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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Ain't That A Beautiful Sight
Whew...we're expecting a high of 100 degrees in Champaign today. I've spent the last two hours slogging around the heat and humidity, and it's brutal. AccuWeather has it as 91 right now with a humidity of 72%! And I felt every teensy-weensy percentage point of it.

I managed to run several errands today--hit the post office, refill a prescription, pick up a book on reserve at the library--but my big chore of the day was to stop by That's Rentertainment, which is by far the finest video store I've ever set foot in. It's a sad weekend in a way--in an attempt to clear more shelf space for DVDs, the folks at Rentertainment are selling off their 16,000-piece VHS collection. Monday is the last day, but I wanted to make sure I hit the place today, in case pickings were slim. It looked like the shelves hadn't even been touched. I was surprised, but maybe everyone is waiting for the big $2.50 apiece/3 for $6 sale on Monday.

The pity about Rentertainment selling everything off is that many of their titles aren't on DVD and maybe never will be. I asked what will happen to the tapes that don't sell by Monday, but the girl didn't know. I managed to pick up 18 tapes for $60, trying to focus on titles that weren't easily available on Region 1 DVD, although a few slipped in. Here's what I got:

DEATH WISH II (Warner Home Video)--This is out from MGM on DVD, but I saw it years ago and didn't think it was worth buying for $9.99. We'll see if it's worth $3.33.

CONVOY (Thorn EMI)--I can't believe this notorious trucker action flick directed by Sam Peckinpah isn't on DVD yet. The VHS used to go for very high prices on eBay; one just sold for $26, so the bootleggers must be clogging the market with illegal DVDs.

CHAINED HEAT (Vestron)--The greatest women-in-prison flick ever made. With a trash cast like Linda Blair, Sybil Danning, John Vernon, Henry Silva, Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens and Monique Gabrielle, as well as multiple boom mike sightings, the exhorbitantly sleazy gimmick of warden John Vernon videotaping his wild sex sessions with big-breasted inmate Monique Gabrielle in his office hot tub, and Henry Silva's manic performance (as usual), there is a lot to love here. Not on DVD either.

SPASMS (Thorn/EMI)--I haven't seen this Canadian killer snake movie, but with Peter Fonda and Oliver Reed, it must be watchable. It's hard to believe Reed made two (!) killer snake movies in the same year (VENOM is on an excellent Blue Underground DVD).

CAPTAIN AMERICA (Columbia/Tri-Star)--This never-released-to-theaters Cannon movie sucks, but it's not likely to ever be on DVD, and I'd hate to be placed in the position where I would never be able to see it again. It might even be worse than the never-released-period FANTASTIC FOUR movie, but what else would you expect from director Albert Pyun.

CAGED HEAT (Embassy)--Another great WIP, this one by Jonathan Demme, who, as we all know, went on to bigger and sometimes better things (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, for instance). It's probably the most unerotic womens-prison movie ever made, which was Demme's intent. The deelish Roberta Collins in it, though, and European cult star Barbara Steele in a great role written expressly for her.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (Columbia)--My favorite slasher movie was done a major disservice by Columbia when it was released to DVD with awful, misleading cover art and an unnecessarily revamped musical score. I think this is a terrific movie, filled with fun, gimmicky murders, a slick look, solid music and good performances by LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE's Melissa Sue Anderson and the legendary Glenn Ford, who may be the biggest movie star ever to appear in a gory slasher movie.

THE INVISIBLE MANIAC (Republic)--I've never seen it or wanted to, but I picked this one up for Chicken, who's always prodding me to show it at Crappy Movie Night. Anyone think I should?

DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE (Media)--I remember liking this sick shocker. IIRC, the recent DVD is a censored TV print, but this Media prerecord should be uncut. Well, not exactly uncut, but the R-rated theatrical cut.

ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS (Allied Artists)--I believe Roger Corman's early SF movies for Allied Artists are in home video limbo someplace, and it's unlikely they'll be on DVD anytime soon.

