Ah, the video rental store. Who doesn’t miss the glory days of combing the shelves of your neighborhood mom and pop (or Blockbuster or other chain store) rental store for a new film to watch on a Friday night after a long week at school? Truly an experience that current and future generations will never be able to appreciate, it’s more than just nostalgia. It’s a way of remembering the times when VHS was king of home entertainment, online retailers (and Netflix) hadn’t yet sprung up, and unless you had a copy of one of Leonard Maltin’s (or the countless other movie review guides from the ‘80s and ‘90s) books, you had to plunk down your dollars for a movie with a potentially exciting cover and plot synopsis.
But there were other ways of finding out about new home video releases beyond going to the rental store. Commercials ran on television hyping the home video premieres of movies with as much gusto as their theatrical engagements (Case in point: E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL debuted on VHS in 1988, six years after its incredible box office success. Could you imagine if, say, 20th Century Fox had delayed AVATAR’S DVD/Blu-Ray releases until 2015?). Magazines also got into the act, and one of the best ‘zines for this was Fangoria. Let’s jump into the time machine and begin our look at some vintage horror movie VHS ads, shall we?
Kicking it off with the King of the Monsters’ cinematic rebirth (known in Japan under its original form as THE RETURN OF GODZILLA, but released in a re-edited version as GODZILLA 1985 by New World Pictures), there’s not too much to say about this ad that isn’t already stated upfront in this reworking of the theatrical poster. Of interest is the quote from San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Peter Stack, who proclaims “Godzilla makes Rambo, Eastwood, Bronson, and Schwarzenegger look like mere swizzle sticks.” Now that would make a one-in-a-million cinematic team-up (THE EXPENDABLES 25 years before its time, possibly?).
Proof that any video releasing company could take a film, no matter how rotten, and advertise it like the best thing since STAR WARS. United Home Video (which is still going strong today as VCI Entertainment) foisted the two stinkers you see in that ad, BLOOD CULT (Advertised as “The first-made-for-home-video movie” that honor actually belongs to 1982’s BOARDINGHOUSE, which first played theaters and then went to video via Paragon in 1983) and the obscure ‘70s regional item DOCTOR GORE (with a starring role and gore FX by J.G. “Pat” Patterson, a former associate of Herschell Gordon Lewis). It’s awfully nice of United to offer these two for the combined price of $99.95 (probably a bargain by 1985 standards) to Fango readers, but considering how awful these “films” are (BLOOD CULT looks more like public access material, while DOCTOR GORE’s sole saving grace is that it was shot on film), I can’t imagine too many people took United up on this deal. One of the few low points of the VHS boom was the flood of awful shot-on-video horror “films” that came out in the second half of the 1980s. Less said the better. Moving on…
Here’s an eclectic trio from ThrillerVideo! We’ve got Italian cannibals and necrophiliacs (MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY and BURIED ALIVE, respectively) and the killer Santa Claus flick that sent civic groups into a frenzy (SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT). The SNDN ad does its best to liken itself to the three big slasher franchises of the ‘80s and stands out more prominently than the other two. It’s rather odd that the most popular of the three at this time was the most expensively priced (SNDN’s mail order price checked in $71.95, whereas MTDS and BA were sold here for $53.95 and $39.95, respectively). Dig that bloody gargoyle doorknob in the upper righthand corner, too!
To be continued…
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