Posted on April 26, 2018
The entire Reclaim team has been abroad for the last week, so things have been a bit quiet on the blog—but that’s about to change. There’s much to share from the official launch of Reclaim Video last week, and a post detailing that and more is in the works. But I couldn’t wait any longer to post about some of our recent, rather unique acquisitions for Reclaim Video from the Etsy shop Readful Things—a shop that has some really fun 1980s pop culture art, including an Atari 2600 The Thing cartridge as well as a Creepshow action figure of that lunkhead Jordy Verrill:
The Thing 2600 cartridge may be the greatest thing ever!
And to continue on a theme, check out this infected The Thing VHS tape seconds after administering MacReady’s blood test!
And last, but definitely not least—The Shining VHS tape featuring both Room 237 and the well-used typewriter.
People continue to ask how we’re going to make money on Reclaim Video, and the simple answer is we aren’t—and that’s fine. But if Readful Things keeps on making such awesome VHS art we may soon be running a significant deficit
Posted on April 17, 2018
The Reclaim Video storefront continues to flower as we bring in more titles.Over the last two weeks we added a bunch of titles such as Losin’ It and Dead Zone to knock a couple of titles off the 1983 wish list, the other three (The Hitcher (1986), Warlock (1989), and Wolf (1994)) came as part of the Ebay lot.
We also got some new technology to track and share new arrivals:
We also scored an uncut VHS version of Cronenberg’s 1983 Videodrome—a foundational film for Reclaim Video. And to add to the vibe of Reagan 80s fear-mongering and paranoia we secured the 1983 made-for-TV gem The Day After.
Additionally, the shelves for our featured video rack (which we scored at Goodwill for $13) arrived, and it is pretty awesome.
So, it’s been an event couple of weeks leading up to the unveiling of Reclaim Video’s website and promotional video at OER18. Reclaim Video is going public
Posted on April 12, 2018
Over the last couple of days, I’ve taken a break from my Documentation April to categorize Reclaim Video’s ever-growing collection of VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc. I feel like every couple of days (if not every day) we’re receiving a package in the mail enclosing one or two new VHS tapes from Jim’s wishlist. They’re always so fun to open, but then they inevitably pile up on the front desk until one of us as a moment to add them to our excel sheet. Oh yeah, we have been using excel to keep track of what we had, but Reclaim Video has quickly outgrown it. The excel list was hard to look at, hard to search through, and staying organized was virtually impossible.
What’s more, last week we received two (yes, two!) VHS donations from folks in the Fredericksburg community. Suddenly we were faced with a dilemma: how would we add these tapes to our collection without losing track of who donated what? Especially once duplicates of films are involved.. it was just getting complicated. We decided stickers on the tapes themselves was not an option, so a digital log of some sort was needed.
Tim found this Cloud Cataloging tool that’s made to keep track of books, movies, video games and more. I began playing around with the online version and the iPhone app and was immediately sold. The free version is perfect for anyone looking to log their personal collections, and we’ve made great use out of it for Reclaim Video so far. I imagine we’ll end up upgrading the pro version ($5/mo) to take advantage of its loaning features. We are a rental store, of course.
My favorite part of the app, without a doubt, has been the Barcode scanning feature. I’ve been able to easily scan hundreds of tapes and archive them on our new collection site, inventory.reclaimvideo.com. Movies that are recognized in the database are then automatically displayed with a ton of helpful metadata.
^Example of the metadata pulled. In addition, viewers are then able to leave reviews & I can easily keep track of how many copies are available. I wish more of the metadata was available on the public-facing site, but I’m imagining that’s part of the pro version.
In addition, we can now easily add donations & and organizing them using Tags. It’s beautiful! ^ Collections are organized by “libraries”, so Reclaim Video has three libraries: VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc.
^Full row of 007 Betamax
Just today I finally finished logging all the Betamax & VHS currently available at Reclaim Video. I took advantage of the opportunity to organize the tapes as well, so the right half of the room is VHS, and the left is Betamax.
^The forward-facing inventory site.
