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American video posters for:
ZOMBIETHON (U.S., 1986), 24” x 37”
TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (Spain/Portugal, 1971), 19” x 25”
ZOMBIE (Italy, 1979), 17” x 22”
In the 1980s, I went from being 6 to 16. Though I had a fascination with sharks, snakes, dinosaurs and Dracula, I was painfully afraid of horror movies. Among my first encounters with the genre were bits I saw on TV. I watched DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK and POLTERGEIST through cracks between my fingers. THE BERMUDA DEPTHS gave me nightmares. My dad and my cousin literally held me down so I wouldn’t chicken out during a telecast of Michael Jackson’s THRILLER (1983). I was a little softy who scared easily, and I still do.
The stylish and character-driven classic monsters I would gaze upon in library books and my uncle Henry’s stack of old horror mags in no way prepared me for the modern special FX and camera techniques that were able to bring grisly, blood-dripping beasts into my living room, alive and hungry. A random theatrical viewing of Carl Reiner’s comedy SUMMER SCHOOL presented horror appreciation in a brand new light; I immediately connected with the characters of Chainsaw and Dave, two teenage California punks who would wake up and go to sleep in a pile of monster masks, and spend their days pranking fellow students and petitioning their teacher for a classroom screening of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. When the movie was over, I floated to the mall magazine shop and picked up FANGORIA #63, the issue with EVIL DEAD II on the cover. At this point, the dam was fully busted, but the flood was only just beginning.
Others who share my vintage will definitely remember what it was like to be a horror fan in 1987. Although the picture quality of DVDs and accessibility offered by the Internet are great advantages, nothing will beat being there for the VHS boom. Certain rental shops had full rooms devoted to horror—not just sections, these were stylized dungeons, complete with rubber zombies, moody lighting and even sound effect tapes playing in the background. It’s where I went to play when my mom was off renting something with Steve Guttenberg on the cover. It’s where I would construct plans for all-night splatter marathons. It’s where I got my real education. It’s where I found myself.
So when people ask me about video posters, the redheaded stepchildren of the memorabilia industry, my only advice with respect to valuation is to ask themselves what they feel when they see them. What does the title mean to you? What does videotape itself represent in your experiences? Collecting video posters from the 1980s is a truly personal expression. They are often in poor shape, are nearly valueless and yet are so difficult to procure on a regular basis that the hunt becomes more of a chore. So why even bother?
One big reason is that video posters would often display alternate key art. For those looking to broaden their scope of the collections, these come in handy. Often, they would use images that differed from the art used to promote the film theatrically—that is, if there even was a theatrical release. For titles exclusively seen on home screens, the only poster that exists is the video poster. Take this beat-up and ragged video sheet for ZOMBIETHON, an undead-themed compilation tape released by Wizard and Lightning Video, for example. It’s missing corners and looks as if it’s been through a car wash. But just look at the incredible, hand-rendered graphic that miraculously survived through the paws of numerous collectors, only to find its way to me! How could I not give this orphan a home?
Up next is this TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD poster, promoting the Paragon Video release. To my knowledge, this is the only North American poster for this title that can be considered “original” (deemed so because the posters promote the release of a film—theatrical or home video—and were unintended for a commercial market. Reproductions and other posters bearing themes or characters from films are called “commercial” posters, for obvious reasons. English-language original posters of TOMBS came from Great Britain and Australia, coinciding with the theatrical releases from those regions). So by the measure of scarcity, my love for the movie, and that I had the very tape this poster was promoting, this is a valuable piece. I believe the tape I once owned still resides at a local video shop, and is still available for rent.
This ZOMBIE video poster, promoting the Magnum release, simply speaks to the completist in me. I will collect everything ZOMBIE, a film I first saw on an edited Betamax tape. But this is more than another piece of ZOMBIE memorabilia. This, like other VHS posters, is a way to think back on the home-video boom and say I was there. I can’t say that with many of the theatrical posters in my collection.
During those important first few years as a horror fan, the compulsion to stick things on my wall could only be satisfied by using cut-up pages from uncle Henry’s magazines (a tweenish act of douchebaggery I will never forgive myself for), foldouts from other horror mags, commercial posters found in head shops and any posters the video stores were throwing away. Though I’ve kept exactly none of the video posters I used to hang up, and the compulsion to put bad-ass crap on my walls is still fulfilled by my original posters (a very small percentage of my collection is displayed), there is still something to be said for the disposability of video posters, as a tool for developing one’s tastes. The posters I discussed here are recent acquisitions.
In the end, like anything you collect, an old video poster can somehow capture something so specific that explaining it can be a difficult task. It’s a totally personal thing. There are as many reasons to collect old, dusty video posters as there are people who love old dusty video posters. No more, and no less.
P.S.: I hope I didn’t mislead anyone with the title of this blog entry. The video poster for THE VIDEO DEAD was one of the first ones I owned. I’d love to find another one. You’ll know when I do.
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