RIP Video Oasis

VideosThis post was contributed by Weird Jon of Gravedigger’s Local 16. It was originally published here.

I’m bummed. You see, I was looking up the contact information for one of my favorite video stores and discovered that they had since closed their doors. I even tried calling to double check. It’s a bit odd for me to count Video Oasis as one of my favorites, seeing as how I only visited once and never rented anything, but I think the following will explain why.

I first learned about the store through its reputation back in 1995. Its selection of cult and obscure titles from all genres was often praised in the It’s All True column of the now-defunct Editorial Humor. That column, along with the paper’s profiling of local events in Massachusetts, set Editorial Humor apart from other humor piece/comic reprint papers (like Funny Times) due to their focus on everything weird. Be it crackpot inventors, television shows, movies, or the strangest the internet had to offer, It’s All True would tell you everything you needed to know. It also sponsored/promoted “Channel Zero,” a showcase of various bizarre movies and television shows (and occasionally things like bad poetry) that traveled from one venue to another. I remember reading that an installment about Japanese superhero programs was held at a bar, while others were presented at indie movie theaters.

But I digress… 

I seem to recall that one installment of It’s All True made note of Video Oasis having to hastily assemble shelves from 2x4s and cinder blocks in order to accommodate the sheer number of VHS cassettes they had acquired over the years. It also noted one of the store’s claims to fame: They actually carried the legendary Bruceploitation classic The Dragon Lives Again, wherein “Bruce Lee” goes to the underworld and teams up with Popeye to fight mummies, skeletons, Dracula, the Exorcist, and James Bond (among others). Oh yeah, you read that right.

So that, combined with the various ads for it that I saw in Editorial Humor and various free weekly papers, firmly cemented Video Oasis in my mind as a place I had to visit in the future. I once recognized the store’s distinctive palm tree logo from the newspaper ads, looking at the store with longing as the car I was riding in quickly passed by.

It wasn’t until around 2005 or 2006 that I actually set foot inside the place. I had gotten lost in Cambridge while trying to find a movie theater I was supposed to pick up a prize I had won online. Despite having walked for quite some time and started getting sore feet (along with a partial sunburn), I pressed on in the hopes that I only had a little more to go before reaching my destination. Instead, I found Video Oasis.

I was both happy and confused. Although I was glad to have an opportunity to actually visit the store, I could have sworn it was located in a different part of the state. The storefront certainly didn’t look like the one I remembered. But it didn’t matter if this was due to fuzzy memories or a change of location, I was finally there. Besides, I could probably ask for directions inside.

I was totally unprepared for what I found inside. It was actually bigger on the inside than it appeared outside. “Standalone, one story Best Buy” big. Rows upon rows of shelves (of the non 2×4 and cinder block variety) filled with DVDs or VHS (depending on what section of the store you were looking at). A barred door was chained shut in a corner, with a sign on it saying you had to ask someone up front to open it in order to inspect or purchase the vintage toys behind said door. “So that’s why they have a Shogun Warrior in one of the windows” I thought.

“Are you all right?”

The guy up front had taken noticed of my stunned expression. I had been so surprised by what I had just seen, I had frozen in place.

Embarrassed, I replied with something to the effect of “Oh…I was just surprised at how big it is in here. I’m just gonna look around now” and quickly darted down the nearest “Martial Arts” aisle. I walked around checking out all the cool covers and rarities until I worked up the nerve to ask for directions and more information about their rental and membership policies. It turned out that I had gone in the opposite direction of where I needed to be. I had to turn down the offer to sign up and take home a rental due to money issues, but vowed to return as soon as I had a steady supply of income.

But that time was further off than I thought and various issues (including an unplanned move) kept me from returning. By the time everything had calmed down and I was able to find the time to get there, Video Oasis had closed. If you maneuver around past the bus in this Google Map street view, you can even see the store’s signs and the darkened, Shogun Warrior-free windows.

As is the case when a loved one passes away, one has to work past the sadness and remember the good times. Although I’m sad to see it go, I’m still glad I had been able to visit at least once. It is also important to cherish those that are still with us and make every opportunity count. So if you’ve been thinking of renting certain movies from a certain store, do it now. They could close up tomorrow for all you know. Writing this also led me to discover that It’s All True/Channel Zero still exists in blog form. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.

Goodbye Video Oasis, you will be missed.

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