VTC Show Reel

This show reel for the British VHS label VTC was taken from the pre-cert video release of The Private Eyes (Lang Elliot, 1982).  Can you identify the films included in this show reel?

Did you reserve tapes at your video shop?

ITDuring the era of renting VHS tapes from video shops, I would often reserve a film to ensure that I could see it on a particular day. Usually this involved visiting the shop at an earlier time and making arrangements with the owner. Fortunately, there was never a charge for this service. My local video shop was pretty small and managed its catalogue of tapes on paper rather than with a computer. This changed in later years with the advent of affordable database software, but throughout the late 1980s, reserving a tape was typically done in a large paper ledger. As a young film fan, the experience allowed me to vividly imagine what it would be like to borrow money from Ebeneezer Scrooge.

One film that I can remember renting in this way was IT (1990), the Tommy Lee Wallace directed adaptation of the Stephen King novel. I was really excited to see the film as my friend had said that he had heard that it was terrifying. We were about twelve years old at the time, so we spent a fun night staying up late watching the movie. When my pal awoke in the morning, I had left a brightly coloured balloon floating near his pillow. For anyone who has seen IT, suffice to say that the prank got the desired reaction.

Part of the excitement of booking a tape was having to wait until after 5pm for it to be returned to the shop by the previous customer. There were always a few anxious telephone calls to the grizzled entrepreneur who owned the shop. He would eventually utter the magic words: “it’s in”.

Do you have memories of reserving VHS tapes at your local video store? If so, publish them on this site by emailing your story to videocultures@gmail.com.

A VHS Collection: Part Four

This series has been submitted by Dale Lloyd, aka @VivaVHS.

Next up on my list is my VTC (Video Tape Center) collection. This, along with EMI and Embassy, is one of the smallest but greatest tape catalogues that I collect. Not a lot of tapes were ever released by VTC, but I always remembered them to be the most valuable. I have a price guide which places VTC titles like Alien Terror and Tanya’s Island among some of the most highly sought after tapes ever released.

I managed to pick up some VTC releases for about £3 back in the late 90s, but there was one film that was a little more difficult to track down. That film was Superstition (a.k.a The Witch). As a kid, I was always bugging my Dad to tell me his favourite horror movies because I was obsessed with being scared. One movie that he would always talk about was Superstition. He described a scene where a blade came off a saw in an old house and ripped through a Priest’s chest. That was all I needed to know, so I went to every car boot sale, market and Internet site that I could find to track it down. Nobody had it. I did find one guy who had a copy of it, but he wanted £25.00 for it. I was so desperate that I paid it.

We screened the film on the day that it arrived and I absolutely loved it, which is why it has become my favourite VHS tape from my entire collection. The funny thing is, about two weeks later, I was at a market and came across the original VHS tape of Superstition on VTC. I was happy but I could have cried as it only cost me £5. I love the artwork!

“You’ll believe it just before you die…”

Movie trailers on VHS

For me, one of the great things about renting VHS tapes was the trailers that would be presented before the film began. With their distinctive voice-overs and endearing production values, I often found myself searching for films based on the promise of their promotional clips. It’s interesting that these kinds of supplementary materials can be so memorable and become part of the experience of watching and revisiting particular tapes. Foremost among my memories are the following distinctive trailers:

House (1986)

One of my all time favourite horror comedies. I simply had to rent this movie based on the trailer and its opening line, “this is a house, where no-one should live”.

Sakura Killers (1987)

This ninja-tastic flick was one that I was never able to find in a rental shop. I only came across the tape years later whilst browsing a VHS market stall that used to be located in St John’s Precinct in Liverpool. The trailer had always been a favourite of mine because of the lack of a coherent story, the jerky editing and, of course, the scenes of ninjas burrowing under the ground and running backwards along the floor.

Gymkata (1985)

This was another movie that I rented in the 1980s based on its classic trailer. My friends and I couldn’t wait to watch this after hearing lines like: “when gymnastics and karate are fused, the combustion becomes an explosion!” and “his only weapon? Himself!”

Do you have memories of particular trailers that encouraged you to seek out and rent films on VHS or any other format? If so, please share them in the comments, or write a more detailed piece and email it to videocultures@gmail.com and we’ll publish on the site!

A VHS Collection: Part Three

This series has been submitted by Dale Lloyd, aka @VivaVHS.

Next up is my Embassy collection. This one is very small in terms of quantity, but there weren’t that many released and I have found them to be the hardest to find.These are (along with EMI and CIC) probably my favourite video tapes to collect. I put that down to the fact that they look professional, and that the sides of the tapes are clean and crisp and look great when put together on the shelf.

A little bit about Embassy

In 1982, television producer Norman Lear bought the company, changing the name of his own TV company TAT Communications to Embassy Television. The company was already producing such network hits as; The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. During this period they launched Silver Spoons, Square Pegs, and Who’s the Boss?

In 1983 it set up its own home video division, prior releases from its film catalog had been handled through Magnetic Video. In 1984, Embassy Pictures was renamed to Embassy Films Associates.

Some great films were released on the Embassy label, most notably Phantasm, The Onion Field, The Exterminator, Scanners, Swamp Thing, Zapped!, Eddie and the Cruisers, The Sure Thing and Rad.