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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Straight To Video: A Golden Era

There was a time in the early to mid-nineties when most of my viewing came from the shelves of (the now sadly defunct) Metro Video. As a teenager I would spend many an hour downstairs gazing at the new releases, and possibly even more time upstairs in the discount two-for-a-quid rentals room.

I was one of those irritating teenagers that would go and ask for my name to be put on the back of promo posters and cardboard standees so they would be saved for me once their display life had ended. My room was full of the things, my own little Hollywood packed with films most people had never heard of and even fewer would force themselves to sit through.

Those new release racks downstairs held all manner of magic upon them, big-box VHS movies that featured their own galaxy of stars that the average movie-goer had never seen before, but had been in dozens of films. Billy Blanks, Jalal Mehri, Richard Norton, Cynthia Rothrock, Gary Daniels, Olivier Gruner, Frank Zagarino and countless others were my heroes for far too long. I mean, people started to think I'd made half of these things up.

I worshipped the Nemesis films directed by Albert Pyun, and had a long and lasting love for the low budget horror gems 9and stinkers) released by the godlike Full Moon Productions stable, and in general I had (and maintain) really bad taste in films. There was something about that time though, something about the hundreds of films I got through during those years, that was rather special.

Due to the low budgets and niche audiences of those flicks, there was much less in the way of studio intervention. Granted, this could also have been seen as a lack of quality control, but hell, they were fun and a damn sight more interesting to me than most of the big-screen fodder that the decade spat at us.

I dreamed of breaking into the world of those b-movies, and even came up with a bunch of film ideas, fake posters and partial screenplays for SF and action movies that would ideally star the exact people that were lining my video shelves. I was obssessed, and only a low-budget schlockfest would do. None of that Oscar-winning nonsense for me, thanks.

Be it science fiction, martial arts, horror, traditional action movies, cheap sequels to big budget films or whatever, the Straight To Video era pretty much encapsulated my life between the ages of 15-21, and by that I mean cheap, badly plotted and done on a miniscule budget. Ah, those were the days.

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