I’m excited to expand this over time– not only tweet-length messages to the right sidebar, but more laserdisc logging coming soon! It’s also nice to be able to send interested Reclaim Video renters somewhere to say, “hey, this is what’s currently in stock!”
Posted on April 3, 2018
Last week was a whirlwind between a major migration, PressED Conference, and a packed-full Easter weekend. There was no real respite yesterday given we had a shared hosting server down most of the day, so attention was split to say the least. But given today has been the first chance I’ve had to take a real breath since getting back from the US almost two weeks ago, I figured a quick update on Reclaim Video was in order. We are working through the 1983 movies wishlist, and we’re off to a good start with All the Right Moves, Bad Boys, and The Osterman Weekend on VHS
Vigilante on Beta….
What’s more, we also got the shelves in for the $14 dollar showcase rack we found at Goodwill two weeks ago, so this can be where we show-off all our 1983 movies as they come in—and I just made sure more ARE coming in
Update: Look what just came in this morning, that’s Peckinpah on VHS and LD -so good!
Posted on March 25, 2018
Reclaim Video is coming along nicely. It will be officially opening sometime in the next month or so. What that looks like exactly is not entirely clear just yet, and ww would appreciate any and all ideas. We are discussing memberships that allow for unlimited rentals of VHS, Beta, Laserdiscs, as well as the video game consoles. We are toying with getting a telepresence robot so I can help manage the space remotely, bringing in curators to run the shop, as well as an entire web-based interface for interacting with the physical space remotely. I am being vague because this is all still amorphous. But one thing I’m sure of is that we do have t-shirts, stickers, guaranteed memberships, and a custom GIF awaiting anyone willing to send us 4 of the following 95 titles from 1983. If you are game, either use the comments to commit to any 4, or send along the videos you want to contribute to jimgroom_at_gmail.com. The films can be in any of the formats noted—namely VHS, Betamax (Beta) or Laserdisc (LD)—and the the closer to 1983 the version, the better!
- 10 to Midnight [VHS/Beta/LD]
- All the Right Moves [
- Bad Boys [
- The Big Chill [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Black Stallion Returns [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Blue Thunder [VHS/Beta/LD]
- BMX Bandits (U.S. title: Short Wave) [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Brainstorm [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Breathless [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Christine [VHS/Beta/LD]
- A Christmas Story [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Class [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Cujo [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Curse of the Pink Panther [VHS/Beta/LD]
- D.C. Cab [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Daniel [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Day After (made for television) [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Dead Zone [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Deal of the Century [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Doctor Detroit [VHS/Beta]
- Easy Money [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Eddie and the Cruisers [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Educating Rita [VHS/Beta/LD]
- El Norte [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Eureka [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Flashdance [VHS]
- High Road to China [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Hunger [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Jaws 3-D [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Independence Day [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Keep [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The King of Comedy [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Krull [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Lone Wolf McQuade [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Lords of Discipline [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Losin’ It [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Lovesick [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Man Who Loved Women [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Man with Two Brains [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Max Dugan Returns [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Mr. Mom [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Nate and Hayes [VHS/Beta/LD]
- National Lampoon’s Vacation [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Never Cry Wolf [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Never Say Never Again [VHS/LD]
- Nightmares [Beta]
- Octopussy [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Of Unknown Origin [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Osterman Weekend [VHS/LD]
- The Outsiders [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Pauline at the Beach [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Pirates of Penzance [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Private School [VHS/Beta]
- Psycho II [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Right Stuff [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Risky Business [VHS/Beta]
- Rock & Rule [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Rumble Fish [VHS/Beta]
- Running Brave [VHS/Beta]
- Scarface [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Silkwood [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Sleepaway Camp [VHS/Beta]
