I Heart You, Old Video Store

It dawned on me recently, whilst talking to my wife about cheesy movie posters and stories from years gone by, that the only true way to see anything of the sort back in the day would be on a giant VHS cover sleeve sat on a shelf, gathering dust because you were possibly the only person vaguely interested in picking it up for a rent and some crazy entertainment with your mates. At a time when the internet was just one tube rather than a series, where digital purely meant Casio wristwatches and a download was a drinking game conceived by local hookers, there was one thing guaranteed to raise a smile within me, and that was always a trip to the local video store. Sadly, in this day and age, that feeling will never be experienced again.

They say you always remember your first time. I do, as well. Vividly. My mother had acquired a cheap VHS player from a dodgy pub trader one evening. She swears blind she asked for a pint of cider though. Yet, we had our first player. This was amazing, a giant silver box sat underneath our television, sticking out like a sore thumb. A green LED display showed us a clock we couldn’t program. I pressed eject many times, watching the lid open and close pretending it was a Martian invasion,  until we realised we didn’t have any tapes to play on it. NNNNG! What now?

We picked up some blank tapes and started recording films on tv. It was a bit daft watching the film and taping it at the same time, then re-watching it the next day, but it was so much fun.

Enough was enough now. Mum had bought herself a small Raul Julia collection, so small it had Kiss Of The Spiderwoman, and that was it. She’d also signed up to a home video club, the ones that sent you a magazine every month and if you forgot to send back a form saying “I DON’T WANT YOUR VIDEO OF THE MONTH, THANK YOU“, you ended up with Video Of The Month whether you wanted it or not, and had to pay the super top price to go with it. Maybe this is where my love of shit movies stems from.

NO!

To this day, I will always credit the birth of my movie addiction to a man called Tony. His decision to hollow out a back room in his shop, which was a stone’s throw from my home, and turn it into his very own video emporium to capitalise on the booming home video market was the greatest thing to ever happen in our neighbourhood. He did it up properly, posters adorned every wall, shelves were stacked with movies no one had even heard of before, and we were always first to hear about the new movies he’d had in. It wasn’t on a large scale, but he got by. The good thing was, as I went to school with his kids and we all walked home together, he’d actually stop me as I passed the shop and ask me if I wanted a Phantasm III poster for he was replacing it with a poster for Prom Night II. Owning a poster for a horror movie as a kid was so exciting. Getting a collection was something else.

We’d joined the video club naturally, and going there to choose a movie was fantastic. Of course, my choices were limited at the time to The Real Ghostbusters or Teen Wolf: The Animated Series. Only if I went though. As my mum was doing her nurse training, she’d have nipped to the shop to make sure I’d be entertained with a movie and some snacks. Imagine my surprise when I came home from school and see a copy of A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 and a Curlywurly on the table.

So, years passed. We got older, and sadly Tony got sicker. He had to shut up shop for good, due to ill health. This was bad news. Even more so as we still had a copy of Critters. Yet, I was determined not to be bereft of entertainment. In order to pursue my quest for amazing videos, I knew I had to venture outside the box and hunt high and low. Thankfully I didn’t have to go far.

We’d left school and a friend had managed to snag a house nearby the largest video store I’d ever laid eyes upon. This was before the reign of Blockbuster appeared on these shores. This store was immense, and everything was categorically placed on shelves. It would take an hour to see the choices available, it’d be another hour to decide. Naturally, most of my time was spent in the horror and science fiction sections. Your choices would be those of Maniac Cop 2, The Stuff, Basket Case, 976- Evil and one of my favourites:

A future choice could be made from seeing the trailers before the movie on the tape, and hoping (if not praying) that your store had this tape ready for you on your next visit. Got the Blob? Then get Son Of Blob!

To me, this is the fun we’re missing out on. I know I don’t use any rental stores now, and I don’t personally know a great deal that do either. What I do remember is the fun of walking into these places, searching the shelves for something really ludicrous, just on cover value alone (see above), then renting it to unravel it’s mystery. No IMDB, no Blammo, no reviews to go by, no “from the assistant director of Scary Movie 7” tags stuck on the cover, zero words about the movie whatsoever other than the small synopsis on the back of the case. You had barely anything to go on, and were willing to gamble £2.50 for a night of potentially quality entertainment. Where can one do this now?

I worked at a store for a while too, it was great fun talking about all kinds of movies with the customers, gaining recommendations from them as well as giving out my own. Sometimes, I’d step out from the counter and go out with them to stare at the shelves, looking at hopefuls they could take home and enjoy. It was from there, I got shown genres I’d never even considered before, and was told about Clerks as soon as it was released on rental. Maybe they saw a likeness. It didn’t matter, it was a great community thing going on, with me at the head of the table. I loved it.

Alas, as I sit and look at my movie collection, and how it’s full of insane movies no one else would watch, I’ve got Tony to thank for encouraging my inner movie nerd animal, a beast developed at such a young age and has been with me ever since. A blessing as well as a curse, because I miss his video store and will never see it’s like ever again.

Thanks to technological advancements, I also never got to see this:

2 Responses to “I Heart You, Old Video Store”

  1. Best Blammo article yet. Godamn I miss dusty old video shops 😦

  2. […] again, we go back to the days of how great the video shops were. Being at the age where what you’re collecting is suddenly a movie you had no idea was […]

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