Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Episode 6: Video Violence (1987)

Ten years ago, I doubt anyone would’ve seen it coming, but the VHS resurgence is here, here to stay, and attracting fans from all corners of the United States. Thanks to recent documentaries like Rewind This! and Adjust Your Tracking, disciples of the clamshell have had the opportunity to share their passion (and obsession) with the masses, as cameras follow them to flea markets, conventions, and dusty basements. Steadfast and eternally vigilant, these hardcore fans spend every spare moment on an endless search for obscure titles to expand their already extensive collections.

So inspired by this undying love for all things VHS, whether it’s big box, slip case, or (God forbid) cut box clamshell, I knew there was only one film (and I use the term loosely in this case) to help in the celebration of a bygone, yet still highly regarded era: Gary Cohen’s 1987 SOV opus Video Violence.

I discovered this one, paired with its painfully unwatchable sequel, on Netflix just under ten years ago. By then, video rental stores, especially those independently run mom and pops, started dropping off like flies. I’d spent the previous summer nursing a broken heart, as my my favorite indie rental shop closed its doors for the final time. Video Violence, as I came to find, was the perfect movie to bring fans back to a time when there was one of these stores on every corner and there was always something wonderfully sleazy to be found on those dusty shelves.

I watched with glee as the story followed a hapless video shop owner who gets mixed up in a small town murder conspiracy documented on VHS. The scenes that took place in the video store left me more than a little nostalgic and I longed for a time when I could walk the two blocks to my neighborhood video store and scour the aisles for some undiscovered gem.

Granted, I went into this commentary with every intention of discussing the movie, but somehow, that got pushed aside and I spent most of the 100 minute running time sharing stories about my favorite mom and pop and how it became such a huge part of my formative years in South Philly. I tend to sift through my memory banks for long lost anecdotes during all of the commentaries I’ve recorded thus far, but this one really took me back. It seemed that each time the camera panned a line of video boxes, or an unlabeled VHS was shoved into the open mouth of a VCR, I had a new story to tell. Whether it’s neighborhood kids defecating in the porno section (yes, that really happened) or my experiences briefly working for Blockbuster, there’s an endless trove of memories shared and I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me.


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