- Smokey and the Bandit Part 3, [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Something Wicked This Way Comes [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Star 80 [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Star Chamber [Beta/LD]
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi [Beta]
- Staying Alive [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Sting II [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Strange Brew [Beta/LD]
- Strange Invaders [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Stroker Ace [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Sudden Impact [Beta/LD]
- Superman III [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Tender Mercies [VHS/Beta/
- Terms of Endearment [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Thorn Birds [VHS/Beta/LD]
- To Be or Not to Be [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Tough Enough [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Trading Places [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Twilight Zone: The Movie [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Two of a Kind [VHS/Beta/LD]
- The Year of Living Dangerously [VHS/LD]
- Uncommon Valor [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Under Fire [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Valley Girl [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Videodrome [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Vigilante [VHS/
- Walking the Edge [VHS/Beta]
- WarGames [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Without a Trace [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Yentl [VHS/Beta/LD]
- Zelig [VHS/Beta/LD]
This is the wishlist we will working through at Reclaim over the next month or so as we start building out the collection in earnest. We’ll come out with other lists for other years as things move along, but the idea of focusing on a particular year will help us be a bit more intentional. What’s more, it offers an interesting perspective on the cultural moment—all those Robert Forster vigilante films I’ll blog more about 1983 as we start procuring some of these. You might also me asking, why 1983? Isn’t that kind of a random year given VHS invasion can be traced back to the late 70s. Well, it is random, and it is more closely aligned with the video store I started visiting when I was 12 years-old in 1983 (East Coast Video in Oceanside, Long Island). They still rented VCRs, the tape covers were a deep blue, and it was magical to me. That’s the UR-video rental store that fuels much of what Reclaim Video is for me. But many of you have your own East Coast Video of the mind, along with your own favorites—so feel free to ignore this list, send something else all together, and/or, better yet, start your own damn video store
Update 4/3/2018: I will be crossing out any titles/formats we receive, and this is the first batch so far
Posted on March 23, 2018
I am sitting at a small round table in Frankfurt Airport staring out at the tarmac which, all things being equal, I’ll soon be taxied across on my way back home to Trento. While I’m still somewhat cognizant-given I’m working between timezones on a sleepless redeye-I’ll try and record how intense the last ten days were—in fact the life of a Reclaimer is always intense! [Let’s get a drink, kid!] This trip was a whirlwind with two primary objectives: 1) help run a workshop for folks at several schools running Domain of One’s Own, and 2) get Reclaim Video as close to finished as possible. I’m thrilled (and somewhat amazed) that I can now happily say “Mission Accomplished!” —and then some. I’m reeling a bit from the intensity, but at the same time working like that makes me feel pretty alive—I can very easily feed off it, but a crash is never far behind
— Jim Groom (@jimgroom) March 15, 2018
The Workshop of One’s Own was Thursday and Friday of last week, and I got in late Tuesday. In fact, I even picked up a stray dog at National Airport who proved a trusty companion for the next few days We invited Alan to Fredericksburg so he could speak to the Workshop attendees about SPLOTs, and that he did with some hardcore 70s TV commercial references! The Reclaim Hosting crew came together and re-thought the first workshop a bit: we broke it up into an intense dive into how WHM, WHMCS, and WordPress are integrated to create what we know as Domain of One’s Own. Day two we had a discussion about how various folks are approaching the project on their campus, and then jumped into tools like Omeka, Scalar, Grav, and then a longer session on SPLOTs. I think the tool overviews were not as helpful as we thought they would be, so that might be something we abandon next time. I think the workshop was effective, but we still need to have more hands-on workshopping time. So if we run another in the Fall, that will definitely be a goal!
— Alan Levine ? (@cogdog) March 16, 2018
One of the cool things Tim and Lauren put together that worked really well was an Escape Room. It was my first time doing one, and it was fun. I think it broke up the intensity of both days to some degree, and it had a great script and was really thoughtful. The quick version: a student is sucked into their computer and it is going to update in an hour and effectively overwrite the student’s existence. So, you need to find the passcode for his computer to avoid this Tron-inspired digital nightmare. Good stuff.
The workshop wiped me out, but I was still able to get a couple of movies in at the Library of Congress, Packard Campus with Alan and Mo Pelzel, specifically My Left Foot and the original Manchurian Candidate.
