The LAMB ‘Thanks-giving’ meme

Joe, an excellent blogger over at CinemaFist, hosted a temporarily defunct Film-a-Thon a few months back, but has returned with a vengeance as part of LAMB by asking us who we are thankful for within the world of film. The catch is, it could not be a director or an actor. I may have stretched the boundaries on this one a little, but here is my entry…

For fostering and nurturing my love of cinema, I am most thankful for the mom and pop video store.

It was through their sometimes-haphazardly arranged aisles that I was introduced to films that would never land within a 100-mile radius of my little slice of suburbia. Row after row of cinematic promises stretched out before me, featuring titles I had known nothing of (this was the early 80s, kids, so no imdb for me).

Before the homogenization of Blockbuster , Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery, before the anonymity of Netflix, these little endeavors of entertainment were always far too small for the volume of videoboxes they would eventually come to hold.

gymkataIn their prime, the triangular display shelves would reserve the top shelf for the newest releases. And, since many of the stores were opened on a whim by those with relatively little knowledge of film, it would not be atypical to find a copy of “Gymkata” hanging out in comedy (which it most certainly was not – Kurt Thomas was all ninja, dammit!), or even the poor old proprietor who mistakenly placed Stuart Gordon’s “Dolls” in the children’s section. (I would love to have seen the parent trying to console their little tot after that punk girl gets assaulted by those little eyeless atrocities in that film!).

But what these stores did for me personally is removed my cinematic blinders, showing me a world beyond what was playing at the local theater or on constant rotation on HBO (Yes, I can most likely recite every line from “Savannah Smiles.” I’m not proud of that.).

betteroffdeadDistribution companies included: Wizard (“Equinox,” “Breeders”), Virgin (“Mystic Pizza,” “Prom Night”), Vidmark (the immortal “Leprechaun” films,  “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”), Vestron Video (“FutureKill,” the aforementioned “Dolls,” not to mention the terrifying “Dirty Dancing”), Roger Corman’s New World  (“Tuff Turf,”  “Fraternity Vacation,” “Jake Speed”), Media (“Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Night of the Living Dead,” “The Octogon”), Key Video (“Better off Dead”), or what about the infamous Medusa-headed logo of Gorgon Video that carried the ultimate test of one’s filmic limits, “Faces of Death.”

gorgonvideo

These were all right next to the biggest blockbusters on the shelf, literally leveling the playing field for all involved. I can even recall some of the cheap parlor tricks played by some of the distributors, which equipped their film’s display box with blinking zombie eyes (“The Dead Pit”), or ones in 3-D (that hand clutching the guitar on the cover of “Black Roses”), or even the box of “FrankenHooker” asking me if I “Wanna date?” if I pressed its subway lamp just right.

deadpitvideoboxblack-rosesfrankenhooker

Forget candy, screw McDonald’s; for a burgeoning film lover, there was no better reward than a trip to the video store.

So I am thankful for this aspect of the industry which gave me my first-ever job (allowing me to see films before their “street date”!), for my fear of the stigma forever branded upon me if I dared ever entered those creaky doors in the back where all the sinners went, and, most of all, for opening me up to a world of film I never knew existed – one that did not pre-sage what my rating will be, one that was not sanctioned for me by a monolithic governing company, but one that let me select any film that I could get my hands on … provided mom and dad would let me.

~ by usesoapfilm on November 14, 2008.

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