I have to credit my discovery of many different horror films to my local Mom and Pop Video Store growing up, Action Video. Under a mile away, it was close enough for me to hop on my bike and undergo one of my favorite journeys to take on a weekend afternoon or anytime during the Summer. It was located in a shopping mall that included a Smiths’, Osco Drugs, Naugles, Pizza Hut, and of course, a McDonald’s. Usually, before a trip to Action Video, we’d pop into Osco for the latest issue of MAD magazine and Fangoria and some snacks for later’s horror marathon festivities. Then a trip to one of the fast food chains located within to get some carbs in for the adrenaline rush to come later; a personal pan Pizza Hut pizza or ye’ old faithful Hamburger Happy Meal from the clown was my regular go-to. And then, off to Action Video for the finale to discover what new and glorious atrocities await to be feasted upon thine eyes.
The VHS cover art alone was all the advertisement we would need to be sold on a horror flick, as we would be standing there gawking at the enticing and illustrious covers of films I had never seen. Hell, if Return of the Living Dead or The Blob didn’t have the cover art they did, it may have very well been a long time before I would have seen those masterpieces. Take for instance here, Dead Pit, with its gimmicky light-up cover case (you’ll catch that in the video down below). I mean, the cover alone is cool as hell, but that extra flair from the art screaming “PICK ME UP AND RENT ME YA’ WALNUT” added that extra incentive to take it home with you.
Blockbuster, as popular as it was, didn’t have this kind of cool shit gracing their shelves, people. As a matter of fact, it was so bland with their mediocre white clamshell casings. Hell, you’d be hard-pressed to find ONE rental copy of, let’s say, MOTEL HELL or CHEERLEADER CAMP. That, in itself, is a travesty. One that a local Mom and Pop Video Shop never seemed to bear onto their consumers. At the very least, when you rented with a smaller venue, you would get a way cooler clamshell that looked like it contained something sinister inside. Oh and hey, with those places usually having those adult-only curtains in the back of the store, sometimes there really was, heh.
The last living relic of Action Video remains in my hands. Grabbed this when bitch-ass Blockbuster put them out of business back in 1997. THE EXORCIST III in rare mom-and-pop video form is a beautiful thing over 25 years later.
Unfortunately, time and many moves through my life took my bright orange Action Video punch hole rental card that I had hung on to long after they closed. I’ve looked far and wide for another one in the wild, but continuously come up empty-handed. So if anyone reading this is local to Las Vegas and happens to have one sitting in a dusty box somewhere, I will gladly take it off your hands and display it like the nostalgic treasure I deem it to be is.
Like Action Video, many of these mom-and-pop stores fell to the corporate giants of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, unable to compete. I personally, never went to one until there was no other choice as I was rather bitter that they put my favorite rental place out of business. The place where I struck up conversations about horror films with other fans and Nick, the son’s owner behind the counter who would always shoot me some wild recommendations like Basket Case; of which I totally rented upon his imaginative description of Belial. When I finally made my way into Cock-Buster, I found the horror section to be rather dull. It was too bright in there, kids running around unattended… The magic was just, gone for me. And the clerks with their Gap-inspired uniforms didn’t seem to be as knowledgeable as Nick from Action Video. So here I was, biting my lip and bitterly renting Blair Witch from these corporate clowns until Karma finally made its way back to them when Netflix came into the circle.
The City of Irving published a video back in 1988 highlighting all the wonderful things a Mom and Pop shack has to offer, much of what I’ve stated here and uploaded it to YouTube. Probably one of the most wholesome things you’ll see on the internet today, folks.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on Blockbuster, ( I don’t really think I am) but aesthetically and nostalgically speaking, you just can’t compete with the powerful entity that is the small video store.
A clusterfuck of films that beg you to dig in and really do your due diligence in searching for the right film.
While the memory remains solid for myself, we luckily have people on YouTube who prior to the video website ever being a twinkle in Google’s eye, had the good sense to video record trips to their local video store so that we may bask in its glorious nostalgia. People here like HugeMovieFanatics who uploaded this home footage from December 1992 doing what we all did-wander around aimlessly looking at all the mystical things a small venue like that had to offer.
Bless these guys. Bless the Mom and Pop Video Shop. And Fuck the Blockbuster. I hope you read that in the Iron Shiek’s voice.