I have to say I was less impressed with Manchurian Candidate my second time around, but the brief introduction by one of the curators was a pretty amazing homage to [[Janet Leigh]], which made me far more interested in her part of the film. And while this film could not be more timely (geo-political problems with Russia, China, and North Korea around psychological warfare) the whole thing kinda felt a bit flat. That said, Janet Leigh on the train was not, and ole Blue Eyes was pretty awesome too—but I don’t know, how current it felt (or we may want it too feel) was a drawback for me rather than selling point.
Whereas My Left Foot blew me away, I think [[Daniel Day Lewis]] is the very best in the business, and he did not disappoint. The pathos of that story, the sense of people in their lives versus psychological or technical defining and controlling them was a real welcome relief.
Anyway, after some downtime Sunday morning, I started turning my mind to a bear that had been bothering me since I arrived: laying the groovy new carpet for Fredericksburg’s latest video store. Hmmmm, how to tell this one? Well, I guess tell it straight with a slant. When I was in grad school and living in NYC, which is almost 20 years ago now, I spent a fair amount of my spare time working with my brother laying floors. I learned how to install wood floors, lay tile, and even some carpet. I was better at tile and wood (because those were my brothers specialties), and while I had laid carpet with others—I neither liked it not was as comfortable with it. What’s more, if you have a funky pattern, matching up the seam can be a pain in the ass (more on this soon). So, Sunday I spent time revisiting the carpet laying process and measuring stuff out as well as calling my brother for a quick refresher course. After all of that, I felt fairly confident that we could install the carpet Monday morning, which would give us time to finish the shelves and stock the store on Tuesday. We had a tight deadline because we needed the space at least partially finished to film part of our promo video for #OER18, but that’s classified.
So, Monday morning came around and we started cutting the carpet and preparing the 12′ x 20′ piece for installation. Tim was helping me and everything was going smoothly until we folded the carpet off the wall and glued a 10′ x 20′ section with commercial grade carpet glue (leaving 2′ x 20′ piece unglued to manage the seam). That glue is powerful. After spreading, it was time to roll the carpet back and set it, but after the shift it was 2 feet off the wall. Nightmare. The next 60-90 minutes were the worst I have had in a while. We tried pulling the carpet but it was already setting so we had to go on the glue, which made a complete mess and ruined my boots and Tim’s sneakers. What’s more, the area was too big and the glue too tacky for us to even adjust the piece. We thought we were kissing $1000 worth of carpet (our only real expense for Reclaim Video besides the awesome storefront sign) goodbye. At one point we were discussing how we salvage the carpet (which was starting to get glue on it), and I was regretting ever deciding to lay the carpet myself. Did I already mention it was a nightmare? After an hour of trudging through glue in our shoes, then our socks, and then bare feet, we finally were able to fold the carpet like a paper airplane and adjust it just right against the back wall. It fell in pretty cleanly, and we were saved! REDEMPTION!!!
Crisis avoided, and we could even get the glue off the carpet before it dried. After what turned into a 3 hour ordeal we finished putting it in and were way too shellshocked to even try and tackle cutting the second piece and thinking through the seam. We just thanked our lucky stars for actually saving the carpet and called it a day. The next day we were back at it, and this went smoother, although we miscalculated the seam by an inch or so, which means the pattern is not perfect, but there is no gap and given the carpet is pretty busy you have to be looking for our mistake. My brother would know for sure. But after our initial call for the refresher, I did not tell my brother about any of this, and I am pretty sure he doesn’t read this blog. A bit of saving face. The final product was actually better then I would have ever have dreamed while I was stepping through commercial grade glue trying to keep from completely freaking out:
A savvy carpet pattern eye could find the seam, but for all intents and purposes the carpet is perfect for the space, and it really finished it off. Once the carpet was done on Tuesday, we worked on the baseboard, shelves, as well as moving and stocking the counters Tuesday night and all-day Wednesday during a snow storm:
It was amazing how quickly it transformed into everything we had envisioned and more:
And by Thursday morning we were stocking the shelves with VHS and Betamax tapes, not to mention laserdiscs:
It was as done as it could be based on our current inventory, and I could not be more thrilled with how it came together! It made the perfect backdrop for our video work the rest of the day. The only sad part for me is soon after it was finished and we were done filming it was time for me to head back to Italy. It all went so fast! Although I did not leave before finally putting away the innumerable boxes of books that were littering the back office of Reclaim Video, so it felt good to truly get everything on my list to-do this time done.
