SAVAGE AFRICA if I remember correctly. "Highlights" included little boys being circumcized without anesthesia, women having snakes pushed into their vaginas and lots of nakedness.
One thing fans will likely recall was the lurid descriptions of the films which weren't always completely truthful. The point was to get you to buy a particular film and if that meant hyping up the more salacious aspects beyond what's actually there, then so be it. Another ploy by mail order tape operators was to verbally enhance the quality of the print they had. Such as the case with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Mondo Video describes it as an upgraded "Laser Version". The one I got, which looked fine as it was, was from no laserdisc. The hyping up of details made the hunt for that "special" forbidden fruit all the more exciting. The whole point was getting movies you couldn't get anywhere else!
Another thing fans had to contend with was that many times these tapes weren't always in English. Sometime's there'd be English subs and sometime's there wouldn't be. On many occasions, a rare Italian film might be available, but in French language only, or some other European dialect. Also, print quality varied wildly from one tape to the next. For the most part, I was always satisfied with image quality on the tapes I used to get, but there were exceptions.
On most of the catalogs I saw during this time, these sellers also offered original tapes with their original color boxes. Video Mania was this type of outlet. They only offered original tapes. Prices were high and this, again, was part of the fun of getting tapes. Sure, it was saddening to be unable to pick up a particular tape because of its cost, but the need and desire to see said film only increased because of it.
Another way of finding these outlaw companies was through magazines like Fangoria at the back of the mags in the Classified section. Also, fanzines such as The Gore Gazette and dozens of others were also an outlet by which horror fans could get leads on where to get their foul film fix.
I scanned and uploaded this entire Mondo Video catalog. I got one more from a year, or two later (1990 or 1991). Other catalogs I seem to have lost, or misplaced were ones from the likes of JARS Video Collectibles (kung fu movies--original boxes), Midnight Video (This one was real bad about hyping a lot of details that made their videotape discoveries such a time consuming endeavor) and Far East Flix (still going strong over 13 years later).
Nowadays, so many of these controversial cinema hot topics are available on remastered--restored DVD's, and with a plethora of extras in some cases. In some ways, I miss those days and in others, I wouldn't trade my wonderfully packaged sleazily epic treats on the shiny disc for anything.