CULT OF THE COBRA (MCA/Universal)--I haven't seen this '50s horror movie, but it's got an awesome array of Universal contract players who went on to major TV careers: Richard Long (THE BIG VALLEY), Jack Kelly (MAVERICK), David Janssen (THE FUGITIVE), Edward Platt (GET SMART). Plus Marshall Thompson, Faith Domergue, William Reynolds and Kathleen Hughes.

ROBOT WARS (Paramount)--From the people who gave you ROBOTJOX. I have the sneaking suspicion I've seen this one, but it's not a bad thing to have a movie about giant fighting robots in your collection.

GIRLS NITE OUT (Thorn/EMI)--Not a great slasher movie, but the killer wears a giant bear suit and the top-billed star is Hal Holbrook, of all people, who must be here to give a boost to his charisma-challenged son's acting career. There's a twist ending that's kinda interesting.

THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS (Troma)--Another '70s sleaze classic with an amazing cast: Andrew Prine, Aldo Ray, Tiffany Bolling, Ray Danton, Jeremy Slate, Jaime Lyn Bauer. Lots of misogyny and nudity. I remember this tape as having poor sound though.

CYBERTRACKER (Imperial)--A DTV ROBOCOP ripoff with Don "The Dragon" Wilson fighting evil Richard Norton, neither of whom portrays a robot. Lots of chases, bullets, explosions and martial arts in this PM Entertainment movie.

THE SEVEN-UPS (CBS/Fox)--You would think Roy Scheider's follow-up to THE FRENCH CONNECTION would be on DVD by now. It's a tough, gritty New York-set crime drama with the greatest car chase that nobody knows about. Director Philip D'Antoni, who produced FRENCH CONNECTION, set out to top William Friedkin's chase in that movie--and he may very well have succeeded.

THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (Anchor Bay)--The greatest kung fu/vampire movie with copious gore and nudity ever made. This British/Hong Kong collaboration between Hammer and the Shaw Brothers stars Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, who chases Count Dracula into China. This is a wild mixture of horror and martial arts and a lot of fun.

THE HITMAN (Cannon)--I saw this at Market Place Cinemas when it was released theatrically in 1991. I didn't like it much at the time, but it's one of the few Chuck Norris movies that I don't already own, and maybe it's gotten better in the last 14 years. Certainly better than the mullet he wears in it.

Any thoughts, corrections or opinions? Please let me know!

Posted by Marty at 2:30 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (3) | Permalink

Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 11:57 AM CDT

Name: Kate D.

Hi Marty--this is Kate from Mobius.

The video store where I work is facing a similar situation. The owners have started selling off our massive VHS selection, including many rare videos that haven't come out on DVD yet. They've already taken the tapes numbered 1 through 1000 (the ones they've had since the 80's) to be sorted through and put on sale. Meanwhile I'm feverishly going through the tapes figuring out which ones I need to see before they're gone for good.

It is a sad day when great movies are basically considered junk.

Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 12:05 PM CDT

Name: Marty McKee

Hi, Kate, thanks for stoppin' by. How's Philly?

I'm so weird about stuff like this. I find myself buying tapes I don't even want, like CAPTAIN AMERICA, just because I don't expect it to ever be available on DVD, and I can't stand the idea of one day wanting to see CAPTAIN AMERICA, for whatever the reason, and not being able to.

What I have been doing is dubbing as many of these tapes to DVD-R as I can, but I haven't figured out what to do with the tapes. eBay is an option, but I don't think there's much of a market for prerecords on eBay these days. I've already tried to sell off obscurities like TWILIGHT PEOPLE and COVER GIRL MODELS to little success.

Saturday, July 30, 2005 - 4:55 PM CDT

Name: Kate D.

I know EXACTLY what you mean. I've bought so many terrible movies at my store that I would never purposefully rent. If it looks at all unusual, cultish, horror-related or exploitative, I pick it up no matter what. I can't bear the thought of The Supernaturals, Complex World, or Slaughter High sitting in a box in someone else's closet!

Also, TWILIGHT PEOPLE is amazing! You could try selling it and all your other tapes in one big auction. I'm sure someone out there would like to scoop them all up out of curiosity.

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