'I'm just off down the video store mate, 'Goodfellas' came out today, had to reserve a copy!' In 1991 these words were actually spoken.. Back in the days of a store owning one copy of a movie, with barely enough videos within the premises to keep me happy for a year. It seemed romantic at the time, but the reality of an age that had passed hit me a few weeks ago when while driving past a local Movie Rental outlet I saw a sign that read 'All VHS Movies On Sale: Two For A Dollar'. While it seemed like an opportunity to good to pass up, it also led me to speculate about the end of an era. The death of days spent roaming through acres of Z grade action films, 1988 in its prime. The 80's themselves in its last death knell.
One of the drawbacks of DVD's is that the majority of low budget, straight to video releases of the 80's will never be transferred to the format, unless you transfer the video itself to DVD. But the inescapable thrill of roaming aisles of videos, with huge boxes, searching for that certain movie which could be taken home for an evenings amusement. In the late eighties I recall a fascination with numerous horror films, so many that the titles are somewhat elusive. 'Chopping Mall' springs to mind. By the mid 90's the emphasis had shifted to 80's action films, with one man army overtones.
The mindset of the 80's seems particularly bizarre in the current day and age when scanning the pile of worn out VHS littering my house. The genre of the disillusioned Vietnam vet was the best, as countless films accumulated following the success of 'First Blood', chronicling the same plot, only in more budget circumstances. Most movies concerned a vet haunted by the war, trying to come to terms with everyday life years after the trauma of the conflict, only to be roused back into action after a tragic event occurred. In most cases he was a one man killing machine, the best so to speak. The death counts were in the thousands, open warfare was held in the streets, women were raped and killed at will, morals didn't exist. What went wrong? With the modern era that is. How did humanity lose its edge?
Along with my brother, I viewed hundreds of these types of movies. With the video store unloading them at such a bargain price I tried to scoop up as many as I could. 'Day Of The Survivalist'. 'Crossfire', starring Aussie hardman Richard Norton as Stryker, former ace soldier sent to retrieve POW's in Laos. 'Avenging Force' starring legend Michael Dudikoff, playing human wargames in the bayous of Louisiana. Incidentally that was another dominant theme of the 80's Action lexicon. Human beings used as live prey in war excercises held by radicals in the forest. Where did this concept spring up? Can it be topped? Likewise the backward hillbilly theme, hunting down city slickers, as witnessed in the Oscar worthy 'Hunters Blood'. Vigilantism anyone? 'Young Warriors'? Out of control high schools? 'Class Of 1984?'
Seeing all these movies in the last throes of their shelf lives meant the last time they will surely ever be seen in public. It leads one to assume video stores will now be described as DVD Rental. If there's no videos then what else? Much like cassettes. It seems unlikely people are still buying tapes of new music released. Nothing will ever beat the thrill of spotting a movie so ludicrous that it makes you groan out loud in joy. Seeing a tagline like 'In Vietnam he was the best.....he still is!!' I don't feel any magic coming from the decade we live in and the even worse movies produced. If 'The Transporter 2' is supposed to represent the state of action movies today then I'm not interested. Give me an action movie starring Wings Hauser, with a pumping AOR soundtrack and real macho men you could believe in.
With the shelves now totally devoid of the dusty and faded video cases, one wonders how the gaps will be filled in. The only surviving tape left was 'The Ken Patera Story'. I guess nobody cared enough about the minor wrestling legend's stint in jail in the 80's for assault. I do. I just might snap it up. I'd like to snap up a time machine as well and relive the thrill of hunting down a movie I thought I'd never see again. Take me back to 1990 James. The death of VHS rentals in all their crude splendour means a part of me died as well. At least I've got the proof locked away forever.