And while parting Reclaim Video was sweet sorrow, I did snap a couple of selfies to remember it by
A dream come true, indeed! It was an intense 10 days, but the most rewarding kind of work: helping people manage their domains and creating something fun alongside it!
Posted on March 8, 2018
Since February progress on Reclaim Video has been moving at light speed. Things are really starting to come along, and the idea we’ve been throwing around for a year now is quickly becoming a reality. Here are a few of the accomplishments since mid-February:
From the swag department:
But lest you think we’re all swag and no swarm, there has also been real progress on the storefront:
And this morning Meredith shared this gem!
Beyond that, we are expecting the carpet today, which will be installed next week. What’s more, we’ve also been in discussions with the great Michael Branson Smith about the website. So, let it be know, Reclaim Video is happening!
Posted on March 1, 2018
If you have some old VHS hanging around the house, yet have gotten rid of your VCR long ago—it might be high time to let Reclaim Video take them off your hands. Rather than letting them sit around collecting dust or going to the Goodwill or even worse the dump—consider sending them to the following address:
2324 Plank Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Keep in mind these tapes won’t just sit around or become part of a personal collection/archive, but rather will be available for others to enjoy. And to sweeten the pot, anyone who donates 25 or more VHS tapes gets free membership (including a laminated card) and a bitchin’ Reclaim Video t-shirt.
If you already got rid of your VHS collection, no problem, this still applies if you send along some of your favorite 80s movies that you purchase online to the above address. We owe a great debt to Tim Clarke who went out of his way to send us the first donation to date: the 1983 Canadian classic Strange Brew.
We want to encourage you to do the same, and once we get our act together your contribution will be registered on the hallowed virtual and physical walls of Reclaim Video.
Posted on February 28, 2018
The idea of running a video rental store has been bouncing around at Reclaim Hosting for over a year now. When we started renovating the CoWork space/Reclaim Headquarters over a year ago we realized we would soon have a vacant strip mall storefront at our disposal. I started floating the idea of a video rental store to Tim, but given he was knee-deep in actually designing and building CoWork with Lauren, those discussions were postponed. At this point it was not clear how it related to anything else we already do, namely run Reclaim Hosting and CoWork—it was just a fun idea.
Regardless of the fact, I was still toying with the idea throughout the Spring and Summer, and during my sojourn to Los Angeles last June I was bouncing the idea off my good friend Mikhail Gershovich, who being as much an 80s culture nerd as me was all Gung Ho—not the movie though*—which may have been a false sense of security. Feeling confident I broached the idea at a dinner with their friends, one being an Art History graduate student, who were quick to remind me that fetishizing the material culture of the past is not art, but rather myopic nostalgia. Which kinda killed my claim this would be something akin to an art installation, but reinforced the fact I was on the right track
People’s reaction to our building a 1980s video rental store was mixed to say the least. It was pretty much just a dream until November when the entire Reclaim Hosting team was on a company retreat in New York City. In many ways Reclaim Video lived apart from Reclaim Hosting as a kind of oddity, it was Tim who finally made the link between the two the made it all real. He noted we don’t do any advertising, and why don’t we use the Reclaim Video to anachronistically promote Reclaim Hosting. It is inline with our whole vision of web hosting as trailing-edge technology, and tries to put the long history of recent media revolutions in some perspective. It’s also an extension of the work that went into the UMW Living Room Console, which might have been one of the funnest things I was ever involved with.
