Ninja VHS Movie Memories

2013-10-20 15.26.09

My first apartment was small and ratty, a one-bedroom dump. My rent of $300/month in 1992 included all utilities and basic cable. I was making $600/month at the time, so half of my income went to rent and the other half went toward gas and car insurance for a five year old Ford Festiva, food (for meals I didn’t eat at the pizza joint I was working at), and movie rentals.

My apartment backed up to a small, independent movie rental store called Kaleidoscope Video. A couple of times a week my friends and I would pop in Kaleidoscope Video and rent movies and Nintendo games. When it came to movie rentals, horror movies were on the left and the martial arts/ninja section was on the right. Every single time we entered the store the clerk would remind us that the adult movies were in the back, despite the fact that we never rented adult movies from there and that we visited the store two or three times a week for the six months we lived next door. We must have looked like “adult movie kind of guys” or something.

We worked our way systematically through the store’s selection of horror and martial arts movies. When we had seen them all, we started over from the beginning and watched them again. Some of the really bad ones, like Microwave Massacre and Ninja Terminator, we watched once a month. It was a really good time, one where I learned to appreciate the fine art of bad cinema.

I moved out of that apartment and away from Kaleidoscope Video to move in with my girlfriend who ended up becoming my wife. Years later — probably 10 or so — I heard that Kaleidoscope Video was closing down. “All movies, $10/each” read the sign outside. This would have been in the early 2000s, when DVD had already dealt VHS sales a crushing blow. A week later I drove by the store and the sign had been changed. “All movies, $1/each.”

And so, at $1 each, I bought what was left of the store’s horror and martial arts/ninja movies. I can’t accurately remember exactly how many movies I purchased that day, but I remember the clerk had to search for boxes and it took a few trips to load them all into the back of my truck. A hundred, maybe? That day I ended up owning most of the horror movies and ninja movies I had rented a decade earlier. I can’t tell you how thrilled my wife was to learn that finally I owned the entire Faces of Death series on VHS.

The movies pictured above are some of the ones I bought that day and still own. At the time I bought them, neither the Master Ninja series nor Revenge of the Ninja had made their way to DVD yet (they since have), so I was very excited to own them. Over the past decade I’ve parted with many of those old VHS tapes as the movies became available on DVD, although some of them I’ll hang on to forever. I’ll always have a copy of Microwave Massacre on VHS in my movie room even though I no longer have a VCR in there and my family will never quite understand why.

Talking Black Sunday

Had enough football yet? Of course you have! Modern media beats everything to death. But just in case you needed even more football action than you can find on ESPN and the Networks, Retroist friend Mr. Sweet and I got together to talk about the not-nearly-loved-enough classic 1977 film Black Sunday.
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Black Sunday is about a terrorist attempt to attack the Super Bowl by detonating a blimp on the unsuspecting spectators. It stars Robert Shaw, Bruce Dern, the Pittsburg Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, the deputy from Halloween 2, the voice of KITT, the girl from Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny, and President Carter. Watch in on Netflix Instant, then listen to Mr Sweet’s and my insightful commentary, which you can find here.

Salvage 1

Before he was Matlock, and after he was Sheriff Taylor, he was…well, I don’t know who Andy Griffith was in this one. I just know he was in it and it was about a junkman trying to do an independent flight into space for the purpose of recovering salvage. That slight memory quickly led me to Salvage 1. I thought Salvage 1 was a movie, but Wikipedia said it was a TV show. It turns out we were both right. The pilot episode, called Salvage, was a TV movie, and it in turn lead to a short-lived weekly show. Again, I barely remember the movie and don’t remember the show at all. But I do remember the idea and have always wondered why more people don’t just turn their back on government programs and try to fly into space on their own.

Full On YouTube – The Midnight Hour

Did you know you can see some of the best movies from our childhoods on YouTube in their entirety? They are
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When I told you about the Smart Aleck’s Guide To Halloween Specials at the beginning of the month, I said they mentioned an ABC movie called The Midnight Hour which I never got the chance to see. I also said I had been looking for it but couldn’t find it. I remembered that sad fact yesterday and so gave YouTube another chance. And thank goodness for new content because there it was, the full movie. It was chopped into four parts, sadly, but it was all still there. And what a great movie it was. Well, it was great for the nostalgic factor anyway. This is something that just oozes with the spirit of the mid-80s and something I would have loved if I had seen it back then. I’m not sure today just how I missed this one, but I’m glad I got to see it now. And if you would like to see it as Halloween draws to its midnight hour, I’ve posted all four parts below.

Halloween by Curtis Richards

Is Michael Myers a boogeyman who commits random acts of violence without reason? Or is he a family annihilator who is trying to eliminate his bloodline? That’s a question which divides the many fans of John Carpenter’s classic horror/Halloween movie Halloween. It’s also a question that is further complicated by Curtis Richard’s 1979 novelization of that film.

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The Halloween novelization pretty much follows the basic beats of the classic movie. However, it does so very quickly. It skims over those beats, actually? Why? Because it spends a lot of its time creating things that didn’t happen in the movie. There is a prologue about an ancient Irish teen who kills his would-be lover and her suitor. This prologue suggests that Michael Myers is possessed by the soul of this Irish teen or is perhaps a reincarnation of him. Then there is a chapter in which Michael’s mother tells her mother that Michael is hearing voices, only for her mother to tell a story about Michael’s great-grandfather who also heard voices and ended up killing people.

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And if those two chapters don’t totally destroy the movie, there is something else in the novelization that does. We get into Michael’s head. We hear his thoughts. This does two things. First, it shows that he is thinking, not just plotting to kill. Secondly, it shows that he lusts, as some of his thoughts are sexual in nature. In my opinion, both of those things completely destroy either of the two prevalent understandings of Michael Myers.

Halloween3Still, I wasn’t completely unhappy with the novelization. It does what it should do. It gives us another taste of a movie we love. And that’s a pretty good thing, even if its depiction of Michael Myers isn’t.

BTW, this novelization is out of print and will cost a lot of money on Amazon or Ebay. There are also novelizations of the other Halloween films.