International Independent Video Store Day, Post #1

September 28, 2013 | By

Saturday October 19th marks the third year of International Independent Video Store Day (see the official Facebook page), a celebration of the independent spirit that resides within the stubborn owners, managers, and clientele of that venue where citizens of suburbia, small towns, and factions of big cities used to go en masse to get movies.

This is the first in a series where I’ll be scanning and posting bits & pieces of rental ephemera that for some odd reason has traveled with me from place to place since 1983-ish, the year my dad bought our first VCR and colour TV – both RCAs.

Until 1983, we had only black & white TVs, and when the last one – an old Toshiba donated to us by our neighbour – up and died, I begged my dad to finally make the leap to not only colour TV, but add on a VCR,  ‘because Karolyn’s dad has one.’

Karolyn was my childhood best friend a few doors down, and her dad Ira not only had a Sony colour TV in 1979, but cable TV with a Jerrold switcher box. Soon came a Sony Betamax VRC, and although it took a while for us, dad & I eventually joined civilization in colour and magnetic videotape.

Naturally, a VCR meant you could tape TV shows and movies off the TV, and my first recording ever was an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man, where Steve Austin discovers an Egyptian gold statue in an exhibit has been replaced by a pyrite fake. I watched it several times because I could, and when my school friend’s parents sprung for their own VCRs (note: they already had colour TVs), they started to rent movies.

However: I think we beat them to the punch, because near us at the new Skymark Plaza, home to a new Loblaws featuring No Name goods by the late Dave Nichol, was a new Video Station – the name assigned to the former chain Video Cassette Rentals, which sprung from the very first video rental store begun by George Atkinson, in California.

To rent videos, my dad left the hefty deposit, and while I can’t recall all of the 3 movies we rented (one was likely a classic, or a Hitchcock title), I know we got Slap Shot (1977) because a) it was R-rated, and b) we could hear in legitimate surroundings under full parental sanction the word “fuck” in full-throttle streams.

Here in fact are the original pages of the signup info sheets, with vintage rates from around 1984, I think.

Original info-sheet from The Video Station at Skymark Plaza, circa 1983-1985-ish.

Original info-sheet from The Video Station at Skymark Plaza, circa 1983-1985-ish.

Info-sheet from The Video Station at Skymark Plaza – revised, perhaps after an ownership change.

Info-sheet from The Video Station at Skymark Plaza – revised, perhaps after an ownership change.

Because my high school, Don Valley, was just two blocks away, it eventually became habit for a few of us to buy sour candy from the local variety shop, and pop into the video to gawk in awe at the video covers which held the most accessible form of movies to us humble teens. Porn was out of bounds, but action, comedy, and, er, gore – that was all there to hold.

The most lurid was Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which I eventually saw at the age of 14 with a bunch of guys form class at Sean’s house. His parents – or more like his older brother – sanctioned us to watch a slew of things Wrong: Apocalypse Now (1979) (containing decapitated head + cow killing), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (sadism + gore), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) (sacrilegious behaviour and merriment), and stag films in the form of hardcore porn shorts starring someone named Juliette Andrews (or someone like that).

We watched Texas and Apocalypse twice again in the morning, then went out for a game of touch football, and eventually called it a day. When I came home, I had this substantive guilt complex and felt a conversation with my dad was needed. It sort of went like this:

‘Dad… We saw some movies at Sean’s. Including porn.’

‘Okay. And how did you feel about it?’

‘It was really gross.’

‘And is it something that you felt was wrong?’

‘Yeah… Don’t feel right in having seen it.’

‘Well, now you know what porn is.’

‘Dad: what do you think of porn?’

‘I don’t like it, but it’s what some adults watch, and it is what it is.’

And Sean’s movie night was never spoken of again. Of course, I’m sure dad’s looking down from above and shaking his head about the weird stuff I sometimes cover at, but hey, what’s important is we all learned a lesson or two, and built upon it quite constructively.

The next two movie rental stories are more simple (and less smutty).

My friend Brandon had a movie night, and with Saleem and Steven we watched another trio of sex and violence: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), some other film I forgot, plus The Burning (1981).

Because that’s the kind of R-rated crap you watch when you’re fourteen. I barely saw much of The Burning (which is an excellent, beautifully made slasher) because I looked through a pillow (or was it my hand?), and Whorehouse was singing & dancing and & boring, proving early on that Burt Reynolds + musical genre are not compatible (as evidenced in At Long Last Love [M]).

Last vignette before I sign-off: I never saw Poltergeist [M] (1982) in the cinemas, so one weekend Karolyn brought the rental tape, and we watched Poltergeist on not the RCA colour TV, but the 28” Sony KV-2645RS Trinitron my dad bought in a moment of reckless following-the-Joneses.

I’ve recounted the fond memories of watching Poltergeist on the actual Poltergeist TV in a prior blog, so if I can figure out a way to scan the original poster-styled pamphlet for that cabineted Sony, I’ll put it up here as well.

Check back here, or subscribe to the Twitter feed or the official Facebook page for updates & info.

Coming next: soundtrack reviews, more film reviews, and some interesting news.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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  1. International Independent Video Store Day, Post #2 | | October 6, 2013
  1. Dave P. says:

    Guess that lifetime membership didn’t turn out to be such a deal after all.