The Video (still) Dead: Movies From the VHS Boom That Lack DVD Releases

Yeah, I know. You can Label this one under “preaching to the choir” but here goes:

Nostalgia.

Nostalgia can be a good and a bad thing. It can serve to heighten some of our fondest memories. But one must be wary: when we try to regain some of that magic we may find that said “sugar coating” was actually gilding a turd. Not so with the movies on this list (well, at least I hope not) these are all great films that for some reason or another don’t have proper releases (in this country at least).

For this entry I’m going to recommend a few movies you CAN’T buy, even if you wanted to. Some are held up by rights issues and some are simply rotting in the vaults but all of them are worth your time. Willard (1971)
You may be one of the few that caught the “better than it had any right to be” remake a few years ago, but nothing beats the original. Lonely outcast Willard (Bruce Davidson) befriends a colony of rats and uses them to get revenge on those who have wronged him, i.e. his boss (Ernest Borgnine!). This movie is an interesting blend of pathos and straight up horror bolstered by some strong performances, making it a not to be missed entry in the niche subgenre of “tearjerker killer rat movies.”

Ben
(1972)
The only other inhabitant of that subgenre being the sequel: Ben, also sadly unavalible. This one has Ben, the leader of Willard’s rats, befriending a lonely child with a heard condition. But it gets weirder–the film’s theme song is sung by a young Michael Jackson…betcha didn’t know “Ben” was about a rat.
The Stepfather (1987)
Long before anyone cared what was in the hatch… Lost‘s Terry O’ Quinn was slicing and dicing as the stepfather from Hell in, the aptly titled, The Stepfather. Unlike Willard and Ben this movie occasionally plays on cable and has a region 2 DVD release, but for everyone who does not have a contact in the UK there really should be a release. There is a remake to this movie in the works so hopefully that will help get this fine little slasher into our hands, but there’s no guarantee (look at Ben and Willard).

The Video Dead (1987)
A straight-to-video shocker from the 80s in the “made on the cheap” vein of The Dead Pit (given a release just recently by the good folks at Code Red). The Video Dead is the only movie on the list that even I would have a hard time classifying as “good”, but it’s fun nonetheless. Featuring questionable acting and some laughable overdub the film is made watchable by some great DIY gore effects, a fun premise (a haunted TV that spits out zombies) and genuinely cool zombies. In a time where everyone and his brother has a zombie movie on store shelves surely there is room at our local Best Buys for a DVD of The Video Dead?

Wow. This is kind of a downer right? Not only that but the list goes on (Phantasm II lacks a release even though we have the other 3?!?!?!) So I’ll end this entry on an up-note:

Had I written this a few weeks ago I would have certainly included Fred Dekker’s 1986 classic horror/comedy Night of the Creeps. For years only available as crappy bootlegs the movie will finally be given a DVD release this October. So rejoice. Hallelujah! There’s hope for all the movies on this list. Until then enjoy this Tom-Atkins-eriffic trailer:

I’m sure you all have movies you want to see again. What are they?

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