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Official Article

VHS Odyssey


Since last year I have been on a treasure hunt for VHS tapes to add to my collection. Some are nostalgic favorites, some are films I always wanted to see and some are just so unique I had to grab them for the sheer discovery of something weird. I've selected 10 tapes to share with you today and I hope you'll get a kick out of them.

RoboCop Cartoon


I have to start off this article by thanking fellow Retro-Dazer, Jkatz for very generously gifting me this still sealed copy of the RoboCop cartoon after I mentioned it in a recent article about Sunday Morning Cartoons.This is the only still sealed tape in my collection and who knows when I'll bust through the plastic. Marvel Video released several episodes of their Marvel Action Universe shows (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Pryde of the X-Men, etc) with this comic book style box design, but I never picked them up. It's awesome to have this piece in my collection now.

Young Einstein/Crocodile Dundee


G'day Mate, check out this Down Under Duo that brought big laughs to our VCRs. Do you remember the "Australian Invasion" at your local movie theater in the late 80s? Paul Hogan led the charge with Crocodile Dundee in 1986 and it's equally fun sequel 2 years later, that gave us the classic line, "That ain't a knife, THIS is a knife." My parents bought both movies for our family and we watched Mick and friends often. This love affair with Australia was a flash in the pan or so we thought.


Young Einstein was film that captured my imagination in 1988 and with a poster like that, it's not hard to see why. This Australian import is a quirky cartoon come to life where Albert Einstein invents bubbles for beer, the electric guitar and discovers the theory of relativity along the way. Yahoo Serious was so good at playing the country bumpkin genius, constantly chomping on apples and getting familiar with big city life. The film's got a real punk rock edge to it, so if you've never seen it, check it out.

Cool Cats: 25 Years of Rock N' Roll Style


Speaking of Rock N' Roll, this is an oddball tape I found at a random church thrift store while passing through a small town in AZ. It turns out it's just a British documentary with a lot of old film clips of various bands from the 50s to the 80s and interviews with British musicians like The Who and the occasional Yankee like Brian Setzer from The Stray Cats. But what really caught my eye was the old school case from the early days of VHS. 


These sturdy silver boxes from MGM/UA Home Video always made the tape seem like a precious item that should be treated with respect. Being in such great condition, I'm guessing the original owner felt the same way (or only watched it once). Luckily this 1983 tape features a clip of the KISS music video "I Love It Loud" from their Creatures of the Night album, so it served double duty with my other media collection.

Lupine Wolf: Lone Wolf and Cub


This is a famous martial arts series I have heard about for years, but never had a chance to watch personally. But how could I resist it with taglines like, "Former decapitator, now an assassin!" Of course as you can see, the best part about this tape is that the Blockbuster Video stickers are still attached. The rewinding reminder sticker alone should take you back in time like Dr. Timewarp (check out one of my favorite articles revisiting an old Blockbuster Video here.)


The Youth Restricted viewing sticker was a neon sign to kids that the tape's contents were too intense for young eyes. Translation: You won't believe how messed up and awesome this is. I remember walking by the Special Interest section of the store 2-3 times a visit to sneak a peek at the covers of these forbidden programs that were either too violent, too titillating or too bizarre. Now that I own one, I've come full circle.

And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird!


This video falls under the "Quirky Discoveries" category of my collection. It's a film I had never even heard of prior to buying it, but one look at the cover and the stunning reveal on the back that the late Alan Thicke voices a robot had me sold immediately. I love goofy family films and this one is actually better than you might think, despite the wacky premise. Basically Alan Thicke is a scientist who dies in a car accident and has his spirit transferred into a little robot named Newman built by his sons. 


If you ever wanted to see a robot romance his widowed wife or mend a relationship with a son who is convinced the Dad committed suicide, even though there is no evidence pointing to it in the plot, this is your movie. This is classic Disney Channel nonsense and was a surprising find. Fun Fact: The older son is played by Joshua Miller, who was the psychotic little brother in the cult film Teen Witch.

