Our writer Julian Ramirez is a big proponent of physical media, always lauding formats new and old (mostly old nowadays). Whether is vinyl, cassettes or CDs; 4k UHD, Blu-ray, or VHS, he believes that physical media is an important part of preserving art and imbues another dimension of appreciating the work. This series will focus on some of his favorite pieces of physical media in his collection.
I'm definitely of the age that has wonderful memories of walking into video stores as a tiny child and perusing the aisles and aisles of movies for something new to watch. Or more likely something I'd seen hundreds of times and just couldn't afford the ridiculous old school VHS prices. While there was always a slew of mainstream movies of the shelves, they were matched in numbers by the strange short run movies or direct to video fair that often was just as fun if not more so as the big budget ones. I was far to young to differentiate between the different studios releasing those fascinating genre films, but as I've grown certain names have risen to the top.
Empire International Pictures is one of those studios and the one at the center of Arrow Video's Enter the Video Store collection. The boxset is a wonderful love letter to the Empire film cannon (tangentially related pun intended), specifically looking at the more over the top, outlandish, and downright entertaining fare.
Some of the more higher profile Empire films like Re-Animator and Trancers are absent from the boxset, but it's certainly not for lack of want. Rather this boxset is curated towards the even more obscure films in the catalog, the ones that would catch your eyes in the video store aisles, and giving them their much need due. Things like Robot Jox, which certainly has a strong following, but would have been all the bigger had it not been such a difficult to find movie for decades.
I've only had the opportunity to watch two of the five films but what's there is of the highest quality (well, you know what I mean). Robot Jox feels simultaneously like an homage to the the stop motion monster movies of the past and the mecha anime that was still rising and a precursor to the modern day kaiju films like Pacific Rim. It's a wholehearted attempt to capture a really fully realized post apocalyptic future that isn't just your standard run of the mill dusty landscapes. Plus with Stuart Gordan in the directing chair, their is a bit of panache in every scene that just works.
Cellar Dweller take the premise of a creators work coming to life and adds a hefty does of jovial genuine schlock to the affair. Everything abou the film screams with genre film-making royalty with a pretty fun leading lady in Debrah Farentino (Mullowney at the time), an opening scene cameo from Empire mainstay Jeffery Combs, a script from Chucky creator Don Mancini (credited as Kit Du Bois), and directed by John Carl Buechler who's make-up work is present in every film in the boxset.
The Limited Edition edition of the boxset is out of print, but considering the success and hype of the set, it would have been silly for Arrow not to release a standard edition (like they noramlly do). The standard edition is the bare bones version of the collection. instead of a boxed version of the cover out it's slimmed down to a slip case. All the physical extras like the movie specific posters (each featuring both the original and the newly commissioned artwork), post cards featureing screen shots form the film, Arrow Video Store membership card facsimile (with the faux wear on the barcode), and the booklet featuring articles on all the films are omitted. While that may be the most sought after stuff for some collectors, the true bread and butter are the well restored movies and video extras that Arrow lets the Blu-rays overflow with. The standard edition retains those features and makes it a necessary get for fans of true 80s fun.
Be on the look out for full reviews of each film in the coming weeks.
I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of this incredibly fun release. There are a few places out there that still have the LE edition like Arrow Video, Zavvi, or DiablikDVD. You could also just get the Standard edition which has the most important part of the whole set: the movies! And while not the ideal choice (but the free choice), most for the films are available to stream Tubi (with the exception of Cellar Dweller which is unfortunately not on any US streaming service for some reason). Also I'm aware of all the colons in the title.