Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monster Kid Movie Memories Revisited: Collecting Budget VHS Tapes

Selling off all my VHS tapes back in the early 2000s wasn't an easy thing to do, but necessary since DVDs were quickly becoming the new format. Sadly, I was incredibly naive in thinking that everything I had on tape was surely going to surface on those new shiny discs. 

I had enough sense to hold onto around 70 or so tapes with the intention of having them transferred to DVD-R. Sadly, I didn't have enough sense to prod the "friend" that offered to transfer them all for me to do so. Eventually he, his mother, and his two kids moved away and I never saw my tapes again. I did at least get three transferred out of the lot, though.

The following tapes are a small stack that I found this past weekend at my grandmother's house that I had forgotten about. A few of these were among the very first VHS tapes I ever bought with my allowance. I was between 12-14 when I bought these. All of the tapes featured here are LP and EP mode recorded. You used to could find these budget label tapes at K-Mart, or other local stores such as Roses, which was here till about the mid 1990s.

I had never seen YOG, MONSTER FROM SPACE (1970) before, so upon spying this tape on one of those old swivel racks, I just had to have it. Sadly, the movie was a major letdown. The English dubbing being massively out of sync for about 15 minutes of the film didn't help, either. The tape seen at the top of the page is the YOG videocassette. Notice the wider spindles. Also, Trans-Atlantic Video could never be bothered to put the titles of the movies on their labels.

Andy Milligan may have made some of the worst films on Earth, but his real life would no doubt be better served to celluloid than anything he ever directed himself. I had passed many of his films on video store aisles like TORTURE DUNGEON (1969), BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (1970) and THE RATS ARE COMING! THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE! (1972). 

Having bought TORTURE DUNGEON as a used tape and seeing the RAT/WEREWOLF nonsense on television, you'd think I'd of learned my lesson; but for whatever reason, I was willing to pay for some CARNAGE (1983). What a waste of money this pathetic haunted house-ghost-revenge movie was. Still, it was under $10, but $10 to a kid is a lot of money.

This was one of many budget tapes I owned bearing the 'Video Treasures' logo. They were my favorite label back in the day (late 80s-early 90s). I threw away so much money on their tapes and they had an incredibly varied selection of titles. My main interest at that time was horror and kung fu and Video Treasures had those in abundance.


SPECTACULAR DISASTERS was an early tape for me, and since I was a big fan of the original STAR TREK series (still am), having Sulu himself, George Takei, hosting a 45 minute documentary on the title cataclysms was a no-brainer. And this Congress Video Group tape definitely delivers on its promise.

Going back to Video Treasures, we have FILMHOUSE FEVER, a 1986 compilation that runs for approximately 60 minutes. 

Directed by Domonic Paris, this compact party tape has Steve Buscemi and Mark Boone Jr. heading out to a local movie marathon where they enjoy numerous clips of trashy movies, short films (early Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell shorts including one about a killer lawnmower!) and intermission spots. The ending is a humorous tip o' the hat to CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962).

Paris also directed the anemic Cannon distributed vampire flick DRACULA'S LAST RITES (1980) and another documentary entitled AMAZING MASTERS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS (which I used to have, as well). This one featured clips of numerous kung fu and swordplay features with clips of host Carter Wong doing basically the same kata over and over again swinging various Chinese weapons at the camera

Hopefully, I'll be able to transfer FILMHOUSE FEVER to DVD as I haven't seen it in over two decades.

BLOOD, SWEAT & GEARS was my 37 minute fascination with monster trucks and that whole 'Big Wheels & Big Thrills' monster truck madness that was big (there's that word again) back in the 80s. Bigfoot was the most popular of these, and probably that other one called Gravedigger was right behind it. 

After seeing this, I couldn't grasp what was so great about 'Mud Boggin'' -- driving a truck with outsized wheels through a mud-pit. 

That Sgt. Slaughter was part of this tape meant nothing to me as I had very little interest in WWF; which was the home of wrestling clowns and circus acts unlike the NWA where the wrestlers were more interested in collecting on other wrestlers "insurance policies". Damn, do I wish I still had those wrestling tapes, too!

In 1956 Lon Chaney Jr. was the INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN, a C movie that was likely the first to feature an executed criminal returning from the dead; a concept that was right popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The movie is similar to FRANKENSTEIN (1931) as well as an earlier Lon flick, 1941s MAN MADE MONSTER. The back of the box erroneously states he is executed in the chair, but it's actually the gas chamber.

Back then, some of these tapes -- like the Trans-Atlantic tapes -- were as cheap as some of the budget DVDs you get in the Wal Mart bins of today. Cheapies like INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN could be had for around $5.

Lastly, it's another Video Treasures tape; this one an obscure Vincent Price film entitled BLOODBATH AT THE HOUSE OF DEATH (1984); a film that was jam packed with references to numerous famous horror pictures and even STAR WARS, of all things

I first read about it in Fangoria both before and after it hit videotape on these shores, so I was pretty hyped for it, especially after the disappointment that was HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1983), a Pete Walker film with a cast nightmares are made of -- Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine. 

Having been unable to find BLOODBATH in any of the local video stores, I jumped at the chance to buy it when VT released it in 1988. It was kind of middle of the road for me then, but this blackly humorous gore comedy might play better today, and it was made available on DVD in the UK back in 2008. Hell, it's way better than that unintentional comedy with Price, THE MONSTER CLUB (1981).

Several years later, Video Treasures would morph into Anchor Bay where they would unleash a slew of European horror movies on videocassette, often with misleading statements about films being uncut when they weren't; or being uncut and subbed in English when the only audio on the tape was an English dubbed track.

For me, collecting VHS tapes are little more than fond memories now. A great many continue to collect used tapes today, and often pay exorbitant prices for them. It's not quite the same experience now as, like our childhood, the swivel racks and video shelves of chain stores are all gone as is the excitement of uncovering some obscure monster flick that scared the hell out of you on Shock Theater the weekend before.

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