Captain Power and The Soldiers of the Future


Though you might know the name more as an action figure line, Captain Power was a case a complete synergy between toys and TV series. By aiming various vehicles at the screen while playing this video (or watching the broadcast) you could blast the bad guys on the screen or more likely have them blast back at you and launch your figure from the cockpit. It was wild. This particular tape features stickers from its former life as a rental copy at Planet Video in New Jersey.


Of course we have the classic "Be Kind Please Rewind" sticker and the promise of a "5 day, 4 Night Rental" period, but I particularly enjoy the fact that they categorized it as a "Kid Vid". Now I know they were just saving space on the sticker, but I like to think that the actual Kid Vid from the Burger King Kids Club went around slapping this label on the videos he deemed most awesome. What an endorsement!

Chairman of the Board (Screener Copy)


Originally in this slot I had a former rental copy of Stargate, but frankly, I've got nothing to say about that mediocre 90s film which was surpassed in popularity by the TV show. Instead I bring you this oddity, a screener copy of the Carrot Top movie Chairman of the Board. I spent a summer watching this movie repeatedly and found it charming at the time. From what I hear, Carrot Top wishes this movie a fiery death, so it's makes owning this tape even more exciting.


But just what is a "Screener", you ask? Basically it's a promotional copy of the movie sent to video store owners to encourage them to stock the film in their stores. The text on the back basically tells you why customers would want to rent it. This particular screener actually contains a promotion where buyers could get a "Wacky Wind-Up Clock" featuring Carrot Top if they ordered 4 videos. I don't know if that's an incentive or a threat, but it's just so kitschy.

Max Headroom


If you're like me, you only knew this seemingly computer generated (Spoiler: He wasn't) media icon as the spokesperson for Pepsi cola in some classic 80s commercials. But what you probably didn't know is that old Max got his start in this British TV pilot that eventually went on to become an American TV series, lasting 1 season. I saw someone else sharing this video on Twitter a few weeks back and was psyched when I came upon a copy myself at a local thrift store.


Isn't that gatefold cover amazing? So dramatic. How many more videos would you have bought back in the day if they gave you a little storybook preview like that? Honestly though, I just want that front cover image as a poster for my Retro Room, Max Headroom is one of those visuals that just screams 80s. 

Supergirl


Now this is the nostalgic crown jewel of my video collection. How could a failed Superman spin-off from 1986 be so important to me, you ask? Well, when my family first got a VCR and a video rental membership, Supergirl was my number 1 rental next to Ghostbusters. Every time I walked into Video Depot I sought out that image of Supergirl flying toward me and knew what I would be taking home. 


It's super cheesy and the American Cut is non-sensical, but owning this now feels as close as I can get to owning my own video store. Fun Fact: Matt Frewer, who played Max Headroom in the video above is also the first person who Supergirl meets on Earth in this film and he gets pummeled for sexually harassing her. Girl Power!


I have many more VHS discoveries tucked away in my collection, so you can bet I'll be back sooner than later with another edition. But tell me, what are some of your favorite VHS covers and promotional gimmicks? Are there any you have held onto?

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Superman Posted on Apr 18, 2018 at 02:55 PM

What a collection! I, too, remember seeing Supergirl frequently at my local video rental store back in the day. Oddly, I never got around to renting it back then, but I do have it on DVD now.

jkatz Posted on Mar 27, 2018 at 03:09 AM

Don't you dare remove that shrink wrapping! That thing is a priceless collector's item. Why, one day you'll be able to pay for your kid's college with it ;).

My elementary school would store their vhs tapes in those exact same containers..talk about a flashback.

The first two Lone Wolf films were edited together and released as "Shogun Assassin" here in the states. Just felt like sharing that.

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 26, 2018 at 12:18 AM

These are extremely retro-awesome, but my top choice would be the Max Headroom tape. Cool cover that folds out? Yes please. Plus... it’s Max... he’s an ‘80s icon.

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