But more then anything, we all agreed it was time for us to have a little fun. We’ve been working hard the last few years, and the video store provides a welcome distraction. What’s more its pretty cheap and easy, we already have the space and VHS tapes and paraphernalia are still common enough that none of it is too expensive. So, in November Reclaim Video went from fantasy to impending reality, and we started planning in earnest.
We’ve been working with Bryan Mathers to subtly rebrand Reclaim Hosting from record store to VHS store:
He’s a genius. But we wanted to work collectively on the Reclaim Video aesthetic. So while the Reclaim Hosting’s site will keep a consistent aesthetic with a nod to the expansion from record to video store, Reclaim Video as an aesthetic will be distinct. We wanted to keep it separate because this was part of the fun we wanted to reclaim —and we started with a logo which I am pretty fired up about. The first we worked on was a long, horizontal visual for the storefront sign. We spent an hour or so in the CoWork conference room bouncing around ideas three weeks back, and it was a blast. We were playing with the Red Green Blue (RGB) chromatic that defined the VHS/VCR era, and we wanted to also nod to video games with the Sega-inspired font.
From there we got a more compact/vertical icon for Reclaim Video that brings together the RGB color bar with the TV snow static. Masterful!
There’s more where that came from, but we’re gonna to have to save that for the Reclaim Video unveiling at #OER18. Oh yeah, that’s right, Reclaim Video, not Reclaim Hosting, is sponsoring OER18. The whole crew will be there in force, and we are very much looking forward to introducing those textbook wonks to the future of media!
That’s more a history of how we got to the brink of actually opening a VHS video rental store in 2018, what the store is actually going to do and how it will operate is still very much a work in progress. We want it to be equally accessible online as it is offline, and we are strongly considering renting old school gaming consoles and video games as well as the standard video fare such as VCRs, betamax players, VHS/Beta tapes, etc. We will also have a healthy laserdisc selection, as well as laserdisc players. The details of inventory are evolving, and we are going to make a real push here soon for donations as well.
Another idea Tim had that I think is awesome is creating actual memberships folks can get locally or online that will include a laminated Reclaim Hosting rental card, a t-shirt, free web hosting space with a movie review SPLOT, access to programming the in-store Reclaim Video TV remotely, and much, much more. The actual store will be an ongoing work in progress, and we’re planning to invite folks to help us think through how we make this space interactive and equally accessible remotely through the web as it would be locally in the storefront.
Anyway, I think you get the idea, Reclaim Video is a way for us to try and have some fun. It’s really that simple. It’s indulgent, it’s vestigial, and it’s definitely nostalgic. All that said, if the experience of planning it is any indicator of how much joy it could result in, it’s gonna be worth every FBI warning we have to sit through.
*Actually, the 1986 film Gung Ho about Japanese factory culture in the U.S. would be an awesome VHS donation to Reclaim Video for anyone out their feeling both nostalgic and generous.
Posted on February 27, 2018
Reclaim Video is currently under construction, and if all goes according to plan it should open sometime in Spring. I have promised a few folks a more comprehensive post about what exactly Reclaim Video is, and rest assured that’s in the works. But before I get there I needed to just post quickly about one of the gems of our VHS collection thus far: Joseph Sargent‘s 1983 horror anthology Nightmares. I’m a sucker for horror anthologies, you can trace the genre at least as far back as [[Mario Bava]]’s Black Sabbath made twenty years earlier. Another favorite horror anthology from the 70s was the made for TV movie Trilogy of Terror (1975)—which would be an awesome VHS tape donation for Reclaim Video. Probably the most famous, and arguably the best, is [[George Romero]]’s direction of [[Stephen King]]’s Creepshow (1982). And it would be hard not to think Nightmares transition from a made-for-TV horror anthology for NBC to a theatrical release in 1982 did not have something to do with the box office success of Creepshow the previous year. Regardless, it was a box office flop.
I’ve written about one particular episode of Nightmares, “The Bishop of Battle,” years ago on the bava. This particular stars [[Emilio Estevez]] as a punk* from the valley who goes to downtown LA to hustle vatos in an 80s arcade. [I remember the episode so clearly because the game he’s playing for the con is Pleiads, which was a personal favorite.] All of this to feed his increasingly disturbing obsession with the video game Bishop of Battle—and its mythical 13th level. Anyway, it’s an urban legend about video game addiction from the 80s (something I heard about all too often after being caught stealing my fair share of quarters from my parents).
This Betamax Rundown post on the movie has an excellent summary of all four episodes with some great VHS screenshots, so if you want more of the nitty gritty check it out. But real quick, the other three stories are all similarly grounded in urban myths.† The first episode Terror in Topanga features another addict (this time a cigarette smoker) who goes out after dark, despite a killer being on the loose, to get a pack of smokes. She gets them but being low on gas on the way back she stops at a creepy gas station only to mistake the attendants attempts to pull her from the car with assault rather than trying to save her life from the killer hidden in the back seat. The killer hiding in your back seat was prevalent urban legend in the 80s, and I remember reports that a psychotic killer was hiding in the backseat of peoples car at Roosevelt’s Field Mall, although I don’t think it was based on any facts. That said, I still look in the back seat of my car before jumping in after leaving it in a mall parking lot. Quick fun fact about this episode, Fear’s lead singer Lee Ving is the psychotic killer in the back seat
“The Benediction” is the third episode stars Lance Henricksen as a Catholic priest who loses his faith and leaves his parish only to be chased down by a black pick-up with tinted windows. It’s a pretty straight rip-off of Christine, and the least interesting of the 4 episodes in my opinion. I’m a fan of Henricksen, but this one never really has a hook and you see the reveal coming from a mile away—not to mention the action is kinda like a Dukes of Hazzard dust up.
The final episode deals with a gigantic, demonic rat that terrorizes a family. I love it because [[Veronica Cartwright]] has always been a favorite, and here she gets to revisit her role in Alien by looking freaked out and screaming. She is also the epitome of an 80s housewife in terms of clothes and hair, and [[Richard Masur]] plays the 80s lawyer prick brilliantly, with the period appropriate detail of him driving a Cadillac Seville that had the iconic trunk that looked like a prize-fighter’s nose. The gigantic rate ultimately ensnares their daughter after they killed its baby in a trap, and the special effects are worthy of the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man. Anyway, this episode is remarkably similar in my mind to the final episode of Cat’s Eye (1985) titled “General,” another anthology horror movie that ends with a troll trying to steal the breath of a young girl (played by Drew Barrymore) while she sleeps.
Watching this movie on VHS again after what must be over 30 year was awesome. I’m not so sure the movie is all that good, but that is besides the point. It is pure, unadulterated 80s urban legend with some fine acting, set design (by the fact it is filmed in the 80s), and music. Also the director, Joseph Sargent, had a pretty bizarre career when it comes to movies (Jaws 3?)—most of which were forgettable—but he directed the absolutely brilliant Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), so all is forgiven. More than anything Nightmares represents the phenomenon of home video when obscure films you may not otherwise have seen found there way into your home, and by extension your imagination and memory. If you know what I am talking about and you have a film that represents something similar, please let us know. We would love to add it to our Reclaim Video collection. What’s more, you can even find it on Ebay (or elswehere) and send it to the following address to help us collect and share some of that media history:
2320 Plank Road
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
Keep in mind anything you send us will be available to be rented out through our storefront—this is not a museum or an archive, but a soon to be fully functioning video store. We are also working on an online component as well, so stay tuned.
A note on the Nightmares tape, the quality was decent at best, and I think we will be running into a fair amount of this as we keep collecting old tapes. The last 3 episodes played cleanly, but the “Terror in Topanga” episodes showed some signs of tape deterioration, and even stopped the VCR twice. It will be interesting to trace the level of degradation of many of these VHS tapes.
*Speaking of punk, he listens to both Fear and Black Flag on his Walkman, which puts it a year ahead of Repo Man for breaking good LA punk to the masses.
†I love how Emilio Estevez’s character constantly references some kid in New Jersey who supposedly reached level 13 of the Bishop of Battle video game—it strikes me as quite authentic reality before the Web.